"I want to tell the whole world about a friend of mine"
Kanye West loves himself enough for us all, but the love he has for his mother Donda West is unmatched. The star’s mom — who died from heart disease after plastic surgery a decade ago — raised him on her own in Chicago. Donda dedicated a huge part of her life to her only child and even wrote a book about raising the mogul, Raising Kanye: Life Lessons From the Mother of a Hip-Hop Superstar.
Kanye was never shy about being a “mama’s boy.” He loved his mom more publicly than DJ Khalid loves Asahd, and serenaded her often. On Yeezy’s Late Registration (and his mixtape Freshmen Adjustment), he dedicated “Hey Mama” to Donda West, professing just how proud she had made him.
When she died in Marina Del Ray in 2007, Kanye took the loss of his parent, for lack of a better word, hard. “If I had never moved to L.A. she’d be alive,” West said in an interview with Q magazine eight years after his mother’s passing. “I don’t want to go far into it because it will bring me to tears.” He went on to say that if he has sacrificed one thing in his life for his fame and fortune it would be his mom.
In 2016, Kanye infamously suffered a severe emotional breakdown alongside the anniversary of his mother’s death that year. The episode was followed by a year of radio silence from the rapper and questions from fans about whether the “Flashing Lights” star would come back.
When he finally did emerge from seclusion in November of this year, what did he find? Taylor Swift releasing her sixth studio album on the 10th anniversary of his mother’s death. While Swift’s reps insist that the dates were not connected, Yeezy fans weren’t so sure. To commemorate Donda West’s life, death, and son (and shame Taylor, of course), Kanye’s fans streamed “Hey Mama” on Spotify 700,000 times.
“This little light of mine, I’m finna let it shine”
Yes, an event started by a teenager led to Kanye’s song being played over half a million times.
Days after hearing that Taylor Swift planned to release her album on the 10th anniversary of Donda West’s death (Nov. 10, 2017), Rhys Halkidis, an Australian high school student, created a Facebook event called “‘Hey Mama’ Day.” With a little help from the media, the event got almost 7000 attendees.
When the day came, “Hey Mama” was blasted literally throughout the world. Its already high stream count moved from 23.6 million to 24.3 million. Though the song never appeared on the Spotify charts — surely execs heard about the plan and adjusted their algorithms — the day was a success. Hopefully it brought Kanye, who blamed himself after his mother’s death, some joy during such a sad time.
“I’m finna take y’all back to them better times”
“Hey Mama” became the most streamed song in the U.S. on Spotify, reached no. 33 on New Zealand iTunes charts, and saw the top 100 in Australia. A Norwegian DJ posted about playing “Hey Mama” on the radio as an Armenian fan posted that the track made it to no. 3 on their iTunes charts.
“The best part of ‘Hey Mama’ Day for me was the way everyone came together almost like a family on the Facebook event and in real life,” Halkidis said afterwards, according to The Ringer. He continued:
“It was pretty amazing seeing people in Armenia and Denmark making an impact, as well as coming to school and seeing everyone streaming the song the entire day with even some teachers getting involved. … Even without considering any of the results, everyone thought this made the day worth it.”
Numerous fans revealed that listening to the track repeatedly brought them to tears. Because Kanye is still off of social media and hasn’t released a statement of any kind, there is no way to know for sure if he’s heard about the efforts to push “Hey Mama” to the top of Spotify’s charts. Regardless, send him some love in the comments and SHARE this article. Oh! And sign up for “‘Hey Mama’ Day 2018” here.