KANYE West is easily one of the most controversial musicians of his generation – but there was one person who truly understood him.
That was his late mother Donda, who raised the rapper single-handedly and had unquestionable belief in his talent even when others wrote him off as just a producer.
Tragedy struck in 2007, three years after Kanye’s breakthrough album The College Dropout, when she died of a heart attack after having liposuction, breast reduction and a tummy tuck.
It’s claimed the 58-year-old went under the knife to deal with the pressures of being in the public eye and the scrutiny her son was facing.
Their relationship is examined in the new Netflix docu-series Jeen-Yuh: A Kanye Trilogy.
Close pal Clarence ‘Coodie’ Simons, who shot 330 hours of footage with the rapper, claims her death may have played a part in his friend's numerous public struggles.
He told The Sun: “Donda was his best friend/mother/biggest supporter, she saw his passion and did everything she could to bring that into fruition.
"Losing that person took a toll on Kanye and definitely in public, they both had a goal and then she wasn’t there… to lose that has got to be devastating.
“We don’t know what it feels like to be in the public eye losing someone so special or being on stage with a million people praising you.
“Who knows what that would do to your psyche, we just pray for our brother and like I say, he’s gonna be alright because my thing is ‘Trust God, period.’”
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Mum joked 'Kanye was always self-absorbed'
It took until 2004 for Kanye to break through as a solo artist, despite producing hit tracks for other musicians – including Jay-Z’s hit Izzo (H.O.V.A).
Until that time, the one person who never doubted his potential was Donda – and the new documentary shares poignant scenes of their close-knit relationship during his rise to superstardom.
In one clip, Kanye's mum brings him back to the modest suburban home they lived in on South Shore Drive, Chicago’s southside, to help him remember his humble beginnings.
“You can stay on the ground and be in the air at the same time,” Coodie recalls Donda always saying to Kanye and his pals.
Inside, Kanye recalls practising in front of a mirror ahead of talent shows – he won all but one, when he came in second place while performing as Stevie Wonder.
The disappointment dented his ego, but didn’t stop him, Donda explains.
“You know, Kanye was always self-absorbed in a way," she says.
“I came to kindergarten one day and you looked down the hall and saw me, you were on the top of the sliding board, and said ‘I don’t need you!’”
Nonetheless, Donda was there no matter the hour. After expressing his dreams of becoming a rapper, she led him to mentors No I.D. and Dug Infinite, who taught the 14-year-old “how to make beats”.
As his profile grew, she would stay up to celebrate with him into the early hours of the morning when he returned home after a successful show.
Death of Kanye's biggest fan
The rapper's closeness to Donda was unquestionable – in his debut album, he even released a track titled Hey Mama, where gushed with love for her.
"I wanna scream so loud for you, 'cause I'm so proud of you," he rapped during the 2005 hit.
"You know I love you so, I never let you go. Wrote this song just so you know. No matter where you go my love is true (Hey Mama)."
But the pressure of fame was taking its toll on Donda, who taught English at college for 31 years before quitting to manage her son's career.
She decided to go under the knife to better deal with being in the public eye, mere months after realising her memoir Raising Kanye: Life Lessons From The Mother Of A Hip Hop Star.
Donda had liposuction, breast reduction and a tummy tuck "without any issues" and allegedly discharged herself from hospital against her surgeon's advice.
At home, she was cared for by an "experienced nurse" and other family members", but the day after her surgery experienced concerning symptoms.
People magazine reported she had "a sore throat, pain and tightening in her chest" before she collapsed and after being rushed to hospital was reportedly pronounced dead in the emergency room.
Coodie insists Donda's death plagued the star and filled him with guilt, as he paid for the surgery before she died.
She died from a heart attack, which was caused by an undiagnosed underlying heart condition and not directly linked to her surgery.
The coroners' report concluded there were "multiple post-operative factors" that played a part in her death.
Donda's Law was passed shortly after, which requires all cosmetic surgeons to ensure their patients have a thorough physical exam before surgery.
Kanye struggled to deal with her death at the same time as being in the public spotlight and blamed himself for her passing.
He told Q Magazine: "If I had never moved to Los Angeles, she'd be alive. I don't want to go far into it because it will bring me to tears."
'I made him a star then he dropped me'
With Kanye's toxic high profile split with Kim Kardashian dominating the gossip pages, Coodie knows all too well how the rapper's life has changed under the spotlight.
He filmed with the star from 1998 until 2004, when he was dropped shortly before the release of The College Dropout.
It was the comedian-turned-cinematographer who actually gave Kanye his big break – filming the music video for his hit Through The Wire, which led Rockefeller to fund his album.
After they parted ways, Kanye went on to win gong after gong, while Coodie was left to watch his friend shoot into the stratosphere.
Coodie said: “Through the journey we took I got to know Kanye, we became brothers and then six years later when he was superfamous we separated.
“I’m only watching the news and media like everybody else and that made me think, ‘Do I really know this dude?’ because I’m watching somebody different from who I was experiencing.”
It wasn’t until 2014 that they were finally reunited at Madison Square Garden, in New York. Here, they discussed picking up the documentary again, which led to Coodie travelling with Kanye to China.
He explains: “When me and him saw each other, it was like, ‘Oh, Kanye’s happy again when he’s seeing friends’ but we are more than friends, I made his first video.”
While they were abroad, Coodie recognised how drastically different his friend’s life had become since their early years. Now he was regularly mobbed by the paparazzi.
“I was forgetting this is Yeezy, then all of a sudden as we’re leaving the store 100 people were outside with cameras,” he recalls.
“I’m like, ‘Wait a minute, who am I with?’ because he was the same. He’s the same person when we’re together. He’s the same guy I knew before, when I’m around.”
Part two of Jeen-Yuhs: A Kanye Trilogy is released on Netflix this Wednesday
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