Through various stages of his life, Kanye West’s parents have influenced him in different ways. Are they still alive?
After a long roller-coaster wait for the release of “Donda,” Kanye West’s 10th studio album, the project is finally available on all streaming platforms. The body of work, which is named after his late mother, Dr. Donda West, covers a myriad of topics from Kanye’s personal struggles, to his takes on the music industry as a whole, to his relationship with Donda prior to and after her tragic death in 2007.
One major thing that the release of “Donda” has brought about is a renewed interest from fans in who exactly Kanye’s parents are and what kind of impact they’ve had on his life. Keep reading for all of the known details regarding the “Jail” rapper’s relationship with his mother and father.
Who are Kanye West’s parents? His mother, Dr. Donda West, helped define the man he became.
The impact that Kanye’s mother, Donda, had on him has reverberated through many different eras of his career. Aside from the fact that his latest album is named after her and features her voice on multiple tracks, Kanye has made reference to her impact on various other projects throughout his career. One of his earlier songs, “Hey Mama,” became a standout of his discography and is wholly about the impact she had on his life and the love he maintains for her.
Born on July 12, 1949, in Oklahoma City, Okla., Donda made education the core directive of her life from early on. She worked as a teacher for some years and even took her talents overseas. When Kanye was just 10, he and Donda relocated to China for a year as part of a teacher exchange program, an experience that profoundly affected Kanye and contributed to his worldliness. Eventually, Donda was appointed as chairwoman of Chicago State University’s English department as well.
As Kanye grew older and developed an interest in hip-hop, emerging as one of the most talented artists in Chicago at the time, Donda transitioned into an even more integral role in her son’s life: his manager. This is a job that she occupied for some years, going on to pen the book Raising Kanye: Life Lessons From the Mother of a Hip-Hop Superstar, which is all about his rise to fame and her role in it all.
However, Kanye’s life changed drastically come 2007 when Donda passed away after complications resulting from elective surgery. The death of Donda changed Kanye, spurring a string of erratic behavior that is highlighted by his apparently drunken interruption of Taylor Swift’s VMA acceptance speech in 2009.
From Donda’s passing onward, Kanye did all he could to preserve his mother’s legacy and memory, releasing T-shirts with her face airbrushed on them and even helping found a charity in her name, Donda’s House.
The culmination of Kanye’s will to preserve Donda’s legacy came with his August 29, 2021, release of “Donda,” his album named after her that interpolates various vocal samples of the late educator passing her words of wisdom on to the world. Through all of the trials and tribulations Kanye has faced in the almost decade-and-a-half since her death, Donda has clearly remained a core focus of Kanye’s public and private identity.
Kanye’s father, Ray West, has had a much different role than Donda’s in the rapper’s life.
The story of Kanye and Ray West‘s relationship is a bit more complicated than that of Kanye and Donda’s. Ray was married to Donda for some years, but the couple divorced when Kanye was just 3 years old. From all accounts of their relationship, it appears as though Ray wasn’t exactly the most present in his son’s early life, only taking him in during summertime each year. This likely contributed to Kanye’s profound love for Donda as his main parental figure growing up.
Ray worked as a photojournalist for The Atlanta Journal-Constitution and also took on an active role in the Black Panthers during his younger years. He later became a Christian counselor and eventually founded his own business, the Good Water Store and Café in Lexington Park, Md., with some startup money from Kanye.
According to a 2018 article from TMZ, Ray faced a brief battle with prostate cancer that profoundly affected his life and relationship with his son. The former journalist beat the illness shortly after his diagnosis was revealed to the public, but during that time it’s clear that he and Kanye grew closer than ever before. Ray was even featured in Kanye’s music video for “Follow God” from his 2019 Christian rap album “Jesus is King.”