In Netflix’s “jeen-yuhs” we get a review of the former Kanye
Photo credit: Netflix
Netflix’s three-part documentary “jeen-yuhs: A Kanye Trilogy” is an intimate look at how Kanye West became one of the greatest entertainers of a generation.
The main character of jeen-yuhs: a Kanye trilogy is not Kanye West. It’s Clarence Simmons, aka Coodie, one half of Coodie & Chike, the duo who made the three-part, five-hour Netflix documentary that premiered today (February 16). Coodie and his partner Chike Ozah spent years following Kanye West, documenting as much as they could on camera. When Coodie started, he was the host of a local public access show in Chicago called String zero. Later, as the years passed and Kanye gained more success, he pivoted to become Kanye’s personal documentarian. For Coodie, the hope was to create a Hoop Dreams –type of documentary without the tragedy. It was a calculated bet by Coodie that Kanye would one day become one of the world’s greatest entertainers.
“I saw that his story needed to be documented and I would just do that by being patient and documenting every move,” Coodie told Okayplayer. “I just knew Kanye was going to win a Grammy and seeing all the hurdles he had to overcome to even get to the point of winning that Grammy. I couldn’t even imagine that was going to happen.
The first part of jeen-yuhscalled “VISION”, covers the early moments of Kanye and Coodie’s relationship – including footage of a Jermaine Dupri Life in 1472 album release party in 1998 – until the hours before Kanye’s car crash broke his jaw and helped launch his solo career. (The next two episodes, “PURPOSE” and “AWAKENING”, will air over the next two weeks; at the time of publication, Okayplayer only had access to “VISION”).
The first thing you notice right away with jeen-yuhs is that the images are incredible. Just a fucking treasure trove of incredibly intimate footage, as Kanye welds from Chicago to Newark, New Jersey to LA, trying to convince people he’s more than a producer. The uncertainty is obvious. It’s breathtaking to see Kanye West – who has already had success having produced most of JAY-Z The plan — go around and beg to be taken seriously: the employees of Rock-A-Guys roll their eyes as he plays an early version of “All Falls Down”; Dame Dash looks bored and a bit of a dick as he gently describes Kanye’s potential; and Scarface quickly and definitively rejects the rhythm of “Jesus Walks”. (Face liked “Family Business,” though, though he skipped before he could record a verse for it.) Every time Kanye is fired, you can see his enthusiasm wane — doubt and pain all over his face, which then leads to confusion. How could people not hear what he heard?
All stumbles lead to the powerful final moments of VISION where Kanye’s mother, Donda West – who died tragically in 2007 – is centered. She showers him with praise and wisdom, listens carefully to what he has to say and encourages him to continue. There is no doubt with her. These moments are incredibly moving. They are also bittersweet. We know what happens eventually.
“When it comes to the third movie [“AWAKENING”], when she transitioned it’s a part I’m like I just want to make sure I’m there or the people who really love her and really care about her are there to enjoy this moment Coodie, speaking about Kanye’s reaction will be to how the film handles Donda’s death, said. “Because it’s reliving something that must have been very heartbreaking for him.”
There is a major – but not fatal – flaw with “VISION”. Because we see Kanye through Coodie’s eyes, the director becomes a distraction. For some reason, Coodie finds it important to cover some of his own biographical details and talk about the importance of String zero. He also narrates – there are no talking head interviews – and his performance doesn’t work at all. There is too much narration and it often sounds amateurish with passages full of cliches. The uneven performance takes away from the most significant aspect of this movie – the visuals. In the last two weeks of Kanye’s headlines, there was a request for Drake to narrate the film, which could be a clue that Kanye was also thrown off by the storytelling. (Kanye also publicly requested the final cut rights – which Coodie and Chicke refused to give.)
But, when you consider the amount of material here, it’s a minor complaint, which should be overlooked, especially if you miss the old Kanye.