JAY-Z’s Smile Video Is A Tender Portrait Of His Mother’s Struggle With Her Sexuality

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Hi. We recently created AFH TV, Ambrosia For Heads’ streaming video service, because we believe real Hip-Hop deserves its own dedicated TV home. But, there are doubters, so, we need your help. If you have enjoyed anything on AFH over the last 7 years, we are asking you to subscribe to AFH TV. It is only $1.99/month or $12/year, and already features some amazing content, but the best is yet to come. Thank you for all of your support.

After releasing them exclusively via TIDAL a few weeks ago, today (December 22) JAY-Z makes three more 4:44 visuals widely available– “Marcy Me,” “Legacy,” and “Smile.” Especially in the case of the last of those three videos, these are as polished and artful as any video companion to music in 2017.

JAY-Z Details The Pain & Progress That Came From Making 4:44 & Lemonade (Video)

“Smile,” directed by MILES JAY, causes just that. The video, which includes a poem by Jay’s mother Gloria Carter, is all about her life. It travels back to the 1970s Marcy Projects to examine the struggles of an unhappy couple. In this song, Jay speaks about his mother coming out as a lesbian woman and finding true love in recent years. Portrayed by The Deuce‘s Dominique Fishback, satisfying love was not so easy to find for Gloria Carter 40 years ago in Brooklyn. The video follows her secret life, and deep pain in trying to find happiness. Young, observant Jay looks on, and senses the disconnect with her at-home partner. The detail in the video, such as the tapping on the kitchen table, are resonant to lyric lovers. The tenderness of a mother and son’s love comes alive, as do the circumstances that caused Jay to lash out later in life. This video is film quality for an album that’s just as evocative. In the song, Jay admits the tears of joy he cried knowing that his mother finally found a worthy partner that makes her happy. This video shows how.

From ’70s Marcy to modern times, the set stays the same in the Ben and Joshua Safdie-directed “Marcy Me.” From the spotlight of a police helicopter, Jay’s visual goes back to his Brooklyn public houses. It follows a young man, who presumably dealt with similar circumstances to ’70s Shawn Carter, only in modern times. He is surrounded by hustlers, pimps, and few things innocent outside his home. Still, he does his best to fit in and gain attention. The suspense of the spotlight drives the video, as the police observation vehicle is literally, one of the few things this young man has to look up to. The corresponding song is Jay’s homage to his ‘hood and his borough, including a strong reference to late friend and collaborator Biggie Smalls. The vid’ also artfully shows how far apart Marcy is from the rest of New York City, especially after that light goes out.

“Legacy” is an 11-minute film short by Jeymes Samuel, with Jay’s song of the same name playing at the close. It stars Sons Of Anarchy and Hellboy star, Ron Perlman, as “Mr. Carter.” He plays a respected and intimidating inmate who councils a lunch-room table congregation that includes actors Jesse Williams, Aldis Hodge, Kwame Boateng, and Emile Hirsch. The tense scene seems to be a informed by Jay’s condemnation of the modern prison industry. The warden, played by Susan Sarandon warns she will break an inmate (Williams), repair him, and then break him again. She charges that “nobody in here is innocent.” What transpires is the information that the warden wants, in just how and what compelled seven inmates, led by “Mr. Carter” to escape the Capitol Hill Maximum Penitentiary (with the help of guards). All the while, in the warden’s office and over the prison lunch, “legacy” is questioned.

Earlier this month, JAY-Z reunited with rhyme partner and onetime mentor Jaz-O.