The song highlights the relationship Kanye had with his mother, Donda, describing his affection and appreciation for her for raising him amidst personal struggles and instilling her values in him.
Back when Kanye was making a name for himself in the early 2000s, there were a few different versions of “Hey Mama” floating around the mixtape circuit and the Chicago DJ world.
Kanye teased the song for years, but never officially released it because he always thought it was only 99% complete, not 100%. And nothing less than perfection for his mother would not suffice.
UNRELEASED ORIGINAL VERSION
He told MTV in 2003 on the College Dropout release of her plans for “Hey Mama,” as well as her next three albums.
“I’m calling the next late check-in,” he said sincerely. “I have this song ‘Hey Mama’ that I did three years ago and I’m saving up for that one. Then my third album is going to be called Graduation. And the fourth is Good-Ass Job.”
He was incredibly proud of this song because it was his dedication to his mother.
Kanye was very close to his mother, who ran her charitable foundation and was his guest at many events, including the Grammy Awards. Dr. Donda West was a single mother and Kanye was her only child. She became a professor at Chicago State University, later chairing the Department of English and Elocution.
Kanye used to get Aces and Bs in high school, but dropped out of Chicago State University to focus on his music career. His mother probably went against his decision at first, but he plans to make her proud by eventually going back to school – metaphorically, in his college-themed albums.
Kanye was eventually awarded an honorary doctorate. from the Art Institute of Chicago in May 2015. So, kind of, he went back to school to graduate.
Kanye was very protective of his mother’s heart when she was around other men. His parents divorced when he was three years old. Kanye was not a fan of his mother’s boyfriends and even recounts his experience in a song called “Mom’s Boyfriend:”
He came into our lives, I was only five years old
Superman pajamas I was super duper steal
Sitting there like why? He has at least Hooper-Size
You know I’m scrutinizing, like, “Who’s this new guy?”
I’m my mommy boyfriend, I’m her hubby
I was the man of the house when he wasn’t trying to get to know me, mate?
Just kill the charm You don’t care about me, you just tryna fuck my mom”
In 2005, Kanye finally put the finishing touches on the record, while recruiting the up-and-coming John Legend to provide backing vocals. He reinforced the bottom of the strings and added a new introduction.
The song samples the folk artist “Today Shall Not Return” by Donal Leace.”
Originally written in 2000, West was unable to remember where he got the sample that powers the song, so he world premiered the song in front of his mother on The Oprah Winfrey Show, as a tribute to her, and hoping he could flush out the editor.
It’s really hard to watch this clip and not feel your heart sink a bit. It’s amazing how proud Kanye was of his mother and how much he loved her.
This one from before fame is just as difficult.
Her mother was so proud of this song that she bragged about having it as a ringtone on her phone.
Donda West tragically passed away on November 10, 2007, at the age of 58. The cause of death was heart disease believed to have been caused by “multiple postoperative factors” after undergoing plastic surgery. At the time of her death, she was heavily involved in her son’s career, working as Managing Director and overseeing West Brands LLC and the Kanye West Foundation. Since his death, Kanye created the creative society DONDA in his honor.
Three months after his death, Kanye would muster the strength to perform this song live at the 50th Grammy Awards. The performance was incredible and heartbreaking at the same time. You could feel his heartbreak from the start, until he broke down near the end.
The night also saw Kanye win the Grammy Award for Best Rap Album. After rambling on about the future of hip-hop, the background music started to drag him off the stage as he started talking about his mother.
“It would be in good taste to stop the music,” West said. Pretty quickly he did – and the crowd cheered.
He went on to address his mother, “I know you want me to be the number one entertainer in the world. And, mom, all I’m gonna do is keep making you proud. Holding his Grammy aloft, he added, “We’re handling this.”
From that moment on, Kanye was never the same again. As a person or as a creative artist.
Graduation was Kanye celebrating his success. A victory lap. And it felt like it. “Good Life” might not just be the most upbeat song Kanye has ever made, but one of the most upbeat songs of all time.
We have never seen and will never see this side of Kanye again. That’s not to say it’s directly related to his mother’s death, but it’s pretty easy to see the difference between the “Kanye before Donda died” and the “Kanye after Donda died.”
It’s absolutely not his fault, but any son who paid for a procedure that his mother didn’t wake up from would undoubtedly bear some responsibility. Given how incredibly close Kanye was to his mother and you can see why he lost his mind.
808 and heartache was the first album Kanye released after him and it was a notable detour in terms of tone and style.
They say that loss, grief, and grief inspire the world’s greatest artists to produce their best work. Since the beginning of time. It’s sad but it’s also true.
The album 808s & Heartbreak is about his grief for his mother and also his broken engagement (from a 7 year relationship). The negative emotions surrounding My beautiful dark twisted fantasy focus on his exile after the “merger” of the VMAs. Yeezus was made as he struggled to gain acceptance in the fashion world and the media began to focus more and more on his disentanglement and mental issues. Obviously, he was on his way to a total break with La vie de Pablo, so obviously all of those tough times made for amazing music.
Hoping Kanye accepted things and started turning the corner.
Happy Mother’s Day!
—— UPDATE —–
jeen yuhs almost officially confirmed the theory I’ve held since day one – that Kanye’s mother died, and that he partially blames himself for that is what “sent him to the brink”. And he’s never been the same since. As you can see from the clips in the doc, it’s no wonder that-
By far his number one fan and biggest cheerleader. See their relationship and just How? ‘Or’ What incredibly close, they really tugged at your heart watching. Especially knowing what the future held for us.
Happy Mother’s Day everyone!