He prefers to stay out of the limelight, and hardly grants interviews. For years, Kanye West’s dad Ray West has been living in the Dominican Republic where he has set up a charity, the Good Water foundation to help victims of prostitution and corruption. Despite facing danger daily in a community where crime is rampant coupled with shocks from earthquakes, Ray remains dedicated to his charity.
He may not have had the bond that Kanye and his mom Donda shared, but Ray and his son have become closer over the years. Kanye has been vocal about his close relationship with his mother, praising her in his songs and walking with her on red carpets together. Due to Kanye’s close relationship with his mother, he was deeply affected by her sudden death after cosmetic surgery. And even though it was his mother who primarily raised him, the rapper would reveal in his songs that his father has always provided for him, in spite of financial struggles. In 2018, Ray was diagnosed with prostate cancer and returned to the U.S. for treatment.
During that period, he attended recording sessions for his son’s album, Ye. The rapper even invited him to co-star with Kim Kardashian in a music video, “Follow God”.
“It took me 42 years to realize that my dad was my best friend,” Kanye said of his dad, who has over the years pursued different types of careers. Here’s everything you need to know about Ray:
He was a Black Panther Party member
Ray West was a member of the Black Panther Party during the 1960s and 70s but after Kanye was born, he left the organization and started a career as a photojournalist. In the 1980s, he worked for the Atlanta Journal-Constitution and would earn acclaim for his works which included a portrait of poet and civil rights activist Maya Angelou, photos of President Ronald Reagan, and photos of the Rev. Ralph David Abernathy, a civil rights activist.
Besides his career in photojournalism, Ray took on various odd jobs. He worked as a paparazzo, a store owner and a Christian marriage counselor. He would later leave media work for charity. Ray moved into a homeless shelter “not because he was homeless, because he wanted to help the ex-drug addicts, he wanted to get that close,” Kanye explained in an interview.
He broke up with Kanye’s mom when the rapper was very young
Ray divorced Donda in 1980 after the two realized that they were not getting along very well. After their divorce, Donda and Kanye moved to Chicago. Ray stayed in Atlanta. Kanye would live with his mother in Chicago during his school years and would spend summer vacations with his father. Kanye recalled in an interview how his father sometimes struggled financially.
“I remember he was in vacuum cleaner sales,” he said. “I remember some days we would ride around and he had vacuum cleaners in the back and we’d be going up a hill and the car would stop. And I just see him, like, ‘Not today. Not today.’”
He didn’t like the fact that Kanye supported Trump
Kanye recently shocked fans around the world by showing his support for Donald Trump, the man seen by many as the most divisive president in the history of the U.S Kanye even said that he will be voting for Trump in the 2020 election. The rapper’s dad never liked the idea and tried to talk him out of it. “He expressed that he felt that some of the policies were hurtful,” Kanye said in an interview. “And that I’m a person that does not intend to hurt people, never hurts people with intention. I expressed the example that I have a cousin that’s locked up for doing something bad, and I still love him, so I don’t base my love for a person on if they doing something good or bad.”
He helped shape Kanye’s artistic views of the world
Kanye spent the summer holidays with his dad growing up. Over time, he inherited his father’s creativity and artistic talent. The rapper and fashion designer agrees to date that his father helped shape his fashion and creativity in music.
He has had an impact on Kanye’s music
There is no denying the fact that Kanye has been open about his love for his mother, even naming his latest album after her. However, he has still got love for his father and has even referenced him in some of his songs. Ray’s life and struggles are highlighted in his son’s “Father Stretch My Hands.” Lyrics of the song include:
I go, I go, ay ay, I go
Up in the morning, miss you bad
Sorry I ain’t called you back
The same problem my father had
All his time, all he had, all he had
In what he dreamed
All his cash, market crashed
Hurt him bad, people get divorced for that
Drops some stacks pops is good
Momma pass in Hollywood