Kanye West’s dad Ray has been diagnosed with prostrate cancer. According to HotNeHipHop, Ray’s ex-wife Cheryl Carmichael West broke the news, saying that “he’s getting treatment and from what I understand the treatments are working.”
Ray was reportedly diagnosed last Spring, and Cheryl claims that it has taken an emotional toll on Kanye. “Sometimes you need other events to trigger bigger events,” she said. “It could have triggered something bigger in Kanye because he is super close to his dad after his mom’s death.”
Here’s what you need to know about Ray West:
1. He Worked as a Photojournalist During the 1970s & 80s
According to AJC, Ray West was a member of the Black Panther Party during the 1960s and 70s. After Kanye’s birth, however, he left the organization, and began a career as a photojournalist. He worked for the Atlanta Journal-Constitution during the 1980s, and became one of the first African American men to excel in the field. Some of his most iconic work includes a portrait of poet and civil rights activist Maya Angelou, photos of the Rev. Ralph David Abernathy, and photos of President Ronald Reagan in 1983.
In addition to his photojournalism career, Ray worked a variety of odd jobs in different fields.”My father was [also] a paparazzo,” Kanye said during a 2014 court deposition. “My father was a medical illustrator, a Black Panther, a Christian marriage counselor.” Bustle reports that Ray even opened up a Good Water Store and Cafe in Lexington Park, Maryland in 2006. It’s believed that Kanye lent him the money to get the business off the ground.
2. He Divorced Kanye’s Mom Donda West In 1980
In her memoir Raising Kanye: Life Lessons from the Mother of a Hip-Hop Superstar, Donda West recounted how her relationship with Ray fell apart. “We had begun not to get along very well,” she wrote. “So funny, however, that every time we’d separate, we’d become best friends again. Once we even found an apartment for Ray… but he never even stayed in it.”
Donda also recounted how Ray was hesitant to raise a child. “Donda,” he was quoted as saying, “I don’t know if I can be a good father. I don’t know if it’s in me. That’s why I don’t want to do it.” The couple separated in 1980, and Donda and Kanye moved to Chicago, while Ray stayed in Atlanta. “I had ideas about things I wanted to do and accomplish,” he told VH1. “I lost touch with what was important.”
During the school year Kanye would live with his mother in Chicago, but he would spend the summers with his father. In an interview with Complex Magazine, Kanye recalls how Ray would often struggle to make ends meet financially. “I remember he was in vacuum cleaner sales,” he said. “And he’d sit up there and show people how powerful the vacuum cleaner was by putting a penny on the floor and then the vacuum cleaner over it and then Pop! It would come out and he would have bent the penny.”
The rapper continued: “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.’”
3. Kanye Has Referenced Him In Several of His Songs
While Donda West may be Kanye’s most famous parental muse, with the song “Hey Mama” and portions of the 808s & Heartbreak album to prove it, Ray has also had an impact on his son’s music. Kanye references the struggles he faced growing up with his dad on the song “Champion,” rapping:
I don’t know I just want it better for my kids / And I ain’t saying we was from the projects / But every time I wanna layaway or deposit / My dad’d say “when you see clothes, close your eyelids” / We was sort of like Will Smith and his son / In the movie — I ain’t talking ’bout the rich ones / Cause every summer / He’ll get some brand new harebrained scheme to get rich from / And I don’t know what he did for dough / But he’ll send me back to school with a new wardrobe.
More recently, Ray inspired the two-part single “Father Stretch My Hands.” In a since deleted tweet, Kanye wrote: I cried writing this. I love my dad.” Lyrics on the song include:
Sorry that I ain’t call you back / The same problems my father had / All his time / All he had / All he had’n what what he dreamed / All his cash / Market crashed / Hurt him bad / People get divorced for that / Drop some stacks, Pops is good / Momma pass in Hollywood.
4. He Tried to Talk Kanye Out of Supporting President Trump
Kanye’s support of President Donald Trump has landed him in hot water with many of his fans. The rapper and fashion designer has remained undeterred in his support, but he told The New York Times that his father tried to convince him otherwise. The cover story reveals that Ray was present during the recording sessions for Kanye’s latest album, ye, and told him that supporting Trump was a bad idea.
“He expressed that he felt that some of the policies were hurtful,” Kanye said. “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.”
While Ray prefers to stay out of the limelight, and rarely grants interviews, he has been photographed alongside his son a few different times this year. They were seen touring the National Museum of African American History and Culture with Kanye’s daughter North, and more recently, they were seen getting lunch together at a Malibu restaurant.
5. Kanye Credits Him With Inspiring His Creativity In Music & Fashion
In the biography Kanye West, author Barbara Sheen claims that Kanye’s summer experiences with his dad helped shape his artistic view of the world. “As a photographer, Ray viewed the world through an artist’s eyes,” she wrote. “His father’s influence helped Kanye to develop a unique perspective on the world around him. Moreover, Kanye inherited his father’s creativity and artistic talent.”
“My father was a Black Panther, my father was a photo journalist. We had a dark room in our house,” Kanye told BBC. “Seven years ago, he lived in a homeless shelter, not because he was homeless, because he wanted to help the ex-drug addicts, he wanted to get that close. He started a foundation called Good Water and moved to the Dominican Republic, to help with the prostitution, to help with the extortion. He stays in the DR right now.”
The rapper continued: There is no awards show, there is no amount of Billboards, there is nothing that can define me or make me pass what my parents made me. And that’s exactly who I am.”