Red Eye Chicago
Donda West dies
Two years ago when Kanye West was making the rounds to promote his muchanticipated sophomore album, “Late Registration,” he talked to critics about what went into creating the album, which took on everything from conflict diamonds in Sierra Leone to disgruntled, gold-digging women.
Then there was the song “Hey Mama,” a tribute to his mother, Donda, a former Chicago State University English professor who’d often told her son he needed a college education in order to be successful.
“Hey,” West said at the time, “we need something to perform at the Grammys.”
But it was more than just a song that could be embraced by a mainstream audience. It was a salute to a mother who, despite her scholastic achievements, stood by her son when he decided to drop out of college and pursue a childhood fantasy of becoming a hip-hop star.
Donda West, 58, a longtime Chicago resident, died late Saturday or early Sunday in L.A. of undisclosed causes.
Other than confirming the death, a spokesman for Kanye West offered only a statement saying that “the family respectfully asks for privacy during this time of grief.”
The loss of his mother comes as a blow in an otherwise high time in West’s life. The Grammy Award winner is celebrating what likely will be one of the best-selling albums of the year with his recent release “Graduation,” which in its first week sold about 957,000 copies.
Kanye West, who was in Chicago last week as a surprise guest for Jay-Z’s “American Gangster” concert at the House of Blues, was overseas in London at the time of his mother’s death. Friends close to him say that he is devastated.
The two shared an undeniable bond, as evidenced in the music West made and the public affinity they had for each other. This fall Donda West released the book “Raising Kanye: Life Lessons from the Mother of a Hip-Hop Star,” a memoir she’d penned with author Karen Hunter about bringing up her famous son.
Donda West spent 31 years at Chicago State before retiring in 2004 to work full time for her son. She also was chief executive of West Brands, the parent company of her son’s business enterprises, according to the biography listed on her son’s foundation Web site.
Funeral arrangements are pending.