Song of the Day #1,297: ‘Hey Mama’ – Kanye West

Whether you love Kanye West or hate him — and I can see plenty of reasons to do both — it’s hard to deny that the man has immense talent and that he has done more to change the face of modern hip-hop than any of his peers.

Much has been written about the emergence of so-called emo rap, and Kanye has certainly done his part to introduce themes of heartbreak, romance, depression and self-doubt into his music and therefore into the broader conversation about what makes a good rap record. His tear-soaked 808s & Heartbreak is rap Blood On the Tracks and, whether or not it “works” in any traditional sense, it’s very existence is noteworthy.

But I’m more interested in Kanye’s contribution to the sound of modern rap. As both a producer and a recording artist he has incorporated pop and orchestral sounds into traditional rap in ingenious ways. Working with alternative musicians such as Jon Brion and Bon Iver, he has crossed cultural and racial divides in a quest to make prettier music.

[Chorus]
(Hey Mama), I wanna scream so loud for you, cuz I’m so proud of you
Let me tell you what I’m about to do, (Hey Mama)
I know I act a fool but, I promise you I’m goin back to school
I appreciate what you allowed for me
I just want you to be proud of me (Hey Mama)

[Verse 1]
I wanna tell the whole world about a friend of mine
This little light of mine and I’m finna let it shine
I’m finna take yall back to them better times
I’m finna talk about my mama if yall don’t mind
I was three years old, when you and I moved to the Chi
Late December, harsh winter gave me a cold
You fixed me up something that was good for my soul
Famous homemade chicken soup, can I have another bowl?
You work late nights just to keep on the lights
Mommy got me training wheels so I could keep on my bike
And you would give anything in this world
Michael Jackson leather and a glove, but didn’t give me a curl
And you never put no man over me
And I love you for that mommy cant you see?
Seven years old, caught you with tears in your eyes
Cuz a nigga cheatin, telling you lies, then I started to cry
As we knelt on the kitchen floor
I said mommy Imma love you till you don’t hurt no more
And when I’m older, you aint gotta work no more
And Imma get you that mansion that we couldn’t afford
See you’re, unbreakable, unmistakable
Highly capable, lady that’s makin loot
A livin legend too, just look at what heaven do
Send us an angel, and I thank you (Hey Mama)

[Chorus]

[Verse 2]
Forrest Gump mama said, life is like a box of chocolates
My mama told me go to school, get your doctorate
Somethin to fall back on, you could profit with
But still supported me when I did the opposite
Now I feel like it’s things I gotta get
Things I gotta do, just to prove to you
You was getting through, can the choir please
Give me a verse of “You, Are So Beautiful To Me”
Can’t you see, you’re like a book of poetry
Maya Angelou, Nicky Giovanni, turn one page and there’s my mommy
Come on mommy just dance wit me, let the whole world see your dancing feet
Now when I say Hey, yall say Mama, now everybody answer me (Hey Mama)

[Chorus]

[Bridge]
I guess it also depends tho, if my ends low
Second they get up you gon get that Benzo
Tint the windows, ride around the city and let ya friends know (Hey Mama)

[Verse 3]
Tell your job you gotta fake em out
Since you brought me in this world, let me take you out
To a restaurant, upper echelon
Imma get you a jag, whatever else you want
Just tell me what kind of S-Type Donda West like?
Tell me the perfect color so I make it just right
It don’t gotta be Mother’s Day, or your birthday
For me to just call and say (Hey Mama)

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4 thoughts on “Song of the Day #1,297: ‘Hey Mama’ – Kanye West

  1. Dana says:

    Isn’t the song he did, in a slowed down version, on the Grammy’s after his mom died? As I recall, it was a very moving performance, and it almost made me like him. Of course, that was before the whole Taylor Swift incident.

    I have to admit that it is hard for me to support or listen to someone that I really just don’t care for as a person. I’m trying to think if there are other artists whose work I like and listen to or watch even though I find them contemptible. Nobody comes immediately to mind.

    So, yes this is a good song, and I’m sure he has many others that are very good as well, but I sleep better at night not listening to him. Maybe that’s my loss. Who knows?

  2. Clay says:

    I don’t remember the performance after his mom died, but it was probably this. She died shortly after this album came out.

    I’d put Sean Penn on a list of people whose work I like despite finding them personally insufferable. But acting is different than music because the whole point is that you become somebody other than who you are, while musicians (especially rappers) tend to “play” themselves.

    I find Kanye more foolish than contemptible. He’s arrogant as hell and talks before he thinks 75% of the time, but he’s pretty harmless. I don’t have a problem separating his personality from the quality of his music (which is really very high).

  3. Dana says:

    I won’t avoid a Sean Penn movie, but I also won’t run to one, and I suspect that part of the reason is his off-screen personality.

  4. Amy says:

    This was the song he performed, and I also liked his follow-up song to the whole Swift incident. I don’t choose not to listen to his music because of how I feel about him as a person (which is…. neutral. I couldn’t have much less of an opinion about him, to be honest), but because I don’t listen to rap music, and nothing I’ve heard by him or about him has tempted me to violate that general preference. There was a time when Arrested Development was in a permanent rotation in my CD player; I can’t see any Kanye album ever finding its way there.

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