The Kanye West Cruel Summer leak gave us an early look at the latest phase of West’s career — an empire-builder managing beats and talent via G.O.O.D. Music — but another leak is giving us a peek into phase one of his career. The above video has surfaced online of Kanye rapping with his mother, Dr. Donda West, purportedly from 2003 before Ye’s debut The College Dropout changed the rap game.
Donda — who passed away in 2007 — was an English professor, so it’s no surprise that she ably rehashes one of her son’s early verses. “I rhymed ‘hard’ with ‘reward’? That’s a good rhyme,” Kanye says before jumping in on the verse, but even he can’t remember the closing couplet right away.
By now, it seems like Kanye has always been the outsize, outspoken cultural force that he is today, but the above video provides a touching, humanizing glimpse into his pre-fame life. Five years on, his mother’s death is still a significant force in his life, as evidenced on Cruel Summer standout “Clique” when West utters the line “Went through deep depression when my mama passed/Suicide, what kind of talk is that?”