Donda West, Noted Scholar And Kanye’s Mother, Dies At 58

Artist's mother died Saturday, possibly from surgery complications; autopsy reportedly to be performed Wednesday.

Donda West, the mother of Kanye West and former chairwoman of Chicago State University’s English department, passed away Saturday, according to a spokesperson 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. Patricia Green, Dr. West’s publicist, initially told reporters on Monday (November 12) that she died after a cosmetic surgery procedure was performed on her, but Green subsequently denied that Dr. West had undergone surgery, according to CNN.

An autopsy will be performed Wednesday by the Los Angeles County Coroner’s office because it is investigating possible surgery complications, a watch commander reportedly told CNN. Lieutenant Fred Corral also said it is not yet known whether the complications possibly arose during or after surgery.

Paramedics brought Donda West to the Centinela Freeman Regional Medical Center in Marina del Rey on Saturday evening, CFMC’s Cindy Woelfle told CNN. She said attempts made to revive the victim were unsuccessful, and Donda West died at 8:29 p.m., according to Corral. Dr. West was at her home when 911 was called, TMZ.com reports.

CNN reports that a cosmetic surgeon refused to perform a procedure on Dr. West after she consulted him in June. The surgeon, Andre Aboolian of Beverly Hills, said she contacted him again two weeks ago saying she was ready to go forward with surgery, but he stipulated that he needed a medical clearance before he would perform it. “I always insist on a medical clearance for women over 40, and in this instance it was particularly important because of a condition she had that I felt could have led to a heart attack,” Aboolian said in a statement through his publicist, according to CNN. Dr. West was reportedly scheduled to see an internist for tests, but she did not make the appointment.

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 Morris Brown College in Atlanta and began working at Chicago State University in 1980, according to the site. She was also a Fulbright Scholar and the winner of other awards. Dr. West raised Kanye in the Chicago area along with her husband, Ray, from whom she separated when Kanye was 3. CSU is planning a memorial service for later this week, according to the Chicago Sun-Times. University spokeswoman Robyn Wheeler reportedly said Monday that the event “will really be a celebration of her life.” She added, “We are bringing together a number of faculty members who knew her well to organize an upbeat celebration.”

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 white shades while she celebrated 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.”

[This story was originally published at 7:45 p.m. ET on 11.11.07]