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jeen-yuhs: A Kanye Trilogy

jeen-yuhs: A Kanye Trilogy is a 2022 American documentary film directed by Coodie & Chike about the life of rapper, record producer, and fashion designer Kanye West.

jeen-yuhs: A Kanye Trilogy

The three-part documentary is a fascinating look at the early days of West, while rushing through the controversies of the last two decades.

jeen-yuhs: A Kanye Trilogy—a three-part documentary as grandiose as West himself—attempts to explore all the elements that have made West who he is, from a producer struggling to be taken seriously as a rapper to the man we know today. In addition to exploring the highs and lows of West’s life and career, jeen-yuhs also considers the life of co-director and co-producer Coodie Simmons, who first interviewed West in 1998, and has spent much of his life as West’s documentarian. Through this, jeen-yuhs shows not only West’s greatness as a musician and more, but also the type of magnetic and impressive figure that could lead someone like Coodie to abandon his dreams in order to follow West as he realizes his own.

As the name implies, jeen-yuhs: A Kanye Trilogy explores the life of Ye in three different parts. Act I, entitled “VISION” shows West as a young producer making a name for himself and desperate to get signed as a rapper. Act 2, “PURPOSE,” follows West after his car crash that broke his jaw threatened to dismantle his rising rap career, and the massive success that came with the release of his debut album, “The College Dropout.” Act 3, “AWAKENING,” has the difficult task of trying to capture the next almost twenty years of Ye’s life.

“VISION” and “PURPOSE” give remarkable access to Ye, showcasing a hungry rapper in a way that we’ve never seen before. Coodie is there to document the earliest moments of Ye’s “The College Dropout” songs, his dreams of being more than a producer, and most importantly, Ye’s moments with his mother, Donda. Ye’s love for his mother has been integral to his music and career, and we can see the confidence that his mother had in him and her attempts to temper his moments of arrogance. In “VISION,” we see Donda tell her son that he should have confidence in himself because he is a gifted musician an artist, yet she also states that “a giant looks into the mirror and sees nothing,” but “everybody else sees the giant.” Through Donda, we can see where Ye’s conviction in himself comes from, but we can also see how the death of Ye’s mother had a massive impact on West and his public persona. It's in these moments with Donda that are the heart of jeen-yuhs, not only because they show Kanye at his most humble and receptive, but these moments also shine a light on the greatness of Donda.

As a fan of Kanye West, it can be hard to justify a love for West over the last decade. With “VISION” and “PURPOSE,” Coodie and co-director/co-producer Chike Ozah go back to the beginning to show what so many West fans first saw in him to create so many lifelong fans. It’s hard not to admire West’s drive and determination in these first two acts, and especially watching artists like Jay-Z and Pharrell Williams overwhelmed by West’s talent, it’s easy to see how West was a star just waiting for an opportunity. For many—including myself—it’s these early days of West that cemented him as a genius, and it’s wonderful to revisit these moments, a lovely reminder of West’s talents, without the controversies and without the same level of braggadocio.

While Coodie is there from the beginning, first interviewing West in 1998, Coodie’s attempts to inject his own life into this story of West at times feels like a way to center this story around himself. Coodie’s story is certainly interesting in terms of why he went from a comedian to West’s personal documentarian, but as West and Coodie start to pull apart over the years, Coodie’s focus on his own story feels out of place, especially since it comes in “AWAKENING,” an act that is already too packed.

The first two acts take their time exploring this key part in West’s life, hitting on minute details and continuously exploring the same ideas over and over, seemingly because the footage allows for it. But this approach mostly works, as at this point, jeen-yuhs needs to reiterate where West came from, how this iconic figure started out, and reinforce his talent at an early age.

But in comparison, “AWAKENING” flies through some of the most essential moments of West’s public life at this point. There is barely any mention of West interrupting Taylor Swift’s speech, or West stating that “George Bush doesn’t care about Black people.” It’s in “AWAKENING” where we see that Coodie’s intention with jeen-yuhs might not necessarily be to show all aspects of West’s life, but to show the greatness he witnessed at a young age and how elements of that greatness still seep out, despite the controversies. In that respect, “AWAKENING” does succeed, showing the struggles West has had since his debut album, and how hard that has been for him—especially without his mother by his side—but it still makes this final act feel incredibly rushed through crucial parts of Ye’s life.

At first, jeen-yuhs is an exhaustive exploration of West’s life, showing the passion and desire for greatness, a quest that is powered by West’s inability to comprehend the word “can’t.” As jeen-yuhs progresses that childlike wonder still remains. West is shown to be the type of guy who will travel to San Francisco to visit a studio where a bowl he used in the Dominican Republic was made, or will freestyle his feelings about his current experiences into his phone without any self-consciousness. It’s in these moments that we see the old Kanye return, an artist who simply wants to do the best and be the best by any means necessary.

But jeen-yuhs function isn’t to explore West’s life as deeply as it does in the first two acts, it’s to show that the old Kanye is still there, it’s just that version gets lost amongst the presidential elections, the Twitter tirades, and the meandering speeches that lose the point. jeen-yuhs can get lost in Coodie’s personal feelings on Ye, and his own self-reflection about his life during this time, but it’s also an essential document of West’s arc for fans, and at least in those first two acts, a solid example for doubters that despite West’s boastful behavior—at least sometimes, he has the talent to back it up.

Rating: A

jeen-yuhs: A Kanye Trilogy is available on Netflix now.

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