All three parts of Kanye West’s immersive documentary, “jeen-yuhs: A Kanye Trilogy,” are now available on Netflix.
When budding stand-up comic and videographer Coodie Simmons met a 17-year-old Kanye West in 1995 in Chicago, his life completely changed without even knowing it.
At first, Coodie’s goal was to make a name for himself in comedy by way of his interview show Channel Zero — video documenting Chicago’s growing hip-hop presence in the process. However, his plans swerved after quickly realizing the talent, passion and drive that the then-rising producer Ye possessed, dropping everything to become the man notorious for “filming Kanye’s every move.”
From his early days at Roc-A-Fella Records and dropping his debut album The College Dropout, to sitting in on Ye’s Wyoming sessions and documenting his 2020 presidential run (which he admits he was unprepared for), three films filled with never-before-seen footage is curated by Coodie’s “fly on the wall” approach — rooting for the iconic rapper all throughout his life, even when Kanye kicked him to the curb. Emerging as a young buck to being idolized as a rap GOAT, each of the three films craft a fascinating perspective into the stories that surround his sound, passion and plights in his mission to “service the culture” — rising from his roots as a gifted beatmaker from Chicago to one of the most influential artists of all-time.
Acts 1 & 2
In New York, Ye embarks on his dreams of becoming a rapper, striving to get the attention of Def Jam Records with his now-classic track “All Falls Down,” only to be surprisingly turned away without a reaction. Eventually, Act 1 ends with him on stage with Jay-Z and his coveted Roc-A-Fella Records — where Kanye was finally signed to the label he worked so hard to embed himself with. Not only did this garner appreciation on social media from stars like J Cole, Drake and more, it’s inspiring to see that even Kanye West had been told no at one point or another — that even he had to push through adversity to achieve greatness.
Ye freestyles a ton throughout Acts 1 and 2 — showcasing his energy and hunger to make it as a rapper. While his peers know him for his blazing beats, Ye continues to prove people wrong with his god-given talent and lyrical ability — still considered as a footnote on Roc-A-Fella founder Dame Dash’s radar while making an album on his own. Act 2 features appearances from Mike Dean, Jamie Foxx, Jay-Z and others as it documents Ye’s time with Roc-A-Fella, creating his debut album The College Dropout, his car accident that inspired “Through The Wire,” his first-ever GRAMMY win and much more.
“act iii: the awakening” is truly eye-opening in every aspect — capturing Ye’s stratospheric rise after The College Dropout to present day (just before Donda’s release). While skyrocketing to success, Act 3 primarily portrays the battles Kanye faces with his mental health, the fallout following his mother’s tragic death and intrinsic, profound realizations as a tastemaker and a man.
As his star continued to ascend, Coodie eventually wasn’t the only one pointing a camera at Ye, telling him that he was “playing a role” for the media. “Kanye said he wasn’t ready for the world to see the real him,” Coodie narrated. “He told me he was acting now, playing a role. And now that the media wanted to put their cameras on him, I sat back and watched the show like everybody else.”
Barring the fame, fortune and finding balance within it all, Ye strives to make peace with himself and his vices amid the passing of Mama West. Their relationship was more than vital part to his life and creative process, as the film uses clips and other archival footage to make up for times when Coodie wasn’t alongside Kanye filming. As Kanye became arguably the biggest star in the world, he and Coodie eventually drifted apart, not speaking to each other for six years. Filling that space with moments from his life and comparing it to Kanye’s through media clips, appearances, live shows and news stories, Coodie and Ye’s reconnection happened at perhaps one of the most important times in Ye’s life.
That “awakening” brings Coodie and Kanye back together, as his own faith became a main motive for Ye’s purpose as an artist. Looking in on his iconic The Life Of Pablo listening party in 2016, working with Kid Cudi on KIDS SEE GHOSTS, JESUS IS KING and more up until the release of Donda, the latter half of “jeen-yuhs” Act 3 is an up-close portrait of Ye’s relationship with his own mental health, stemming from the aftermath of his mother’s death. At one point, he’s seen talking with Kid Cudi during the KIDS SEE GHOSTS sessions, divulging how mental health issues have followed him even after becoming the king of the game.
“I already had the house and wife and the kids and the plaques and all this type of shit, but still had moments where I felt like suicidal, still have moments where I’m addicted to Percocets and don’t even realize it.”Kanye West to Kid Cudi in “jeen-yuhs”
Another moment that alludes to Ye’s battles with his mental health is during an intimate conversation on vacation in the Dominican Republic. Kanye speaks on taking “bipolar medication last night to have a normal conversation and turn alien to English,” further explaining, “I do not communicate in a way that people understand in public because it’s just the truth and we’re in a world of lies.”
Later on in Cody, Wyoming — following an erratic episode during the first rally on his 2020 presidential campaign — Coodie visits Kanye to check in on him as he is seen working on music and laying the framework for Donda, featuring cameos from KayCyy and Justin Bieber. Coodie only ever stopped filming when he felt Kanye wasn’t in a good place mentally for it to happen. Following his Wyoming retreat, Coodie follows Ye and sits in on his meetings within his fashion/business endeavors for his Yeezy brand. Ultimately, fans get a in-depth look at what Kanye’s daily life looks today — still trying to manage the emotions that fame has brought into his life.
The immersive docuseries couldn’t have come at a more perfect time for Ye. Stemming from his GRAMMY-nominated AOTY candidate DONDA, December benefit concert with Drake, the DONDA 2 release show and his album exclusive to his own music streaming device, Stem Player — the amount of untold anecdotes from the life of the Kanye West is riveting in “jeen-yuhs,” especially after another career year.
“Jeen-yuhs” is co-directed by Coodie & Chike, who have most notably directed Kanye’s famous “Through The Wire” and “Jesus Walks” music videos, as well as ESPN’s stellar 30 for 30 documentary “Benji,” based on slain Chicago basketball star Ben Wilson. Netflix purchased the series last April and teased it all throughout the back-end of 2021.
As one of the most compelling and larger-than-life figures in music history, the stories that make up Ye’s journey to legendary acclaim is certainly something that will be cherished for generations. Overall, the price of fame is costly, even for a “jeen-yuhs” like Kanye West. With this documentary, fans fully realize that even “gods” and “superstars” are just as human as the rest of us.
Check out the official teaser for “jeen-yuhs” at jeen-yuhs.com. Watch Act 3 here!