Sex. Celebrity. Politics. With Teeth
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Sex. Celebrity. Politics. With Teeth

Watch Kanye & Mom Donda Rapping 'Hey Mama' in Ancient Home Video

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The intimacy of a home movie is unreplicable and, viewed in retrospect, home movies are as telling as any diary entry. (This is why they are used as an easy flashback device for so many movies about dramatic familial interchange and/or horrors.) They're a microscope where the nuances of boring, day-to-day living become blown up and symbolic. This clip of Kanye West and his mother Donda at the beginning of his career as a rapper is exactly that, a peek into the fundamentals of how much they loved each other, how supportive she was, how close they were. It's lovely and heartbreaking. (Donda West died in 2007 due to complications from plastic surgery and a pre-existing heart condition.)

As FACT notes, the first half of this video was previously released, but bears another watch—Donda, sweetly, recalls almost every word of Kanye's very first rap, and reminds him that whenever he'd rap it she'd encourage him: "Remember everything you would do, I'd say, 'That's a million dollars." Ye was young then, of course—"Hey Mama" was on his 2005 album Late Registration, and this appears to be around then based on his fade and that striped sweater—but in her presence, he's got a silent, attendant humility, sweet and small and hanging on her every word. In the new footage, they rap "Hey Mama" together, his arm draped around her, her pride beaming.


Donda's death devastated Kanye, and was a breaking point for him, where he publicly went off the rails and didn't really pull it back together until he started dating Kim Kardashian. (In that time, the drunk VMAs/Taylor Swift deal happened; he also wrote 808s and Heartbreak.) Fans know Donda was an essential grounding force for him and this clip gives so much insight into their relationship, and what a tentpole advisor and confidante she was for his art. (His design and inspiration collective, DONDA, is of course named for her.)

In January, West released "Only One," a song he claimed he felt was Donda speaking through him from heaven. No matter how you feel about the song itself, with that context, the lyrics will break your heart:

As I lay me down to sleep/ I hear her speak to me

Hello 'Mari, how ya doin'? / I think the storm ran out of rain, the clouds are movin'

I know you're happy, cause I can see it

So tell the voice inside ya' head to believe it

I talked to God about you, he said he sent you an angel

And look at all that he gave you

You asked for one and you got two

You know I never left you/ Cause every road that leads to heaven's right inside you

Mama is definitely proud, wherever she may be.

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