“Hey Miss Donda, if you run into my mama, please tell her I said, ‘Say something.'”
This is how André 3000 begins his verse on “Life of the Party,” an unreleased track that was supposed to appear on Kanye West’s new album, DONDA. What follows is a touching tribute to 3000’s own mother and his father — Sharon Benjamin-Hodo, who passed away in 2013 from natural causes, and Lawrence Walker who died a year later from a heart attack — as he hopes to pass on messages to his parents from the beyond through West’s late mother, Donda West. You can hear the numbness in André’s voice as he ponders the existence of the afterlife and reflects on his relationship to his parents, as well as their relationship with one another:
“Miss Donda, you see my father, please, ask him:
Why he never married? Always smiled, but was he happy inside?
Because I carried my mother’s name, did he carry shame with him?
I’m sure she did it out of spite, it was her decision at birth
Shit, she probably was hurt, ah, poor baby
Two young people with different views, a lot for a young lady
No coincidence, they both passed away from heart conditions
There’s a dissidence at play, dad and mom do hard division“
The verse is heartbreaking but powerfully vulnerable, too, admitting at one point that he’s lost and simply wanting the comforting advice of his mother — a request that can’t be fulfilled.
André’s guest verse was a glimpse at what DONDA could’ve been. But the track was unfortunately left off the album. Then, last weekend, the song was cynically leaked on Drake’s SiriusXM radio station, OVO Sound Radio — just a day after he released his sixth studio album, Certified Lover Boy. Following its leak, 3000 released a statement, saying he was inspired by West’s “idea to make a musical tribute to his mom,” but that his verse was ultimately omitted from DONDA because of the cursing in “Life of the Party.” (Kanye currently is taking an anti-profanity stance; both 3000 and West’s verses for the leaked version have curse words).
He then went on to share that the version of the track he received didn’t have West’s disses against Drake on it — the leaked version included some direct jabs at the Certified Lover Boy rapper — before adding, “It’s unfortunate that it was released in this way and two artists that I love are going back and forth.”
He’s right — it’s a shame that 3000’s brilliant and rare verse was released in this way. André 3000 is never one to offer a lackluster performance in either his own output or his guest appearances, and that’s evident with his “Life of the Party” feature. The care and intention in his verse is so apparent that you can tell he wanted to do right by both West and Donda. To offer these confessions on wax was surely not an easy feat, but 3000 did it and offered Donda a tribute on par with West’s “Hey Mama,” respectfully requesting her help as a conduit to his parents.
That West follows this up with an unfocused verse that begins with his mother in view, only to descend in disses directed at Drake and Travis Scott, is disappointing. And for Drake to then leak this track — surely because of the disses made against him in it — only adds to the disappointment. West and Drake’s petty feud has overshadowed one of the greatest verses 3000 has offered in his career and, in the process, disrespected an artist that respects them both.
In 2017, André 3000 shared how much his parents’ passing had an impact on him in an interview with GQ magazine, even revealing that he was unsure if he had actually dealt with their deaths. The following year, he released a couple of musical tributes to his parents with “Me&My (To Bury Your Parents)” and “Look Ma No Hands.” The former found the artist singing about the simple joys of being a child riding shotgun with his parents to the grocery store and football games, while the latter was a 17-minute jazz instrumental with James Blake, where 3000 plays the bass clarinet to explore the anguish and grief he feels.
His “Life of the Party” verse was an extension of those songs: him returning to further unpack his feelings about his parents’ passing. On its own, it’s still a noteworthy moment, and surely would’ve been a standout if it had appeared on Donda. And, according to both 3000’s statement — as well as a tweet Tyler, the Creator made where he praised West’s original verse for the track — 3000’s verse would’ve complimented the Chicago rapper’s initial verse well. Instead, it was a casualty of one of the most pointless hip-hop feuds to occur in recent history, pitted in between two men whose whole albums don’t even come close to the unflinching realness offered up by André 3000 in one verse.
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