25 years of Chicago: Amplified
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Raising Hip-Hop's Future

Kanye and Common's Moms

Explore the moment.
How do you raise an icon? In 2005, the mothers of two of Chicago's most famous Hip-Hop artists, Common and Kanye West, chatted with Eight Forty-Eight Contributor Monique Caradine about motherhood, music, and raising young artists in Chicago. Kanye's mom, Dr. Donda West, died within a year of this interview. Common's mom, Dr. Mahalia Hines, later became a member of Chicago's School Board.
Dr. Donda West (Kanye's mom): "My first reaction was, 'Kanye: do you have to name it The College Dropout ?' "
0m 53s
Dr. Mahalia Hines (Common's mom): "That was an agreement we had when he left college: that if he did not make a living in three years, then he would return."
1m 40s
Monique Caradine:

Is there anything that you would change about what you hear in the music today?

Dr. Donda West:

I don't like the N-word, I don't like the B-word, et cetera, et cetera, but I understand that there are things that we did as young people that our parents didn't like, you know, it's a sign of the times... I think that it's the place that these words are coming from. Sometimes the N-word is a term of endearment. So while I would have preferred not listening to that word in music or any other form, that's not something I think I'd change now.

4m 58s
Looking Back: Monique Caradine

They came into the studios at WBEZ and it was so cool because it was right when Common was at the height of his career as an actor. He was just starting to do more films. And he was starting to become known outside of the Chicago underground and it was cool to have his mom come in and talk about who he was growing up, and who he was as a rapper, and who he was becoming as this now award-winning actor.

And then Kanye was nowhere near as famous as he is today. He was just starting to emerge. This interview aired the day Kanye's album Late Registration came out, and that was one of his first big splashes, his entree to the big time. His mom, she passed not so long thereafter, but she was just engaging and warm and excited to see the work he was doing.

They were just moms of these two guys. They would still, if need be, pop 'em upside of the head, like South Side African-American moms would do. It was no big deal for them, this celebrity that their sons had achieved. They were hard-working. And they were doing their thing. They were like any typical South Side mom in Chicago.

I remember how proud they were, not just as moms of celebrities, but just as black women in general. I remember how they felt strongly that education was important for anybody, celebrity or not. I remember how they didn't seem to be starstruck by any of it and how they both ingrained the value of hard work in their sons. It was just a part of who they were - hard work, good values, pride, well-spokenness and a standard of excellence.