But one message from Saturday might reveal an emotional turmoil beneath the strange statements, a turmoil that has existed for many years and has long informed much of West’s public and professional persona: He appears to still be deeply affected by the untimely death of his mother, Donda West.
West posted a tweet Saturday showing a text-message conversation in which he said he plans to use a photo of Jan Adams — the surgeon who performed the operation on Donda West that led to her death — as the cover of his new album, which will potentially be titled “Love Everyone.”
“I want to forgive and stop hating,” West said in the text conversation, implying that he has harbored hate for the surgeon for many years.
Donda West played an enormous role in her son’s life.
She primarily raised him in Chicago following her divorce from his father, Ray West, when he was 3 years old. She pushed him to attend college, but when he dropped out (a second time), she supported his dreams of making music — something West often raps about.
She was actually responsible for the superstar’s big break.
Donda West had long known her son was interested in music. When he was 13, he wrote a rap called “Green Eggs and Ham” and convinced her to pay $25 for an hour of studio time, during which he recorded it.
“We went to the place, and it was just this little basement studio,” she told Redeye. “The microphone was hanging from the ceiling by a wire hanger. But he was so excited, I couldn’t say no.”
She worked with the mother of Ernest Dion Wilson, better known as hip-hop producer No I.D., who has produced singles for everyone from Jay-Z to Common.
When she realized that Kanye was serious about making music, she introduced the two men. No I.D. became the young rapper’s mentor, while Donda served as his manager.
“My mother was my everything,” Kanye told MTV. “My mother always kept me around music. She was also my first manager. I remember her driving me out to the suburbs that would be like an hour away to studios, and her just sitting there with me in support.”
He has often honored her in his music, most notably on the song “Hey Mama” on his second record, “Late Registration.” In it, he raps:
Since you brought me in this world, let me take you out
To a restaurant, upper echelon
I’ma get you a Jag, whatever else you want
Just tell me what kind of S-Type Donda West like
Tell me the perfect color so I make it just right
It don’t gotta be Mother’s Day or your birthday
For me to just call and say, hey mama
“This record alone just shows you the relationship he had with his mother,” hip-hop producer DJ Khaled told the Chicago Tribune. “There are always pictures of him and his mother. His mother is his life. And he had a close bond with her; they were best friends.”
The tragedy struck in November 2007, just as Kanye was achieving superstar status.
Donda West underwent liposuction and breast reduction surgery in Los Angeles, which initially seemed to go well. But she died the next day at age 58. An autopsy report later stated that she “died from some preexisting coronary artery disease and multiple postoperative factors following surgery.”
Kanye was devastated.
He repeatedly, and publicly, blamed himself. He penned an essay in XXL magazine in which he wrote, “When I moved to LA, she moved to LA. And she wound up in a place that would eat her alive. Even if I stayed in New York, it wouldn’t have been like that. If I had lived in New York, she’d still be here.”
Though he was always self-important and bombastic, Kanye’s public antics ratcheted up a notch after his mother’s death. Two years later, he famously stormed the stage at the MTV Video Music Awards and interrupted Taylor Swift’s speech.
Days later, he appeared on Jay Leno’s short-lived talk show and offered a tearful apology, during which he said he had never processed his mother’s death, which caused him to act out. (He later hinted that he might also have been drinking heavily at the time.)
“Obviously, I deal with hurt, and so many celebrities, they never take the time off, and I never took the time off, really,” West told Leno. “I’ve really never taken the time off. It’s been music after music and tour after tour. And I’m just ashamed my hurt caused someone else hurt.
“I need to, after this, just take some time off and analyze how I’m gonna make it through the rest of this life, how I’m going to improve,” he added.
Even his music changed dramatically after his mother’s death.
In 2008, he released “808s and Heartbreak,” an album that is arguably his most divisive and most influential record.
Instead of rapping, Kanye — aided by Auto-Tune — sings sad songs about heartbreak and loneliness throughout it. The album that would lead to the rise of rappers such as Kid Cudi (who contributed to it) and Drake ended with “Coldest Winter,” another song about Donda West. This one, though, is musical sorrow.
Memories made in the coldest winter
Goodbye my friend, I won’t ever love again
Judging from Kanye’s tweet, it appears that maybe he is trying to love again, after all.