All the Ways Kanye West Has Honored His Late Mother, Donda
Following his erratic behavior both on and off the stage, Kanye West was admitted into the hospital for psychiatric evaluation and treatment earlier this month. While his emotional breakdown is said to be related to the stress of a world tour and wife Kim Kardashian West’s recent robbery in Paris, sources are claiming that the unexpected 2007 death of the rapper’s mother, Donda, may have been a major contributing factor.
Over the years, the rapper has paid tribute to his mom — who died nine years ago this month due to cosmetic surgery complications — in interviews and through his music. Here, we rounded up a handful of the many times West has spoken out about his late mother.
Although West was initially kept quiet about the untimely passing of mother Donda, the rapper chose to vent during one of his 2007 shows in late November in Brussels. “Every show, every song I do has a different meaning to me now, whether it’s ‘Heard ‘Em Say,’ ‘Can’t Tell Me Nothing,’ ‘Jesus Walks,’ ‘Touch The Sky’ … ‘[What] don’t kill me can only make me stronger!'” he told the audience as the instrumental version of his song, “Hey Mama,” played in the background.
He continued: “And there’s nothing that she loved more than to come to the shows and scream louder than any fan, because she was my first fan that was screaming before anybody else, and my first manager,” he said. “If she was here, she would tell me to get on that stage and kill it, dawg! That was her favorite word: dawg. She would tell me to go on this Glow in the Dark Tour and, ‘Take over the world and be number one like I taught you to be, baby.’ So I just wanna take this time out — I wanna dedicate this to my mother because the words, the lyrics to the song, it really connects to me and it really explains, and then it says exactly what she would want me to do — and that’s not stop believing.”
In a blog post on his website, the rapper revealed he doesn’t “do anything I don’t love anymore.” He expands: “While people chase money, I pursue happiness. So many people talk about their investments or how much money they have, but there’s so many rich people who spend a lot of that trying to buy a piece of happiness. If there’s anything my mom taught me, it’s to enjoy life.”
After making a promise to never work with MTV following the 2007 MTV Video Music Awards, the rapper reversed his position the next year, and explained his reasoning behind the decision during an appearance on The Ellen DeGeneres Show. “Well, a lot of things changed with my mom passing,” he said at the time. “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.”
On New Year’s Day, the world woke up to a surprise track by West, who quietly released the song “Only One” in collaboration with Paul McCartney. It’s a deeply emotional track said to have been directly inspired by Donda herself.
“When they played back the recording afterward, something remarkable happened,” read a statement accompanying the song. “Kanye sat there with his family, holding his daughter North on his lap, and listened to his vocals, singing, ‘Hello, my only one … ‘ And in that moment, not only could he not recall having sung those words, but he realized that perhaps the words had never really come from him. The process of artistic creation is one that does not involve thinking, but often channeling. And he understood in that moment that his late mother, Dr. Donda West, who was also his mentor, confidante, and best friend, had spoken through him that day.”
West’s wife, Kim Kardashian West, echoed the song’s level of emotion on Instagram, writing: “Everyone asks me what my favorite Kanye song is. It’s Only One. Kanye felt like his mom was singing thru him to our daughter. This song makes me cry every time I hear it.”
In February, West immortalized his love for his late mother and daughter North in the form of tattoos. “He got it on his wrists instead,” wrote wife Kim, captioning a pic of the rapper’s fresh ink while also sharing that her husband originally wanted a face tattoo. “His mothers birthdate and North’s birthdate in Roman numerals.”
“My mom … If I had never moved to L.A. she’d be alive,” West said during an interview with U.K. music magazine Q, when asked what he had sacrificed in his career. “I don’t want to go far into it because it will bring me to tears.”
While debuting his latest Yeezy collection and new album, The Life of Pablo, West announced to the crowd that he worked on a video game inspired by his mother. “The idea of the game is my mom traveling through the gates of heaven,” he said. The video game, which is titled Only One: The Game, portrays Donda as she ascends into heaven while riding on a pegasus to the tune of West’s song of the same name.
“Found this in Mom’s storage. I love and miss you,” wrote West in a tweet on Mother’s Day that also included a pic of his late mother’s gold necklace. He also sent a second tweet soon after, sharing messages from his wife and daughter North: “Thank you for watching over our family. Nori and Kim say happy Mother’s Day … And Saint smiled.”
In honor of his late mother’s birthday, the rapper took to his Twitter account to share a pic of the mother-son pair with the message: “Nori asked if the airplane could take her to heaven to see you for your birthday, I love you mom.”