Released in February, Jeen-Yuhs: A Kanye Trilogy is a three-part Netflix documentary that tracks the extraordinary rise to super-stardom of arguably the world’s most recognised rappers/music producers: Kanye West.
West, who has most recently legally changed his name to Ye (pronounced “yay”) is one of the most polarising figures in modern entertainment.
***Fear not, the phrase Skete will not be mentioned in this review.
Written in first person and narrated by West’s ‘long-time friend’ Clarence “Coodie” Simmons, the backbone of this docuseries lies within his unprecedented access to Kanye in the preliminary stages of his career.
Roughly between 1998-2004, Simmons follows West from complete obscurity to the point where the Chicago product signs his first record deal with Roc-a-fella records.
If you are a fan of Ye’s work, seeing him during this period; prior to the accident, prior to the success, prior to being ‘Ye’, it feels like a genuine privilege.
A powerful scene in the documentary that encapsulates West’s drive and is truly inspiring to witness as a fan, or even just a general audience member, is when pre-signed Ye performs his yet-to-be hit single ‘All Falls Down’ to who can be described as uninterested Roc-a-fella records executives and employees (any staff he could manage to get to sit still for long enough).
Kanye’s unremitting self-belief doesn’t come without self-doubt or fear. In these moments where staff are ignoring him, we see Kanye in a way we rarely see him anymore; vulnerable, shy, and while he’s not defeated, he certainly looks despondent.
But while this docuseries comprises of amazing first-hand never-before-seen footage, and does initially give great insight into Kanye’s up-bringing (offering possible explanations to his infamous dividing behaviour), the documentary unfortunately in many ways turns into a personal log of “Coodie”.
Not entirely encapsulating the title, the documentary takes unnecessary diversions into the life of Simmons. This ultimately suggests to the audience the undertones of man who is tired of being stuck in the shadows and is now ready for his time in the limelight.
A personal highlight of this documentary resides within spectating Kanye’s journey from a struggling rapper, to the release of his first album ’College Dropout’. Unfortunately, Simmons condenses the rest of West’s career into what felt like a rushed 95-minute final episode.
Due to what can be described as a falling-out between the pair, because of Simmons not being present for a long stretch of West’s success, he skips over stages of the rapper’s career that fans (like myself included) were frothing from the mouth to experience.
The most disappointing neglection was the lack of coverage on the creation and success of arguably Kanye’s most iconic albums My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy.
As far as award-winning documentaries go, while hardcore ‘Ye’ fans will still find enjoyment from this Kanye fiasco, I’m not so sure casual observers will make it through the 277-minute meandering journey.
A truly great documentary has the power to attract people who have basically no interest in the subject matter at hand through the power of great story telling, structure and narrative. This doesn’t quite have that.
While there has been support in defence of the documentary and while I admittedly believe that there is certainly great value to this documentary, I feel as though Simmons overall missed the mark, or at least led fans of Kanye West astray in what was to be expected when viewing it.
Photos by Ethan Perry