As a child, Kanye West went weeks speaking in haiku and his watercolors were so professional you could hang them on a wall, said Ulysses Blakely, who dated the rapper’s mom, Dr. Donda West, for years.
“This child was plainly and self-evidently extraordinary,” Blakely, who helped raise the rapper into his late teen years, told The Post.
He said, as many others have, that Kanye was incredibly close to his mother. On Friday, he was meant to release a new album called “Donda,” although it has not yet seen the light of day.
Whatever the holdup is, he’s certainly been busy for the past week and a half: saying that wife, Kim Kardashian, threatened to abort their daughter North, and that he has been trying to divorce Kim; blasting his mother-in-law, Kris Jenner, for “white supremacy”; and raging against Harriet Tubman, among other shocking claims.
Kardashian has blamed the outbursts on her 43-year-old husband’s bipolar disorder, and Blakely thinks there may be another factor exacerbating things.
“My personal feeling — just from the person I know — is that this is unresolved grief,” he said.
July 12 would have been the 71st birthday of Donda, who passed away of a heart attack in 2007, one day after she had several cosmetic surgery procedures, including liposuction, a tummy tuck and breast reduction.
Insiders say that the pain of losing his mother is still as raw for Kanye today as when it happened.
“He has not recovered from the loss of his mother,” said Blakely. “They had such a close bond.”
In an interview with Q Magazine in 2015, Kanye — who once said “my mother was my everything” — said, “If I had never moved to LA she’d be alive . . . I don’t want to go far into it because it will bring me to tears.”
At the time of Donda’s death, she was heavily involved with her son’s career, working as his general manager and overseeing his holding company and charitable Kanye West Foundation.
She also, Blakely added, believed that her son needed to be sheltered.
“She was protective . . . she was a very forceful person who sought to fortify him for the real world,” he explained. “She knew that he was clearly not ordinary and wanted him to take special care and not be injured by our Western way of life.”
Born in Georgia, Kanye is the only child of Donda and Ray West, a photojournalist and Black Panther. The couple split when their son was 11 months old, and Donda and Kanye moved to Chicago, where she later began dating Blakely.
“Before Kanye even went to kindergarten, I taught him mechanical drawing and all about shading,” Blakely recalled. “Literally within a week or two, he’s drawing comic book figures, Superman-style heros, with accurate musculature. He was doing it all on his own — no one showed him that.”
[Kanye] has not recovered from the loss of his mother. They had such a close bond.
– Ulysses Blakely
In 1987, Kanye and his mom, an English professor, moved to China, when she got a teaching job at Nanjing University.
Donda wrote about their time abroad in her book “Raising Kanye: Life Lessons from the Mother of a Hip-Hop Superstar,” revealing that her son studied Tai Chi and break-danced for his Chinese friends.
“We tried to install confidence in him that, as a black child, is not automatic,” said Blakely.
Donda always believed in her son’s musical talent. After they moved back to Chicago, she paid $25 an hour for studio time so he could record a rap song, “Green Eggs and Ham,” he wrote with a pal.
“We went to the place, and it was just this little basement studio,” Donda told RedEye. “The microphone was hanging from the ceiling by a wire hanger. But he was so excited, I couldn’t say no.”
He went on to honor his mom in many of his song lyrics.
In 2000’s “Hey Mama,” Kanye paints a picture of life with a single mother who worked hard so that he wanted for nothing. He adopts her point of view as if she’s talking to him from beyond the grave in the 2014 tearjerker “Only One,” singing: “I know you’re happy, ‘cause I can see it/So tell the voice inside your head to believe it.”
This week, Kanye paid tribute with “Donda,” a new song he released to mark her birthday.
It features an audio clip of Donda reciting KRS-One’s “Sound of Da Police” over swirling gospel vocals. After a minute-and-a-half, Kanye jumps in: “Mama I need you to tuck me in/ I done made some mistakes and they rubbed it in.”
Michelynn Woodard, who helped launch the Kanye West Foundation in 2005, told The Post that Donda was “funny, whip smart and very direct and very passionate about her son.”
And her son was equally passionate, lavishing his mother with gifts and, in 2018, emblazoning her likeness on a shirt from his Yeezy clothing collection. At his fashion show that fall, he showcased a video game, based on the concept of Donda going through the gates of heaven.
While they’ve never had the bond that Kanye and Donda shared, the rapper and his father, Ray, have become closer over the years.
In November of 2019, Kanye tweeted: “My dad came to visit me at one of our ranches in Cody, Wyoming. He talked about his love for fishing, and how he could come here in the summers. It took me 42 years to realize that my dad was my best friend. [Ray] asked me, ‘How many acres is this?’ I told him 4,000. He replied with these three words: ‘A black man?’”
Kanye has been holed up at the ranch this week, along with pals including Damon Dash and Dave Chappelle, reportedly finishing his 10th studio album — and tweeting up a storm.
Kim and her family have been trying to get urgent medical care for Kanye, but he won’t see any of them, a friend of the family told The Post.
On Wednesday, Kim wrote on Instagram that Kanye’s bipolar disorder is “incredibly complicated and painful” for many to understand.
She went on to call her husband a “brilliant but complicated” person and pointed out the struggles he has dealt with, including the loss of his mother.
Dash says Kanye is misunderstood. “If I FaceTimed you right now you wouldn’t say he’s crazy you would just say he’s crazy rich. He’s having crazy fun and he’s doing some crazy s–t like dropping crazy money anytime somebody need it,” Dash told The Post, adding that they are preparing to shoot a movie. “He got his friends around him . . . Sometimes I think he just does that s–t to make sure y’all still care . . . The world would be boring without Kanye.”
The Kardashian family source stressed that they believe Kanye’s behavior is the result of a mental-health issue: “This is not a show, this is really how Kanye is behaving.”
(West’s representatives did not respond to requests for comment.)
The rapper has spoken about his battles with bipolar disorder and its mania and depression before, once telling David Lettterman that, during an episode, “everything can feel like a conspiracy [against you].” He was diagnosed in 2016, and has also called it his “superpower.”
And despite the fear that Kanye “is basically asking for a divorce in public,” said the Kardashian family source, his wife wants to save their marriage —and him.
“Kim does love him, she really loves him, she believes in his artistry and thinks that he’s a cool person, but this is very difficult,” the Kardashian source said. “Kanye thinks that she’s ‘Kim Kardashian’ — he doesn’t call her ‘my wife’ . . . just look at his tweets. The whole family just want to get him help.”
So does Blakely, who was shocked to see video of Kanye breaking down at a July 22 rally in South Carolina after making a bid for the presidency of the United States. During his speech, Kanye said that Harriet Tubman “never actually freed the slaves, she just had slaves go work for other white people.”
“Many of the things he said are not correct, but I’m distressed and concerned about where such things come from. Where did he get those ideas about Harriet Tubman? You know that’s not correct, so where did he get that ideation from?” Blakely said. “You can see his emotional distress and it pains me to see that.
“Donda would have been upset to see her son now, [because] he’s clearly in pain.”