From all indications, Dr. Donda West was everything Kanye West could have asked for in a mother: a teacher, protector, confidant, adviser, #1 fan, best friend and champion.
Her death is tragic, and even though she may not have been as well-known to the masses as her superstar son, millions knew of her and how much she meant to Kanye. Her loss definitely drives home an important point: No matter how big a star you become, family is still the most important thing.
Throughout his journey to fame, Kanye always kept his mom by his side. We've seen her at so many pivotal moments in 'Ye's career, and when she wasn't physically there, Kanye represented her in song or whenever he spoke.
"This is the reason I did whatever song you might have heard of," Kanye said of his mom in April 2004 during a taping of MTV's "Diary." In one of the segments, he went home to see his mom. "This is my mother," he said. "I love her. She is my best friend in the whole world. My mother let me work on music, she helped me out, she used to drive me to the studio. She was really my first manager. She's still my general manger."
During the MTV special "All Eyes on Kanye West" in August 2005, West put his relationship with his mom in even more context, saying, "After my parents got divorced and we moved to Chicago at age 3, I would go visit my father on Christmas during breaks and the summer. But the rest of that time, my mother was my everything, if you're a child. That's my everything."
That same year, Kanye released his album Late Registration, and one of the most touching tracks was "Hey Mama," a tribute to Dr. West.
"When she first heard it, she was crying," Kanye said of the record. " ... Even me sitting back thinking about all the stuff now, thinking about all the stuff my mother has done for me, it makes me wanna call her."
Many times, she was within earshot. The Grammys, MTV's "Life & Rhymes," this year's VMAs, Kanye's 30th birthday party in New York — Dr. West always came to support her son. Earlier this year, she authored the book "Raising Kanye: Life Lessons From the Mother of a Hip-Hop Superstar," but outside her musical-genius child, Dr. West was very accomplished. She was a professor for more than three decades. If she did not stop to help her son handle different business and charity ventures, such as the Kanye West Foundation and his G.O.O.D. Music label, she might have still been an educator.
The impact she had on her son is undeniable, as is the impact he had on her. Just about every time you saw her around Kanye, she would have the most joyous look on her face. It was pride — she got to see her baby live his dreams.
A statement was posted on the Kanye West Foundation's Web site late on Monday that reads: "Kanye West, his family and friends would like to thank everyone for the outpouring of support and kind words that have come in from across the country since the death of his mother, Dr. Donda West.
"After working in higher education for 31 years, Dr. Donda West and Kanye West co-founded the Kanye West Foundation with the mission of helping to combat the severe dropout problem in high schools across the country," the post continues. The first and signature initiative of the Kanye West Foundation is Loop Dreams. Designed to capitalize on students [expressing] interest in hip-hop, Loop Dreams challenges students to learn more about what's behind hip-hop culture in order to help them develop skills, express themselves creatively and be empowered.
"In lieu of flowers, the family asks that donations be made in Dr. West's name to the Kanye West Foundation/Loop Dreams Teacher Training Institute."
[This story was originally published at 5:41 p.m. ET on 11.12.07]