Arts, Review

Documentary ‘jeen-yuhs’ Shocks Fans with Vulnerability of Rap Star, Kanye West


To many, Kanye West is a musical genius and cultural icon. But, he is also a magnet for media turmoil as his drama unfolds on Twitter or in the tabloids. The rapper always seems to be in the news—for either good or bad reasons. Everything in his life these days seems to become a spectacle, whether it’s his ongoing public struggle with bipolar disorder or his high-profile marriage and divorce to Kim Kardashian. 

Twenty years into his career, West has moved far beyond the pluckiness of his early days as an aspiring producer and rapper, but many people still reminisce about the humble and authentic West of years past. 

That’s where jeen-yuhs: A Kanye Trilogy comes in. The first episode of the three-part, almost five-hour-long documentary series hit Netflix on Feb. 16 and chronicles the rise and not-quite-fall of the rapper. 

Directed and shot by West’s longtime friend and collaborator Clarence “Coodie” Simmons Jr. over a period of more than two decades, jeen-yuhs is exactly what fans of the “Old Kanye” have been waiting on. Providing an intimate look inside of the humble beginnings of West’s career as a producer peddling beats to hip-hop’s greatest, the series examines what it was that morphed Kanye into the cultural icon that exists today.

The authentic, home-video style cinematography is perfect for the grass-roots vibe the documentary promotes—revealing the struggles and strivings of an artist trying to find his footing in the music industry. The first episode gives viewers the feeling that they are actually there in the early 2000s, waiting right beside West for his big break. 

Simmons’ narration also contributes to the honesty of jeen-yuhs. West’s public celebration of his successes suggests that he wouldn’t be the most objective narrator. Having Simmons tell the tale as both an observer and a participant in the rapper’s rising career fosters a sense of trust between viewer and director. 

The unfiltered light that the series sheds on West’s struggles becomes the main selling point for the audience. Instead of the cocky and volatile public figure that he is today, viewers get to see the “real” West—the sweet and, at times, shy West that preceded publicity madness. 

Getting to see how others weren’t always sold on his genius is what compels viewers to empathize with the now-polarizing rapper. 

If jeen-yuhs continues sharing a new perspective on Wests’ life and career, the series might just get as much attention as West’s tweets. There’s something intoxicating about watching West rise from his humble beginnings to the icon he has become. The first episode of the documentary sets jeen-yuhs up to be the perfect vehicle for observation of the phenomenon that is Kanye West.

Featured Image Courtesy of Netflix

February 27, 2022