An Open Letter To Ye

Mr. West,

This is the third version of this letter. I tried the first one a couple days after everything happened. I actually thought I could just DM one of your social media handles. I guess that speaks to how disillusioned I was at the time. When that didn’t work I found a more than likely fake business address and actually wrote a letter by hand, but I never mailed it. I don’t know why other than the fact I didn’t have the motivation to seal it and walk it to the mailbox. I wish I had, because to tell you the truth this is my least preferred way of reaching out to you. I wanted to keep everything private so you wouldn’t think I was doing this as some cheap exploitative publicity stunt or because I’m some kind of obsessed Stan. I promise neither could be further from the truth, though I have to admit you are my favorite artist. I wore my “Graduation” CD out in high school. I played it so much that’s what my friends knew me for, a Kanye guy. I always thought that was something of a badge of honor, because your lyrics and music are so genuine, so unique in their authenticity and groundbreaking production styles. I was proud to be known for appreciating someone I thought was doing it better and cooler than anyone had before. I still feel that way, but I need to tell you my reason for reaching out isn’t to let you know for what I’m sure you’ve heard for the umpteenth time how cool “Runaway,” or “Stronger,” are. It’s because at the end of June I lost my mom, Judy. This is a picture of her.

It wasn’t expected. She hadn’t been sick. I wasn’t by her side, with months to prepare myself, full of rehearsed farewells. No one saw it coming. I texted her the night before. I’m ashamed to admit this but I hadn’t seen or talked to her in a month. She was everything to me. I’m an only child. My dad died when I was 3, and my mom never remarried, never even dated anyone else. For the last 25 years it’s just been her and I.

When it happened I didn’t know what to do. I felt this numbing sensation in the back of my head that slowly took over and pulled me out of reality, bringing me to a slowed state of shock where everything is perceived and responded to slower than normal. I still feel that, especially when I close my eyes and picture the last time I saw her, the last time I embraced her and heard her voice. I know none of this has to do with you, but in the first few days after it happened you’re someone I thought of. I realized the strange and unwanted club I’d just become a part of, a club you yourself have been part of for the last ten years. I thought about everything I’m going to miss, everything you’ve experienced. Things like getting married, bringing a child into the world, telling my mom to stop working because I’m finally making enough to support both of us, finally making enough to give her the life I think she deserves.

I guess that’s the point of this letter, to ask you how you got through all of this. How did you reconcile a world without the woman who has provided you your whole life, your whole being and your fire. How do you still do it? I’m finding it impossible some days to do anything but sit and relive moments, to just close my eyes and bring myself back to a time of her and I.

That reminds me. When you sang, “last night I saw you in my dreams, and now I can’t wait to go to sleep,” on the Grammy version of “Hey Mama,” that describes perfectly where I currently am. I dream about her every night, and when I wake up my first thought is to calculate how many hours until I can go back to sleep and be with her again. Thank you for that song. I cherished it before she passed, because it was an embodiment of the motivation I had to try to succeed, to make my life and my story a celebration of the efforts of my mom. Now when I hear it it’s somewhat of a rallying cry, an expression of the painful and eternal love I have for her, so much of it unfulfilled, so many chances to repay her gone.

I also want to thank you for “Only One.” It’s done a lot to heal me the past couple of days. I’ve been playing it on a loop because it’s the closest I’ve found so far to any sort of spiritual reconciliation about what my future relationship with my mom will be like. The lyrics are also similar in tone to my mom’s own vernacular, particularly when you sing “I know you’re happy, because I can see it, so tell that voice inside your head to believe it.” My mom could always sense when I was succumbing to self doubt and she always knew exactly what to say to get me to believe in myself. I think “Only One,” will be good for me as I try to find room in my heart for grief and happiness.

I know the likelihood of you reading this is akin to throwing a message in a bottle, but if you should happen across this piece I hope you take away from it the sincere gratitude for those two songs, for all the various pieces of music you’ve created that have touched me emotionally throughout your career, and my deepest empathy. I feel a kinship to you when I hear you talk about Donda, I feel the love you have for her is the same love I have for my own mom, and I hope I can find my way and learn to honor my mother’s memory and celebrate her with my happiness and my success in the same way you have with your mom.

Best,

Brian

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