+ Hey Mama: The Passing of Kanye’s Mom...
(Originally posted in 2007 via Rosenberg Radio)
"My dad usually writes about politics and things related to the middle east. This week, though, he wrote a piece on Kanye’s mother that I’m very proud to run here on my little blog. It originally ran here." - Peter
By M.J. Rosenberg
My kids are both hip hop aficionados and have been since they were small kids (they are both adults now) so maybe that explains how badly I feel about the death of Kanye West’s mother. Kanye is one of the real good guys in the rap world, managing to become one of the top two or three rap artists in the world without indulging in paeans to violence, guns, and too much emphasis on bling.To me, he always seems like a sweet kid playing the role of tough guy, and not that convincingly. A subtext to the Kanye West story has always been his relationship with his mom, Dr. Donda West, who died at 58 the other day after minor surgery. She was a professor who gave up her career to manage her son’s. At the time of her passing, she was involved in pretty much every aspect of his life and career. Of course, prior to Kanye’s rise, she was a single mom balancing family and job and successful at both.
Kanye West not only owes his life and success to his mother but he let the world know it at every opportunity (one of his biggest hits is a tribute to her). Like Elvis Presley, Kanye was almost over-the-top as a loving son — which hopefully gives him some comfort now. She sure knew how he felt about her.
But Donda West was about more than being Kanye’s mother. Her passing reminds us of the amazing accomplishments of African-American women.
Slavery may be ancient history for some of but for African-Americans, it is yesterday. It was only a half dozen generations ago that African-American men, women and children were sold on the auction block.
Beyond all its other horrors, slavery by definition destroyed the family. How can family exist when its individual members are bought at sold. What authority can parents have when they themselves are chattel? And slavery (unlike virtually every other horror of modern history) was no passing thing. It lasted 250 years in this country, certainly long enough to eradicate the black family as an institution.
In fact, African-Americans were slaves on this continent for about a hundred years longer than they have been free. Imagine. And yet African-Americans (like the Jews, another miserably oppressed group) have managed not only to survive but to pretty much define American culture.
So many of the good things this country represents to young people around the world comes from the African American community.
And that is thanks to women like Donda West who, somehow, managed to build great and strong families despite the residual effects of slavery, racism, poverty and all the ugliness white America has inflicted on black America.
As I said, I feel terrible about a good kid like Kanye losing his mother. But, as an American, I am grateful to her and to all the other women like her. I hope Kanye West survives this loss. I know he will because of what his mom taught him and his faith. But he is also blessed because he can recall his mother without guilt. He never missed an opportunity to tell her not only that he loved her but that he owed her everything. A good lesson for us all.
Lyrics to Hey Mama By Kanye West
Hey Mama), I wanna scream so loud for you, cuz I’m so proud of you
Let me tell you what I’m about to do, (Hey Mama)
I know I act a fool but, I promise you I’m goin back to school
I appreciate what you allowed for me
I just want you to be proud of me (Hey Mama)
I wanna tell the whole world about a friend of mine
This little light of mine and I’m finna let it shine
I’m finna take yall back to them better times
I’m finna talk about my mama if yall don’t mind
I was three years old, when you and I moved to the Chi
Late December, harsh winter gave me a cold
You fixed me up something that was good for my soul
Famous homemade chicken soup, can I have another bowl?
You work late nights just to keep on the lights
Mommy got me training wheels so I could keep on my bike
And you would give anything in this world
Michael Jackson leather and a glove, but didn’t give me a curl
And you never put no man over me
And I love you for that mommy cant you see?
Seven years old, caught you with tears in your eyes
Cuz a nigga cheatin, telling you lies, then I started to cry
As we knelt on the kitchen floor
I said mommy Imma love you till you don’t hurt no more
And when I’m older, you aint gotta work no more
And Imma get you that mansion that we couldn’t afford
See you’re, unbreakable, unmistakable
Highly capable, lady that’s makin loot
A livin legend too, just look at what heaven do
Send us an angel, and I thank you (Hey Mama)
Forrest Gump mama said, life is like a box of chocolates
My mama told me go to school, get your doctorate
Somethin to fall back on, you could profit with
But still supported me when I did the opposite
Now I feel like it’s things I gotta get
Things I gotta do, just to prove to you
You was getting through, can the choir please
Give me a verse of â€œYou, Are So Beautiful To Meâ€?
Can’t you see, you’re like a book of poetry
Maya Angelou, Nicky Giovanni, turn one page and there’s my mommy
Come on mommy just dance wit me, let the whole world see your dancing feet
Now when I say Hey, yall say Mama, now everybody answer me (Hey Mama)
I guess it also depends tho, if my ends low
Second they get up you gon get that Benzo
Tint the windows, ride around the city and let ya friends know (Hey Mama)
Tell your job you gotta fake em out
Since you brought me in this world, let me take you out
To a restaurant, upper echelon
Imma 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)