Act I of the new Kanye West docseries “jeen-yuhs” arrived to Netflix on Feb. 16, alongside anticipation for the upcoming release of his 11th album, “Donda 2.” College students that signed up were given access to a virtual prescreening of “act i:VISION,” followed by a live Q&A with the directors, Coodie Simmons and Chike Ozah.
“jeen-yuhs” dissects who West was before he was considered by many one of the most influential rappers of his generation. The first part of the three-part docuseries begins in 1998, before West moved to New York City to chase his dreams of becoming a rapper.
By 2002, West was a respected music producer, having produced tracks with artists like Jay-Z, but his desire to be a rapper exceeded his desire to produce. To others, he was already in a comfortable position in his career, but it wasn’t enough for the aspiring rapper.
“I might be living your American dream,” West said when speaking to Coodie back in 2002. “But I’m nowhere near mine… I got aspirations.”
The men behind the camera, Simmons and Ozah, not only captured West’s youthful buoyancy as an up-and-coming rapper, but the innocence of a young man trying to make it big in a cut throat industry.
There are moments of clarity and emotional resonance scattered throughout the docuseries, like the interactions between West and his late mother, Donda West.
Donda West passed away in 2007 of heart failure, a death that deeply impacted West’s creativity for years to come. The footage shown paints a vivid picture of who she was, as not just a mother, but a human being. She was incredibly supportive of her son’s work, often offering wisdom and words of affirmation.
“You play tracks like Michael Jordan shoots free-throws,” Donda West said when talking to her son about his public persona and skills as a rapper. “A giant looks in the mirror and sees nothing.”
At its core, “jeen-yuhs” is an underdog story. With over nine hours of compiled footage, Simmons and Ozah take the audience on an unadulterated journey of rejection and hope. In the docuseries, it is made abundantly clear that West’s talents were rejected on more than one occasion.
Before the release of West’s debut album, “The College Dropout,” he was on a mission to get signed. West walked inside Roc-A-Fella Records, music tapes in his bag, visibly nervous to show what he had been working on for months. He was anxious to see if he would finally get signed into a record company that was associated with some of the greatest rappers of that time.
act i: VISION I of “jeen-yuhs” is available to stream on Netflix.
Copy edited by Jasper Smith