The Truth About Kanye West's Relationship With His Late Mother

Kanye West sparked controversy and concern in July 2020, starting with his bid for president of the United States. West then held a campaign rally in South Carolina, where he revealed personal details, including an anecdote about how he and his wife, Kim Kardashian, considered abortion in 2013 when they found out they were expecting North West, according to Insider. In the days afterward, the rapper engaged in a series of Twitter rants, claiming he wanted to divorce Kardashian and comparing his life to the 2017 movie, Get Out. The messages triggered Kim to comment on his bipolar disorder, which she said was "incredibly complicated and painful."

But another figure in Kanye's life suggests the star's struggle could be related to something else entirely — unresolved feelings around the death of his mother, Donda West. Donda may have died of a heart attack over a decade ago in 2007, but the wounds, former boyfriend Ulysses Blakely said, are still fresh for the rapper. "He has not recovered from the loss of his mother," Blakely theorized to Page Six. "They had such a close bond."

With this in mind, let's take a closer look at the tight connection Kanye and Donda shared.

Kanye West might feel guilt about his mom's death

Donda West would have celebrated her 71st birthday on July 12, 2020, if she hadn't passed away. Some theorize that the artist, entrepreneur, and presidential candidate has been misdirecting his grief, which runs deep. The "Stronger" singer planned to release an album on July 24, 2020, in Donda's memory, although it remains under wraps as of this writing.

Marking a tribute to his mother through his craft makes sense for Kanye, especially considering his mother was closely involved in his career as his general manager and oversaw the Kanye West Foundation, per Rolling Stone.

And it was Kanye who paid for her elective cosmetic surgeries before her heart attack, something he might feel guilty about. He seemingly hinted at this in a 2015 interview with Q magazine (via E! News), sharing, "If I had never moved to LA she'd be alive . . . I don't want to go far into it because it will bring me to tears."

It's clear from Kanye's heartbreak that the two had a close bond, one that Donda sought to protect while she was alive. "She was protective . . . she was a very forceful person who sought to fortify him for the real world," Donda's ex-boyfriend, Ulysses Blakely, told Page Six. "She knew that he was clearly not ordinary and wanted him to take special care and not be injured by our Western way of life."

Donda West believed in her son

Donda West is to thank for Kanye West's confident streak, which is evident in much of his music and career choices. "We tried to install confidence in him that, as a black child, is not automatic," Donda's ex, Ulysses Blakely, explained to Page Six.

When the Donda and Kayne moved to Chicago, Dona encouraged the aspiring rapper's musical interests, although they were unrefined and raw at the time. Donda paid $25 an hour for a studio so Kanye could record one of the first rap songs he wrote as a teenager, "Green Eggs and Ham." Donda recalled to the Chicago Tribune's RedEye (via Mic), "We went to the place, and it was just this little basement studio. The microphone was hanging from the ceiling by a wire hanger. But he was so excited, I couldn't say no."

As his mother, Donda recognized Kanye's talent from the very beginning. "We were coming back from a short vacation in Michigan when he was 5, and he composed a poem in the back seat," Donda told the outlet. "The one line that sticks with me is 'the trees are melting black.' It was late fall, and the trees had no leaves. He saw how those limbs were etched against the sky, and he described them the way a poet would."

Kanye West honored Donda West through music

Before Donda West's death in 2007, Kanye West was open about his gratitude and love toward his mom. "My mother was my everything," he told MTV in 2005. That same year, Kanye had released the song, "Hey Mama," a track about Donda's life as a single mother and their journey from Chicago to Los Angeles. "I want to tell the whole world about a friend of mine/This little light of mine, I'm feelin' let it shine," the song kicks off. "You work late nights just to keep on the lights/Mommy got me training wheels so I can keep on my bike/And you would give me anything in this world." 

After Donda died, he worked even harder to eternalize her through the creativity that she had nurtured. A 2014 song called "Only One," that he released seven years after her death, heartbreakingly puts the listener in Donda's shoes, who is talking to her son from the afterlife. "I know you're happy, 'cause I can see it/So tell the voice inside your head to believe it." The tune encourages Kanye and, by extension, the listener.

Kanye also paid tribute to Donda when he featured her portrait on a shirt from the 2018 Yeezy collection. Additionally, there were reports about a video game that centered around his mother entering the gates of heaven. Then in 2020, the artist released the single, "Donda." 

Of course, it goes without saying that Donda's death was a terrible loss for Kanye.