Whether you love him or hate him, you know exactly who Kanye West is. Or do you? “jeen-yuhs” gives an intimate look into the struggles the rapper faced on his way to becoming the cultural icon that he is today and the eventual fall from grace that he experienced. The three-part documentary, directed by West’s longtime friends and collaborators Clarence “Coodie” Simmons(who is also the narrator of the film) and Chike Ozah, was filmed over 21 years.
The first part of the documentary, “Vision” highlights West’s battle to step out of the shadow of being “just a producer” and getting the respect he longed for as a rapper. In the hour and a half long episode, we get cameos from the likes of Mos Def, Talib Kweli, Dame Dash, Scarface, Jay-Z and Kanye’s late mother, Donda West.
Upon watching the documentary, a few things really stand out. The first thing that is obvious is that Kanye always had confidence. Even before releasing College Dropout , West said the album was going to be “a breath of fresh air.” He also spoke on how he was “going to do it his way,” which is something we’re all accustomed to seeing the mogul do even to this day. “I’m not going to say that there’s no way that I can fail, but hopefully with God’s blessings—and I got the Roc on my side, and I got Chicago on my side—it shouldn’t be no way for me to lose, really.”
College Dropout coming to fruition(a word that Ye referenced in the documentary) wasn’t an easy path. In the documentary, we get a glimpse of how difficult it was for Kanye to be taken seriously as a rapper. Never before seen footage shows Kanye West storming into Roc-A-Fella Records offices attempting to get signed. Kanye played now 2x platinum “All Falls Down” for the marketing department and an executive assistant. In what comes as a surprise to many of us, no one really seemed to be moved. In fact, no labels at all were moved. Rawkus Records and Capitol Records were two labels that were “supposed to sign” Kanye, but things never worked out.
After not being taken seriously as a rapper and multiple deal opportunities falling through, it could have been easy for Kanye to give up. That wasn’t how he was raised though. In some of the most captivating scenes in the documentary, we see Kanye West visiting his late mother Donda in Chicago. His loving mother gave him words of encouragement from the very beginning. She instilled the confidence in him that he needed to always follow his dreams and never quit. She also never sugarcoated things with him. While referring to Kanye’s confidence, which she said could come off as a “little arrogant,” she said, “I think the way you handle yourself is really just perfect, but at the same time, you remember to stay on the ground and you can be all in the air at the same time.”
The perseverance that West owned ended up getting him an appearance on MTV‘s segment “You Hear It First.” This was the final push that he needed to eventually get signed by Roc-A-Fella Records, where part one of the documentary ends.
A lot of people finished watching the first serving of the documentary feeling inspired. Here are a few tweets that encapsulate those feelings:
Part two of “Jeen-Yuhs: A Kanye Trilogy” airs next week Wednesday, Febraury 23 on Netflix.