Many words have been used to describe Kanye Omari West: Visionary, god, polarizing, jackass, (etc.) One adjective I rarely hear though is “relatable.” Honestly, that’s not hard to believe… the man is hard to relate to. Have you ever told your girl to “Get the Porsche out the d*** garage?” Have you ever said to yourself, “One day I’m gonna marry a porn star?” Over the past decade the most relatable Kanye West has ever been to the average person was on his debut, The College Dropout where he rapped about his life as it was before getting a deal. Some of the realest things he ever said were on that record. I’m getting off track here so don’t get it twisted but how many people can say they relate to who Kanye West is today? How many people can really say they relate to someone of that magnitude, making the case that they share a deeper connection than just appreciating music with him or her. I can.
At 12:00 AM on January 1, 2015, West dropped “Only One.” featuring Paul McCartney of The Beatles. I listened to it over and over again until I was shedding tears. I had to regain my composure quickly but this song literally shook me to my very core. Not like the stadium-status of Graduation, the grandiose My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy, or the hellish Yeezus, but in a way that literally felt like the words spoken were spoken directly to me.When asked about the track West said that his late mother, Donda West actually spoke through him and to him on this song as he was recording it. Here’s the crazy part… I heard my mother speaking to me too.
“Hello ‘Mari, how you doin’? I think the storm ran out of rain, the clouds are movin’.”
I lost my beautiful mother, Rachael, when I was three months old to complications from Cystic Fibrosis and double pneumonia. She was 21. I have went my entire life listening to stories of the strong, powerful, courageous and wonderful woman that she was. I have a list of questions I would ask her if I only had the chance. But the worst thing is I’ve went my entire life wondering if she would truly be proud of who I’ve been and who I’m going to be.
“Hello my only one. Just like the morning sun, you’ll keep on rising until the sky knows your name.
Hello my only one. Remember who you are, no you’re not perfect but you’re not your mistakes.”
When I heard “Only One” I immediately had answers I’ve been asking for years. I heard my mother’s voice in my heart, singing this to me. I’m shedding tears now as I write just knowing how much she truly loves me. It brings me a joy I’ve never known until now. At the time I’m writing this I am five days from turning 21. She gave birth to a happy baby, fulfilled her biggest goal in life, having a family, and is watching that boy grow into a successful man.
“And if you knew how proud I was, you’d never shed a tear, have a fear, no you wouldn’t do that.
And though I didn’t pick the day to turn the page, I know it’s not the end.”
I wish I could have known my mother better, made amazing memories with her, visited her in her old age and brought her cookies, given her everything like every son should, but I can’t. I’m envious of the men who know their mothers and have that opportunity. But every time I hear this song I see her smiling face and hear her beautiful voice in my heart, singing along with me.
“So hear me out, I won’t go. No goodbyes, just hellos.
And when you cry, I will cry. And when you smile, I will smile.
And next time when I look in your eyes, we’ll have wings and we’ll fly.”
It’s an understatement to say I’m looking forward to the day I finally get to say hello to my mom. When I visit some beautiful new place I always jokingly say “Hey mom, I made it.” A part of me knows she’s smiling and saying “I know son, I’m proud.” “Only One” is confirmation of that, confirmation I’ve desperately needed for so very long. Don’t get me wrong, I love living, but I’d be lying if I said this hadn’t crossed my mind a thousand times.
So say what you will about Kanye West. All adjectives used to describe him may or may not be true based on the opinion of the person speaking them, that’s one of the beautiful things about words. I’ve been a longtime fan and will continue to be supportive of his mission to spread a message of self-confidence, achieving your biggest goals and never letting anyone silence your ambitions. But on top of all that, it’s amazing seeing an introspective piece of art like this make such a connection to you in a way you never knew art could.
“Only One” is literally the soundtrack, the anthem, to my relationship with my mom. It brought me to a point of peace with the question “What would mom think of me?” And for that I am so very thankful.
I love you mommy. Thinking of you tonight.