Kanye West has had a busy week. In the past five days alone he has: blasted his ex, Kim Kardashian’s new man Pete Davidson on social media, sent over a literal truck load of red roses for the former Mrs. West, and had a documentary all about himself drop on Netflix. Truth be told, by the time this posts, there is likely to be even more Kanye news. While the Kanye West story is ever changing this article’s sole focus is on the documentary, “Jeen-yuhs: A Kanye Trilogy.”
What You Need to Know
The first thing that you need to know is that “Jeen-yuhs: A Kanye Trilogy” is a “faith based movie.” Those are the words co-director Clarence “Coodie” Simmons used to describe the project when it premiered at the 2022 Sundance Film Festival. The documentary follows Kanye from his early days in Chicago circa 1998 through to the early days of the pandemic of 2021.
“Jeen-yuhs: A Kanye Trilogy” isn’t just Kanye’s story either. While 80% of the trilogy focuses on Kanye, the other 20% or so belongs to the project’s co-director Coodie. Truth be told, Kanye didn’t want the film to be released as it stood in January. Kanye took to instagram saying, “I must get final edit and approval on this doc before it releases on Netflix … Open the edit room immediately so I can be in charge of my own image.” That we know of, he did not get the final edit and that instagram has since been deleted.
What Will You See
For context consider this, The College Dropout album was released 18 years ago in 2004. That means an entire generation has grown up with Kanye. Additionally, Cootie and Kanye have been shooting this documentary for 21 years. That is a whole person who can vote. The truth of the matter is that you will see everything.
The first episode sets the stage. It explains how it came to be that Kanye would even become the subject of an entire doc. Believe it or not, there was a time that Kanye didn’t have dozens of cameras in his face. On the contrary, there was a time when Kanye was begging to get noticed. Yes, there existed an era on the hip-hop charts that was Kanye free.
You’ll see the hustle Kanye put himself through. You will see him barging into record labels offices with his latest track. You will see Kanye earn his name as a producer, then get pigeon-holed into that position. Anyone else would have been content with that. But then again, they are not Kanye.
Known for his talent as a producer he was recognized for dropping beats at a moments notice…for other artists. And we aren’t talking about starter artists either, we are talking about mother-effin’ Jay-Z. Can someone say “H to the izz-O, V to the izz-A?” Record labels were not interested in Kanye the artist, they wanted Kanye the producer.
Episode one follows Kanye from Chicago to New York. It also tracks Cootie. Cootie (great nickname by the way), got his start as a stand-up comedian in Chicago. He found himself hosting and starting Chi-town’s Channel Zero, a show that featured inner city Chicago.
A fateful work gig in 1998’s Jermain Dupri’s birthday bash first put Kanye in front of Cootie on a red carpet. Cootie knew then Kanye was different. The two began working loosely together at first, then as time went on the camera was turned on more and more. The two became close and before long Cootie was in Kanye’s inner circle. Not a bad place to be for a documentary filmmaker.
Cootie would direct Kanye’s first video Through the Wire. He would be around for Kanye’s first big break on MTV’s “You Hear it First,” a spot that Kanye secured himself. Cootie would be front and center for Kanye’s first big moments as an artist, even his eventual signing to Roc-A-Fella Records. He captured everything, including private moments with Mama Donde, Kanye’s mother.
Respect the Hustle
When talking of an entertainer’s career or life we are trained to remember the headlines. For an artist with the mass following that Kanye has, that has been a windy, treacherous and often time hazardous road.
But, when you sit back and consume the entirety of his life, both public and personal in just under four hours, two words come to mind: hustle and respect. Whether you are a fan or not of Kanye you have to respect his hustle. Truth is he was going to make it on that alone. But add his talent into it? Well, fuggedaboutit.
Watching the journey you are reminded of his early car accident that almost killed him. You see his writing and rapping from his hospital bed while his jaw was wired shut. You’ll see him get stringed along by his record company. You’ll see those around him disrespect him in public. And that is all before he became a hit. After seeing just the first episode you will come to see why Kanye is far from an overnight sensation.
Episodes two and three will no doubt be the most talked about. This is where you will witness his rise to the heights of the pop culture stratosphere. You will see his success with The College Dropout and his fame rocket with Late Registration.
Here is where you will start to see the celebs really enter the picture. You will see Jamie Foxx, Pharrell, John Legend, Ludacris and even Justin Bieber. Coincidently this is also the time you will see Cootie and Kanye start to grow apart. And, coincidently you will start to see Kanye unravel and those headlines you remember so well come flooding back to you.
Remember his “George Bush doesn’t care about Black people,” comment in 2005? It’s there. Remember his storming the stage when Taylor Swift won a VMA in 2009? That’s there too. You’ll see his relationship with former President Donald Trump and his own run for President. And folks, you will see the meltdowns.
You will witness the beginning of The Sunday Service Choir, the gospel group led by Kanye. And, spoiler alert, you will see Kanye and Cootie reconnect after years apart.
It’s all there: Kardashians, new apparel line and becoming a father. Yep, it’s there, out in the open. Just the way Kanye appears to like it and perhaps the way the man upstairs wants it. Judge that last statement and the doc for yourself.
Stream it or Skip it
Reluctantly, stream it, with a caveat though. Don’t judge the entire trilogy on episode one. It is the project’s weakest link. While necessary for context and to set the stage of Kanye’s multiple rises and falls, it is too long.
In fact, the entire series is long with each episode running an hour to an hour and a half. It could have used one more pass in the editing department. The trilogy would have been made better by shortening it. But, as a writer who often turns in reviews that are long, I get it. The audience may not though.
As a project it is fascinating to be in the inside of Kanye’s world. Fans of Kanye will eat up this doc when new episodes are dropped weekly. Those who could not care less to know Kanye or his world may still find something interesting in it.
6 OUT OF 10
“Jeen-yuhs: A Kanye Trilogy” episode one is streaming on Netflix now. New episodes drop weekly.