Donda West, the mother of Kanye West and former chairwoman of Chicago State University’s English department, passed away Saturday from undisclosed causes, according to a spokesman for the family. She was 58.
According to multiple sources, West was in Los Angeles and her death may have been the result of complications from a surgical procedure; more specific information was unavailable at press time.
Although widely known as the mother of Kanye, Dr. West was a noted scholar and an active college professor for 31 years; she left the profession in 2004 to assist with Kanye’s career, according to her biography on the Web site of the Kanye West Foundation, an educational nonprofit of which she was chair. She was also chief executive of West Brands, the parent company of her son’s businesses.
She began her teaching career in the early 1970s at Brown College in Atlanta and began working at Chicago State University in 1980, according to the site; she was also a Fulbright Scholar, among other awards. Dr. West raised Kanye in the Chicago area along with her husband, from whom she separated when Kanye was 3.
She also recently published a book dedicated to her son titled “Raising Kanye: Life Lessons From the Mother of a Hip-Hop Star.” The book and subsequent interviews have left little question about the source of Kanye’s outspoken nature.
The importance and influence Dr. West had in her son’s life is profound. When Kanye appeared on MTV News’ “You Hear It First” in 2003, one of his first rhymes was about his mother – he dropped to his knees during the performance to get his point across. Those rhymes later turned up in a full-blown dedication to her, Late Registration‘s “Hey Mama.”
“Hey Mama, I wanna scream so loud for you/ ‘Cause I’m so proud of you/ Let me tell you what I’m about to do … I appreciate what you allowed for me, I just want you to be proud of me.”
Kanye has dropped references to his mom on all of his albums.
Kanye’s love for his mom was undoubtedly reciprocated tenfold, not only did Dr. West act as in part as a co-manager, she was also his biggest cheerleader, appearing at many events throughout his career. At the Video Music Awards in September, she was in Kanye’s suite at the Palms Hotel in Las Vegas, joining in the party and wearing the white shades celebrating his show. She also attended his 30th birthday party in New York last summer and his appearance on “The Oprah Winfrey Show.”
A spokesman for Kanye West released this brief statement when contacted by MTV News.
“The family respectfully asks for privacy during this time of grief.”