Kanye West’s behavior has been pretty consistent throughout his career. The Chicago native is an only child whose single mother, Donda West, moved heaven and earth to help him accomplish his dreams of being a superstar. That is why it makes a lot of sense that losing his mother drove West further into a dark spiral fueled by grief, mental issues, and his astronomical fame. West has done a lot to pay tribute to his mother over the years, including naming several businesses after her. He believes that his career caused her untimely passing.
Kanye West’s mother has been a mainstay in his career since day one. She featured in some of his earliest works and was name-dropped on several songs. On “Hey Mama” off Late Registration, West opens up about the sacrifices his mother made to raise him alone in Chicago after they left his father in Atlanta. “I’m finna talk about my mama if y’all don’t mind. I was three years old when you and I moved to the Chi’. Late December, harsh winter gave me a cold. You fixed me up something that was good for my soul. Famous homemade chicken soup, can I have another bowl?” He rapped about their first winter in the Chi.
He also opened up about the promises he made her saying, “when I’m older, you ain’t gotta work no more. And I’m a get you that mansion that we couldn’t afford.” In the Netflix documentary Jeen-Yuhs, West visited his mother early on in the film after finding some success as a producer. Donda could not hide how proud and excited she was to see her boy and kept marveling at his chain. She gave him a beautiful pep talk and sent him on his way to continue fighting for his dreams.
Donda C. West was an American professor and chair of Chicago State University’s Department of English, Communications, Media, and Theater. She got to see her son live his dreams and was around for some of his biggest moments, including major award shows and performances. Donda would pass in 2007 after complications of plastic surgery. She was only 58 years old. Considering her son’s obsession for women with augmented bodies like ex-wife Kim Kardashian, many pointed to his lifestyle in influencing her choice to get work done.
Her passing and it’s impact on Kanye’s narrative have been strong. Many people use it as a way to excuse his actions, while others blame him for her passing in the first place. “Donda West died 15 years ago and y’all blame his response to her death on everything. It is truly exhausting how y’all still make a Black woman the fault of a Black man’s terrible responses,” said one person. Another said, “I bet these are the same people who blame Donda West for her sons actions, years after her death. They ‘don’t care what color’ just conveniently its always the Black woman’s fault.”
West has tried to keep her name alive in his legacy. He recent named a school after her, an album and a creative direction company. His song “Only One” was also a dedication to Donda, being written from her perspective after the birth of North West. While his social media is always changing, he currently has one picture up of her from the ’70s shot by “Ray West.” The black and white image is caption “Mama.”
Kanye has expressed how much guilt he had in connection to his mother’s passing. He told Q Magazine several years ago, “if I had never moved to LA, she would still be alive. I don’t want to go far into it because it will bring me to tears” West feels like he sacrificed his mother for success. He echoed a similar thought to XXL in 2010.
West believes had he moved to New York things would have been different. “When I moved to LA, she moved to LA. And she wound up in a place that would eat her alive. Even if I stayed in New York, it wouldn’t have been like that. If I had lived in New York, she’d still be here.”