Decoding ‘Donda’

Written by Rakeem Mosey, Communications and Marketing Chairman, VUUNAA 

Kanye West is hard at work completing his tenth and forthcoming album, ‘Donda.’  The album titled after his deceased mother, Dr. Donda West is very much anticipated with two highly publicized listening parties in rearview.  It’s been nearly three years since he announced his last album, “Jesus is King.”

Both listening parties took place at the Mercedes-Benz Stadium in Atlanta, GA where Kanye has lived for several weeks prepping the final production of the album.  Both events engaged students from the Atlanta University Center and his mom’s alma mater, Virginia Union University (VUU).  In Richmond, VUU students were able to watch the Apple Music live stream remotely from the Barco-Stevens field.

Today, West maintains his relevance as one of this generation’s most talented rap artists and producers.  Some might consider him to be provocative; unafraid to be contrary and a free thinker.  And, while testing limits and pushing the status quo in music and art, he is still one of the most awarded entertainers of his time.   His music and fashion brand, Yeezy secured his place on Forbes’ Magazine list of billionaires.

On Sept. 27, 2007, Dr. Donda West returned to her alma mater to promote her book, Raising Kanye: Life Lessons from the Mother of a Hip Hop Superstar.  The book is a memoir about her life and adventures parenting Kanye as a single mother. 

The Richmond Times-Dispatch interviewed her on that same visit while promoting her book at Virginia Union University. It was her first time returning to the campus since graduating in 1971. That year, Dr. West was granted the honor to serve as the grand marshall of the homecoming parade.

“I’m always proud of Kanye,” West said in the interview.  “There have been a couple of instances where I would have advised him to think about what he was saying and understand that the media does what the media does…”

Though accomplished in her right, you might assume Dr. West’s son gained his confidence from his mother, but she writes in her book that he gets his confidence from his father’s side of the family.

When the university announced the partnership with Kanye West to stream his listening event to students it caused Ayasha Sledge, ’17 to reflect on her own memories of Dr. West.

“I was so excited about the upcoming book signing and Q&A session [in 2007], I decided to splurge to upgrade my ‘point and shoot’ camera to invest in my first DSLR (Nikon D40),” she wrote on her Instagram page.

“Dr. West was my first “official” shoot before DBD existed -wow,” Sledge wrote.  “When she passed away soon after, it confirmed for me, the importance of the work of photographers. 

In 1971, West earned a bachelor’s degree in English from VUU.  While a student, she was president of the Alpha Eta chapter of Alpha Kappa Alpha Sorority, Incorporated.  In 1980, she earned her doctor of philosophy degree from Auburn University.  She taught at Morris Brown College in Atlanta, GA and Chicago State University in Chicago, IL until she retired in 2004 to serve as Kanye’s manager. She died on November 10, 2007.

‘Donda,’ is expected for pre-order on August 13, 2021, on all streaming platforms.

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