Album: 4:44 (2017)
Charted: 56
  • songfacts ®
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  • Lyrics
  • Jay raps about his mom Gloria Carter during this song's first verse. Gloria married Adnis "AJ" Reeves at a young age, and together they had four children. However all the time she was hiding her real sexual feelings ("Had to pretend so long that she's a thespian") and eventually Gloria came out as gay to her family.

    This marks the first time that Jay has spoken publicly about his mother being a lesbian and we hear him come out in support of her same-sex relationship. That's Gloria Carter herself on the outro.
  • Throughout the remainder of the song, Jay raps about turning pain to triumph. He explained to iHeart Radio:

    "'Smile' is just what it is. There are gonna be bad times, and those bad times can do two things: they can get you in a place where you're stuck in a rut, or it can make your future that much better because you've experienced these things."
  • This samples throughout the song Stevie Wonder's 1976 Songs In The Key of Life track "Love's in Need of Love Today."
  • Chicago beatsmith No I.D. produced the entire 4:44 album. Their collaboration started with No I.D. asking Jay for a playlist of music that he listens to from which the producer chose several to sample. "Love's in Need of Love Today" was one of the songs on the playlist.
  • Jay-Z recalled during a Rap Radar Podcast interview how he had to convince his mother to let him release "Smile."

    "We had a beautiful conversation, and it lead to me making that song, and I didn't have the permission to make the song," he said. "When she first heard the song, she was like 'absolutely not.' I was like man, this is so important. So many people in the world, hiding, and things like this, and this'll help you."
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