BBC News quotes her publicist as saying she passed away "as the result of complications from a cosmetic surgical procedure," but gave no more details. West's spokesman said the family "asks for privacy during this time of grief."
West, 58, a retired professor and former chairwoman of the Chicago State University English department, was a tireless supporter of her son as he both earned success and stirred up controversy.
"Kanye likes to think as a hobby and speak his own mind. He was always like that," Donda West told InStyle earlier this year. "He came out of the womb looking like he had that attitude."
As CEO of West Brands LLC and co-founder of the Kanye West Foundation, she teamed with her son to develop a nonprofit that aimed to combat the dropout problem in high schools in 2005. In May, she released the book Raising Kanye: Life Lessons from the Mother of a Hip-Hop Superstar.
Supportive MotherDonda West raised her son as a single mother in the Chicago neighborhood of South Shore after divorcing his father Ray, a former Black Panther, when Kanye was 3.
The rapper paid tribute to her efforts in his song "Hey Mama," singing: "See you're unbreakable, unmistakable/ Highly capable, lady that's makin loot/ A livin' legend too, just look at what heaven do/ Send us an angel, and I thank you (Hey Mama)." The ode became the ring tone she played on her cell phone.
"She always gave me support," Kanye West said. "A lot of parents don't train their kids to think."
In June, Donda joined Kanye to celebrate his 30th birthday at the flagship Louis Vuitton store in Manhattan, where she danced onstage to "She Wants to Move" as her son chanted "Go Mom! Go Mom!" The next celebration she was looking forward to was his marriage.
Of Kanye's fiancé Alexis Phifer, she told PEOPLE: "The best thing that I love about her is that she loves my son. You can't beat that."