For the month of May, JuGatti and I decided to make Mother’s Day everyday by reading “Raising Kanye,” written by Kanye West’s mom, Donda West, back in 2007 before her untimely passing. As a former professor, Ms. Donda decided to teach readers a thing or two about life through sharing her experiences as a loving, devoted and proud mother to a hip-hop genius. We got a glimpse at what Kanye was like as a young man, West family stories, and a sense of what his mom was like as a parent. Before Kanye was keeping up with the Kardashians, Donda was dishing on everything that makes her and her son dope. See what life lessons JuGatti and I took through reading this book. RIP to Donda West.
1. What’s something(s) new that you learned about Kanye?
Manito: Maybe I was under a rock or didn’t pay attention in the music as much as I thought but I had no idea he lived in China for a year. That’s the coolest thing in the world to me. It’s one thing to vacation but to live, breathe, and learn in another country seems so dope, great way to really take in the culture and broaden your horizons. I also found his first jobs interesting. He worked at Bob Evans after one day and quit! Then he had a job as a telemarketer, and of course Ye had the gift of gab and was really good at it. I think that’s kinda cool to see what he used to do and where he is now in the rap game. Who would’ve thought someone who tried to sell you knives was going to be one of the most influential people in today’s music? It should make you think twice about who you hang up on.
JuGatti: What I learned about Kanye was the reason he is the way he is. From what is perceived via his music, outburst, etc is that he’s arrogant, and outspoken. In the book Ms.Donda clarified that Kanye has had a heightened sense of self awareness since childhood. Due in part to the supreme confidence instilled in him from her as well as the rest of his family. Also I wasn’t aware he was an only child which explains the ideals that Kanye cares only about himself, which is hardly the case.
2. With the books focused on the mother’s point of view, do you think kids are influenced by nature or nurture?
Manito: I believe kids are influenced by a combination of both. Let’s look at it in Kanye’s case: his mother was an English professor on a university level and had imagined Kanye acquiring at least one degree in his lifetime. However, Kanye went a totally different route than he was raised. “My mom told me, ‘Finish your school, get your doctorate’ and still supported me when I did the opposite.” His upbringing was centered around getting an education and he went against the grain to dropout of school and the rest is history. He was not a product of his environment in this situation, instead he used his own thoughts. There were instances where Kanye was a product of his environment however. According to Ms. Donda, Kanye was a respectful kid who was known to abide by the rules and principals she did set for him initially, despite what others may say about Ye being unruly or thinking he was always rude and out of control.
JuGatti: Nature and nurture of course both play an integral part in the development of a child but if I have to choose which one has more of a lasting effect I would say nurture. A child’s most impressionable years come when they are young and dependent on their family to take care of them. With this they learn their morale and life philosophy from their parents and how they act. Whether voluntarily or involuntarily, a child mimics almost everything their parents do. From how they walk, talk, treat people etc it is all embedded in them at a young age. Whether it’s right or wrong this I must say plays the most important in the growth of a child.
3. Being as though we both aren’t parents, what are some tactics that Ms. Donda talked about in her book that you would use on your kids?
Manito: What I love reading about this book the most was motherhood according to Donda West. I really respected her outlook on parenting. I believe in letting your kids being free thinkers and expressing themselves. Kids have a voice, and emotions too, parents shouldn’t be militant when it comes to raising them. I also don’t believe in beating your children as a form of punishment. In addition, she was adamant about respect in her household. That’s a major key.
JuGatti: The most admirable thing that I took from Ms.Donda raising Kanye was the freedom she gave him to create. Parents, well family as well often clip their child’s wings before they can fly. They feel as though their helping by minimizing their dreams. Telling them to aim for a more realistic career so they won’t get disappointed if it doesn’t happen. This is more damaging than it is helping. It can cause a lifelong stigma for that kid whether it’s timidness, uncertainty, or insecurity. These can plague the child for the rest of their life because their parents limited their dreams prematurely. Ms. Donda believed and supported Kanye’s dream wholeheartedly. Walking by his room telling him “that’s a million dollar song” etc. even if she didn’t agree with his decision to drop out she supported him, and more often than not, that can be the best gift a parent can give.
4. The ending chapter focused on community service, most notably Kanye trying to alleviate the dropout rate of students. What is a program or idea you would implement in schools to help with the dropout rate?
Manito: Obviously I’m passionate about music so I would encourage more programs that support the arts. I hate hearing when schools cut budgets on arts programs. While the fundamentals like reading, writing, and “rithmetic,” as my grandmother would say, are important, not all students respond or learn well through just books alone. There’s a different type of genius in everyone, while some thrive off of being studious, others might master a more artistic approach instead. Another idea would be to introduce the concept of entrepreneurship earlier in life so kids can learn to be self-sufficient and see an alternative to working by someone else’s rules/standards which can be discouraging. Maybe if kids can see they can be their own bosses, it would bring out a side that will drive them to be educated fully on it and continue to pursue school.
JuGatti: Similar to Kanye I would love to implement a hip hop course for kids. A summer class for a camp where they learn about hip hop, the artist, the songs, defining moments etc. kids connect with hip hop more than they do with the bullshit they teach in school nowadays. Niggas aren’t checking for Shakespeare and never will. A Kanye album can teach them just as much if not more than a Beethoven composition on any day. That’ll be a dope idea *scratches chin*
5. Rank Kanye’s albums from best to worst.
Manito: Here we go…
- Graduation. I really felt we got a sense of Kanye was as a person with this album. Plus certain songs really resonated with me like “Flashing Lights,” “I Wonder,” and ESPECIALLY “Can’t Tell Me Nothing” I swear that is my life on that song.
- College Dropout. Soulful and with a message. Just all around dope AF for its time.
- Late Registration. Songs were fire, production was sick.
- 808s and Heartbreak. I’m probably gonna get stoned but I really enjoyed this album. I liked that he went a different direction with the singing and the sound, and even the auto-tune. And I was going through a breakup when this dropped. I was in high school so I was super melodramatic, it fit my mood.
- My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy. The concept was amazing, it was like a hip-hop story book. But some of Kanye’s lyrics were underwhelming on this album. I found a lot of features outshined his like Nicki on “Monster,” Jay-Z on “So Appalled,” Chris Rock on “Blame Game”…lol nah just kidding about the last one but his part was legendary.
- The Life of Pablo. Nowhere near his best..no substance and no lyrical content from him whatsoever..certain songs were okay..production was cool though.
- Yeezus. I understand the direction he was trying to go with this but I couldn’t get with the sound. A lot of songs sounded like noise to me.
JuGatti: This is one of my favorite past times, ordering Kanye’s albums from best to worst. I do it every 3 months to stay sharp. I usually have ties for the best album but for the sake of ambiguity I’ll keep it straight forward so boom: MBDTF, College Dropout, Graduation, WTT (can I include this?), Late Registration, TLOP, 808s, and that God forsaken Yeezus is at the absolute bottom of the barrel 🤦🏾♂️