Monday, November 12, 2007

R.I.P. Dr. Donda West

Last Friday night, I went to dinner and saw a movie ("Before the Devil Knows You're Dead") with a very good and dear friend, catching up after months of not being able to hang. At some point, Kanye West's name came up in the conversation and my friend made a face. "I can't stand that guy," he said. I chuckled and asked why. "I don't know," replied my friend. "I guess it's because he's such a mama's boy. He has a certain kind of arrogant confidence that mama's boys have. Like, you know that whenever he fell, there was someone there to pick him up."

I've written too much about Kanye to regurgitate it again but I am a fan. I do think he's insufferably cocky and, at best, a so-so rapper. I love his music (great production, clever rhymes) but take his beyond-the-headphones persona in very small doses. I think a lot of the resistance so many hip-hop heads (the thugs, playas, "real" niggas) and macho dudes have to 'Ye is the fact that his swagger is so deep and in-your-face but doesn't come from the usual testosterone carved sources. He ain't nearly the only rapper raised by a single mom and I'd wager that more than one sneering, menacing rapper is also a big-ass, undercover "mama's boy." But 'Ye doesn't showcase bottomless gendered wounds (if not standard-issue misogyny) toward women for his growing up in a single-mom household. The roots of his swagger were watered by maternal devotion, and he boasts of that fact. His cock-of-the-walk strut wasn't forged in the streets, in a gang, in prison, selling drugs. He got it from his mama: Dr. Donda West.

When I heard that his mom died Saturday night, my heart tightened. Speaking as an unabashed, unapologetic mama's boy, I know that 'Ye is really going through it right now. Here's a live clip of his tribute to his mom, "Hey Mama."

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