Ubiquitous, outspoken and consistently controversial, Kanye West is one of the defining personas of the 21st century.
His mother, Donda West, defined him.
Personally and professionally, Donda West was undeniably Kanye’s greatest influence. As a single mom in a middle-class neighbourhood, she raised Kanye by herself while working as an English professor at Chicago State University, fuelling his love for writing and creating.
Whether it was driving him to NO I.D.’s house for lessons on producing beats or educating him on culture and diversity by taking him to China for a year, Donda imparted deliberate lessons to Kanye at all stages of his life.
From an early age, Donda showed him about the importance of questioning the status quo and considering the alternative ways to address an issue. She always encouraged Kanye to form his own opinions and speak his mind, traits that have defined his career well before he became a household name.
“She really supported me and she always wanted me to be the best that I could be and not get hung up on the small things. So, with her not being here to try and talk me into doing things, I just try do things she would want me to do.” — Kanye West to US Magazine
With Kanye’s rise to fame, Donda also became a public figure, both as a subject of his music and as his manager, which lead her to write a book about raising the young hip hop star as a single mother, aptly titled Raising Kanye.
When Donda passed away in 2007, Kanye’s life was forever changed, but her influence remained as prominent as ever. In his latest song, ‘Only One,’ which is written from Donda’s perspective, he claims that he doesn’t remember recording the words to the track, and instead felt that his mom spoke through him that day.
“It was like losing an arm and a leg and trying to walk through that” — Kanye West to Hip Hop DX in his first interview after her death
The extent of Donda West’s motherly influence on Kanye is impossible to measure. She was his caregiver, his educator and his inspiration. Her profound impact on him instilled the importance of his cultural heritage, and empowered him to believe in himself, form his own opinions and share them with the world. When he was criticized by the media, whether it was deserved or not, she was the first person to come to his defense.
Donda was there for Kanye before the rest of the world was, just like countless other moms from around the world. This Mother’s Day, be sure that your mom knows how she inspired you.
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