[FILM REVIEW] New Kanye West documentary is jeen-yuhs


Fair Use: Netflix

FAMILY BUSINESS. The family-loving and hard-working sides of West are highlighted in the documentary.

While new headlines constantly appear about the unpredictable rapper Kanye West, the documentary Jeen-Yuhs: A Kanye Trilogy offers a fresh and emotional look into his career. Directed by filmmaker duo Coodie and Chike, the documentary covers over 20 years of West’s life leading up to his fame and tells the story of his journey from a renowned producer to a widely recognized rapper.

Starting from West’s hometown, Chicago, Clarence “Coodie” Simmons decided to begin collecting footage of West when they met in 2002. At the time, West was only known for producing songs for other artists, including prominent ones like Jay-Z. However, seeing his dream to become a rapper himself made Simmons drop his former career as a TV host documenting Chicago’s hip-hop culture and dedicate himself to following West.

Simmons’ narration throughout the film provides a vivid look into West’s underdog era and evokes sympathy as he guides the audience through West’s initial failures. Even with the support of famous rappers such as Mos Def and Kweli, he wasn’t originally able to sign with Rawkus Records as an artist. However, West signs with number one label Roc-A-Fella Records towards the end of the film and even becomes part of the Roc-A-Fella Dynasty Tour, demonstrating the progression of his success.

One of the most meaningful moments was the footage of West’s conversation with his late mother, Donda West, to whom his most recent album was dedicated. Simmons had recorded Donda’s advice to remember to stay humble while still supporting his confident self-expression, displaying her prominent role in his life. The visual element of black-and-white photos of the two with no movement made for a touching break between the activity of West’s search for a record label.

On top of the content, the film itself is visually pleasing, as the grainy and desaturated footage makes the documentary feel more authentic. Simmons’ inclusion of small details, like younger West taking out his retainer every time he rapped, also contribute to a further look at who the “old Kanye” was.

Overall, the documentary is engaging in that it covers West’s earlier career from a very inside perspective rather than simply reporting on it. Jeen-Yuhs gives the current Kanye West another layer as to how he became so successful, especially with the documentation of his humor and ambitious character. The second and third episodes, which are available to watch on Netflix, cover the rest of West’s career and the conflicts that arise as a result of his success.