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Kanye West's mother a model of support

  • Story Highlights
  • Hip-hop star Kanye West often paid tribute to his mother in his songs
  • Donda West was supportive of her son's career, would dance to his beats
  • Mom was former English professor, later managed son's career
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By Lola Ogunnaike
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NEW YORK (CNN) -- To understand how close Kanye West and his mother, Donda, were, one only needs to listen to his music.

Donda, Kanye West

Donda and Kanye West, here during her book tour, were very close.

He regularly made reference to her in his lyrics, discussing everything from her insistence that he receive a college degree to her unshakeable support of him when he ultimately decided to pursue a rap career.

Donda West, who died at 58 over the weekend, appeared to be as tough as she was loving.

On "Can't Tell Me Nothing," a track from his latest album, "Graduation," he rhymes about his mother's attempt to discourage him from spending money on jewelry and "Louis V." On "Touch the Sky," from his 2005 album, "Late Registration," he recalls how his mother drove him from Chicago, Illinois, to New York in a U-Haul van. (Read the obituary of Donda West.)

She was also the inspiration for the song "Hey Mama," from the same album. "I want to scream so loud for you/ because I'm so proud of you," he rhymes. "I know I act a fool/ but I promise you I'm going back to school/ I appreciate what you allowed for me and I just want you to be proud of me." Video Watch how Kanye West is mourning his mother »

Donda West was indeed proud. She regularly attended her son's concerts and often could be found dancing and rapping his more radio-friendly lyrics. Video Watch Donda West talk about "Raising Kanye" »

At the MTV Video Music Awards in September, she and a gaggle of girlfriends were perched in the VIP section at a party for Rolling Stone magazine. As Kanye West whipped the crowd into a frenzy with hits such as "Gold Digger" and "Through the Wire," his mom waved her hands in the air side to side and bobbed to the beats.

When asked if her son would sell more records than 50 Cent (both rappers released their albums on September 11), she answered coyly.

"Good music will win out," she said with a smile and a wink. (Her son's label is named Good Music.) Photo Gallery: Donda and Kanye »

"Graduation" would go on to trounce 50 Cent's "Curtis," debuting at No. 1 on the Billboard charts and selling more than 950,000 copies in its first week of release.


Long before her son became an international superstar, Donda West was an English professor at Chicago State University. She stepped down as chairwoman of the university's English department in 2004 to manage her son's burgeoning career full time.

The two collaborated on a book, "Raising Kanye: Life Lessons From the Mother of a Hip Hop Star," which was released in May. And most recently, she became the CEO of Super Good, the parent company of Kanye West Enterprises. She also was the chairwoman of the Kanye West Foundation, which, interestingly enough, is focused on keeping students from dropping out of school. E-mail to a friend E-mail to a friend

All About Kanye West

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