It’s a few minutes past 10 p.m. on a Thursday night in Chicago, and I’ve been staring at Kanye West’s childhood home for three hours. 

I’ve seen pictures of the real building on South Shore Drive, but this is a replica that’s sitting smack dab in the middle of Soldier Field on a mound of dirt. If you’ve been following Kanye’s career, you know this house has a long and complicated history. Purchased by his late mother, Donda West, almost 40 years ago, it’s the place where she and Kanye lived for about eight years of his early life. More recently, though, it landed in demolition court due to “dangerous and unsafe conditions” and changed ownership several times before Kanye purchased the two-bedroom home for $225,000 in April 2020. 

A model of the small family home was constructed for the third live-streamed listening party of Kanye’s forthcoming album, Donda, named after his mother. Following the first two events, which took place in Atlanta’s Mercedes-Benz Stadium, this one holds extra significance for Kanye. Not only is it a homecoming in Chicago, he’s symbolically returning to the place where he spent some of his most precious years with Donda before she passed away in 2007.

Although the concept is sweet, there’s an eerie feeling that takes over the stadium as I wait for the show to start. Figures in all black come out and light candles around the perimeter of the house, while bright lights beam through the windows. The house is so lit up, it almost looks like people are living in it (at one point, I see a dark figure peek out from under one of the back window shades). As fans file into their assigned sections, they marvel at the structure, snapping pictures for social media.