Musical pioneer, and 21-time Grammy award winner, Kanye “Ye” West, shares his successful journey with the world through the lens of his lifelong friend’s camera. With the support of Netflix, the world now has a chance to witness West’s triumphs and tribulations before indisputably becoming one of the world’s most gifted musical artists.
Directed and produced by Clarence Simmons, aka Coodie and Chike Ozah, Netflix premiered the first episode of the three-act documentary series, “Jeen-Yuhs: A Kanye Trilogy” on Feb. 16.
The quality of the footage used for the documentary was exactly what I hoped it would be. The documentary warps us back to a time when smartphones were unheard of and recording with a huge camera was the best option. The nostalgic presentation from Simmons’ footage is what made the documentary so appealing to watch.
The documentary starts in the year 2020, with West surrounded by friends and colleagues. He shared how his lifelong friend Simmons recorded over seven hours of footage throughout his career, the same footage that would be used in the documentary “Jeen-Yuhs.”
During the documentary, West is interviewed by a journalist about his current success and aspirations as an artist. During the interview, he expounds on how he worked hard to reach his goals but also sharing how his goals are nowhere near finished and confident that his dreams will soon come to fruition.
This interview, as well as the interview West had with MTV, were by far my favorite parts of this episode. In both, West reveals his self-confidence, never timid on letting anyone know what he has been through to reach success. It reminds anyone watching to have a tunnel vision mindset and to stay ambitious regardless of the obstacles presented.
After producing more than half of Jay-Z’s album “The Blueprint,” West had his eyes on being signed to Jay-Z’s label, Roc-A-Fella Records. The documentary shows how determined he was by swarming into the Roc-A-Fella building with Simmons and a few others, demanding attention by playing a song that is now known as “All Falls Down.” After receiving little to no reaction from people in the building, West left discouraged.
Growing up listening to West, the song, “All Falls Down” was forever on repeat in my mother’s car. Watching these people relay such dull reactions made me chuckle because they were completely unbothered by his efforts to gain everyone’s attention. The discouragement I felt for him as he is walking out of the building quickly turned into inspiration, knowing situations like those never stopped his journey.
Simmons shared how he envisioned West’s success before most could. That vision was the backbone for Simmons’ decision to drop everything and soulfully commit to filming West’s success. From West’s rhymes to his shedload of confidence, Simmons had no doubt that West’s talent would sustain his vision.
I never knew that West was popular for his beat making skills before anything else because I have always known him as a versatile artist. Seeing and hearing how good he was from the beginning made me idolize him even more. His practice of speeding up samples, or the thought of looping certain tracks, is exactly why he is the pioneer of the young rappers I listen to today.
Nearing the end of the episode, West, along with Simmons, reunites with his mother, Donda West, after a treacherous day. Simmons recorded a great representation of West and his mother’s relationship. His mother’s conversation filled him with so much inspiration that even Simmons left her house inspired.
That conversation with his mother ignited a new confidence; West left Chicago determined to receive a record deal. By Aug. 18, 2002, West received his long-awaited opportunity by signing with Roc-A-Fella Records as a rapper.
Watching West finally score a deal gave me a sense of relief, but it also baffled me how someone with so much talent struggled to find label support. This goes to show how hard it can be for an artist to procure their goals. This also indicates the power of believing and remaining faithful even when the vision is too blurry for everyone else to picture.
This episode leaves me excited for what is to come next for the series. Being able to see the start of West’s career, and what he went through to get signed, was motivational. I am excited to see what this inspiring series has in store next, and now with West being a signed artist in act two, I am curious to see what he must go through before becoming the rapper I grew up listening to.
Act one and two of “Jeen-Yuhs: A Kanye Trilogy” are now available to watch exclusively on Netflix.