As Kim Kardashian finally broke her silence about her husband Kanye West's worrying recent public behaviour, one line stood out.
Kanye, Kim explained to fans, is dealing with – among his well-documented mental health issues – "the painful loss of his mother."
This November it'll be 13 years since Kanye's beloved mother Donda died. But the bizarre circumstances surrounding her death at the age of 58 appear to haunt her son to this day.
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A beloved single mother
Born in Douglasville, Georgia, Kanye moved with his mum 1200km north to Chicago after his parents divorced when he was three years old. His mother was a university professor, he an only child. When Kanye was 10, the two moved again – this time to Nanjing, China, where Donda was teaching in an exchange program.
She nurtured her son's love of the arts from an early age, as he wrote poems and quickly took up rap – she even paid for his first recording studio session at the age of 13, to record a self-penned rap called Green Eggs and Ham.
It wasn't until later in Kanye's school life that he truly felt his mother's wrath, after he dropped out of college – the same college at which she taught.
Her disappointment was gone by the time Kanye released his debut album – tellingly titled The College Dropout – in 2004. Acclaimed as one of the albums of the year, it sold more than 3.4 million copies in the US alone.
"It was drummed into my head that college is the ticket to a good life … but some career goals don't require college. For Kanye to make an album called College Dropout it was more about having the guts to embrace who you are, rather than following the path society has carved out for you," Donda later wrote in her book, Raising Kanye.
A freak accident
By 2007, Kanye had become one of rap's biggest stars: He'd just released his third album Graduation, having picked up three Grammy Awards the previous year for acclaimed second album Late Registration.
As his fame grew, Kanye's devotion to his mother remained as strong as ever: She managed his career, and accompanied him as his date to many award shows.
As Graduation and its radio-ready singles swept the charts, Kanye was hit with an unthinkable tragedy: Donda died, aged just 58.
Donda underwent a liposuction, a tummy tuck, and a breast reduction, and died at home the next day following complications from the surgery.
An autopsy revealed that a pre-existing heart condition likely led to her post-operative death. A law passed after her death – dubbed 'Donda's Law' – requires plastic surgeons to ensure patients have had a physical exam and are cleared by their primary care physician before undergoing cosmetic procedures.
Kanye grapples with grief - publically
Kanye was back on stage just 12 days after his mother's death, fighting back tears as he dedicated his song Hey Mama to her. While he went straight back to work, as the years went on, Kanye publicly grappled with his grief over his mother's death — sometimes in worrying ways.
In a heartbreaking 2015 interview with Q Magazine, Kanye revealed he blamed himself for his mother's death. Asked what he had sacrificed for his success, he replied: "My mum."
"If I had never moved to L.A. she'd be alive … I don't want to go far into it because it will bring me to tears."
In 2018, a bizarre admission, given the circumstances of his mother's death: Kanye revealed in an interview with TMZ that he'd developed an opoid addiction while recovering from his own liposuction procedure.
"I got liposuction because I didn't want y'all to call me fat just like y'all did to Rob (Kardashian) at the wedding and made him fly home before me and Kim got married. I didn't want y'all to call me fat so I got liposuction and they gave me opioids."
That same year, he shocked fans by declaring on Twitter that he would use a photo of the doctor who performed his mother's ill-fated surgery as his next album cover.
"This is my album cover. This is plastic surgeon Jan Adams. The person who performed my mom's final surgery. Do you have any title ideas?" he asked.
That didn't happen – the album, Ye, arrived with the line "I hate being bi-polar. It's awesome" scrawled on the cover.
But two years later, Kanye's again dominating the news cycle for his worrying tweets – and again prepping an album fixated on his late mother.
Due for release tomorrow, Kanye's upcoming tenth studio album is named after his mother: Donda: With Child.
One song on the album, Donda, features a recording of his late mother reciting the lyrics to KRS-One's December 1993 hit Sound of da Police.
Kim Kardashian's statement overnight was a rare break from public unity with her husband – earlier this month she was supportively retweeting his bizarre bid to run for US President at the November elections:
But overnight – and after Kanye had tweeted insults to his mother-in-law Kris Jenner and declared that he was trying to divorce Kim – his wife said she felt compelled to speak because "of the stigma and misconceptions of mental health".
"Those that understand mental illness or compulsive behaviour know that the family is powerless unless the member is a minor. People who are unaware or far removed from this experience can be judgmental and not understand that the individual themselves have to engage in the process of getting help no matter how hard the family try," she wrote.
"I understand Kanye is subject to criticism because he is a public figure and his actions at times can cause strong opinions and emotions. He is a brilliant but complicated person who on top of the pressures of being an artist and a Black man, who experienced the painful loss of his mother, and has to deal with the pressure and isolation that is heightened by his bi-polar disorder," she added.