Christmas was a week ago, but Kanye West is sharing a gift with us that is close to his heart.
Yeezy just released some new music to ring in the new year, and it’s called “Only One.” The song, though very much about his daughter North, is actually written from the perspective of West’s late mother, Donda West. As the song begins, West makes that clear in the opening lines of the track:
As I lay me down to sleep, I hear her speak to me:
Hello ‘Mari, how you doin?’
I think the storm ran out of rain the clouds are moving
I know you’re happy, cause I can see it
So tell the voice inside ya head to believe it
Donda West passed away in 2007 after complications from cosmetic surgery procedures she was having done. This is the first real time that West has spoken through song directly about his mother since her passing (“Hey Mama” was recorded prior to her death for his Late Registration album).
Featured on the song is Paul McCartney, who plays keyboard on it and has a solo at the end that’s quite beautiful. The song as a whole is very moving, and while the auto-tune might initially rub you the wrong way, after giving the track a second play, I’ve had it on repeat since.
Here’s the story behind the song, according to a press release:
In early 2014, Paul McCartney and Kanye West first began working together in a small bungalow in Los Angeles. The process that would result in “Only One” began with a simple brainstorming session between the two: With McCartney improvising on the keyboards and Kanye vocally sketching and shaping ideas in a stream-of-consciousness riff.
When they played back the recording afterward, something remarkable happened. Kanye sat there with his family, holding his daughter North on his lap, and listened to his vocals, singing, “Hello, my only one . . . ” And in that moment, not only could he not recall having sung those words, but he realized that perhaps the words had never really come from him.
The process of artistic creation is one that does not involve thinking, but often channeling. And he understood in that moment that his late mother, Dr. Donda West, who was also his mentor, confidante, and best friend, had spoken through him that day.
“My mom was singing to me, and through me to my daughter,” he said, astonished.
The small group in the room kept listening: “Hello my Only One…just like the morning sun…you’ll keep on rising till the sky knows your name.”
To some, Kanye’s insight didn’t immediately register. But then he explained: The name Kanye, which his mother had chosen, means “only one.”
And then it dawned on everyone there: Something powerful and undeniable had occurred through the power of music and of letting go. A message had been passed down through generations.
The song, according to Pitchfork, is the first single from West’s upcoming but as-yet-untitled new album, and one of quite a few collaborations with McCartney. Check out the track for yourself, as well as the lyrics, and let us know what you think.

Listen to ‘Only One’ here.