Ye, the rapper formerly known as Kanye West, filed paperwork with the United States Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO) in October 2021 to trademark “DONDA,” the name of his tenth studio album, and his late mother. Per the documents submitted by Mascotte Holdings, Inc., one of Ye’s companies, there may be plans for the “DONDA” name to find its way into all kinds of consumer electronics and smart tech.
Thanks to info leaked by HighSnobiety and a few other websites, we now know the Grammy-winning performer just added his mom’s name on something entirely unexpected: a concept car. On Tuesday, July 5, the Internet was blessed with pictures of the outside of Ye’s new auto, apparently called the “DONDA Foam Vehicle.” And veteran footwear designer Steven Smith was revealed as the head of DONDA Industrial Design, too.
Smith began his journey into sneaker design with New Balance in 1986 (according to his LinkedIn page). Since then, the Massachusetts College of Art and Design grad has worked with Reebok, FILA, and Nike as well. But it seems that it was in 2016 that Smith, while with Adidas, met Ye. “Despite the impressive CV Smith has accumulated, he classes his time working with West as ‘the most epic’ time of his life,” the U.K. website Laced reported a year ago.
“I’m honored to help create our shared vision of the future,” Smith said in a statement to Complex. “Mr. West is the single most inspiring creative I have ever worked with.” And he has since updated his LinkedIn page accordingly.
An adidas spokesperson also provided the following statement to Complex: “Adidas works with different creative minds based on what is best for our business and partners. As part of our collaborative relationship with Ye, Steven Smith worked on the Adidas Yeezy line at Ye’s request. As the business has evolved, Steven has accepted a full-time role as head of Donda industrial design, where we look forward to continuing to work together.”
But one fascinating name may be tied to the DONDA Foam Vehicle as well: the world’s richest man, South African businessman, and entrepreneur Elon Musk. The bromance between the SpaceX founder and Ye stretches back for at least more than a decade, and each has gushed about the other publicly at various times throughout their friendship. Musk even threw his support behind Ye during the artist’s 2020 presidential bid before later suggesting to his pal that waiting four years might be better.
“Kanye’s belief in himself and his incredible tenacity – he performed his first single with his jaw wired shut – got him to where he is today. And he fought for his place in the cultural pantheon with a purpose.’ Musk wrote about Ye seven years ago for TIME100: The Most Influential People of 2015.
The link between the pair stems from the fact that Musk’s automotive company, Tesla, Inc., manufactures its vehicles in the U.S., and the DONDA vehicle is described as “CONCEPTUALIZED DESIGNED MANUFACTURED IN THE UNITED STATES AMEN.” And Ye has spoken very highly of his own Tesla car, too.
[H]e wants everybody else to do the same: to engage, question, push boundaries,” Musk added in that TIME 100 piece. “Now that he’s a pop-culture juggernaut, he has the platform to achieve just that. He’s not afraid of being judged or ridiculed in the process. Kanye’s been playing the long game all along, and we’re only just beginning to see why.”