The incredible documentary presented by Chicagoan, Clarence “Coodie” Simmons, and Chike Ozah, and co-written with Chicago poet, J Ivy, “ jeen-yuhs: A Kanye Trilogy’ is an intimate and revealing portrait of Kanye West’s experience, showcasing both his formative days trying to break through and his life today as a global brand and artist. “jeen-yuhs” chronicles 21 years of Kanye West’s life as he eventually goes on to win over 20 Grammy’s and becomes one of the most controversial and legendary artists.
“jeen-yuhs” chronicles Kanye’s journey to superstardom. From his success as a producer, to his fight to get signed to Roc A Fella records as a rap artist, “jeen-yuhs” includes extraordinary footage captured by Coodie Simmons with live performances, studio sessions, and intimate moments with those closest to Kanye West, including his late mother, Donda West.
THAT “CHI-TOWN GRIND”
I watched each of the three parts with great intensity. As a fellow Chicagoan and lover of hip hop, part one filled me with nostalgia and pride as I watched Kanye West and other Chicago hip hop artists hustle and grind towards their goals and dreams. I remembered those days, those parties, and some of those shows when I was in my twenties. I saw familiar faces throughout the documentary, and I couldn’t help but feel a sense of pride. I laughed at Kanye’s playfulness and his banter with his friends and even his struggles with his retainer. Part one was a brilliant display of that “Chi-Town Grind”.
The Kanye I watched in part one is a man focused on his goal and who refuses to take no for an answer. The non-stop hustling and constantly working to provide for yourself while trying to prove to non-believers that he is not only a brilliant producer, but a budding hip-hop superstar was inspiring. Kanye was relentless in pursuing his dream. I felt an incredible amount of respect for Kanye as I watched him laser-focused.
THE STRENGTH OF A MOTHER’S LOVE
Part one of “jeen-yuhs” also provides viewers an intimate look into the relationship between Kanye West and his mother Donda. It is in those moments where you clearly see the immense impact his mother had on Kanye’s life. Her love and never-ending support and enthusiasm for her son and his music career are evident. I shed a tear watching his mom rap her favorite verses of her son’s music. It was a mother’s love and pride on full display. You can feel their closeness and the special bond of mother and son.
When Kanye comes home and deals with some hate from an unexpected source, it’s is at his mother’s house where he is fortified and replenished. He leaves more focused than ever to take his career to the next level. That’s the power of a mother’s love for her child and Donda West was Kanye’s biggest cheerleader.
From his humble beginnings on the south side, viewers see a Kanye that is smart, creative, ambitious, and happy. In part one of the series, “Coodie Simmons says, “The more I watched Kanye, the more I wanted him to win”. By the end of episode one, I echoed Coodie’s sentiments.
THE HIGHS AND LOWS OF SUPERSTARDOM
For 20 years, director Coodie Simmons followed Kanye as his career skyrockets. In part two, Kanye reaches superstardom, and his life begins to be filled with challenges and change. The “Chi-Town Grind” is still evident as Kanye displays incredible grit and perseverance, completing his album while recovering from an accident where his mouth is wired shut. There is no stopping Kanye.
I was in awe watching Kanye think and create. His artistic vision was innovative and new. Watching him think about every aspect of his art so intensely and intentionally reminded me of how brilliant Kanye is. Part two also shows how much his life and relationships changed after finally achieving success. The camaraderie between his friends from Chicago shifts as they each begin to tap into their individual talents and gifts. As they say in the streets, “the whole crew came up”. As a Chi-town girl, I couldn’t help but smile with pride at so many Chicago guys from my neighborhood doing such incredible things with their lives and careers.
However, as part two concludes and viewers watch the final episode of the trilogy, the story turns tragic. From the untimely death of his mother, to his struggles with his mental health, watching Kanye deteriorate was both frustrating and heartbreaking.
THE DETERIORATION OF A “jeen-yuhs”
How did Kanye West go from ambitious hip hop artist and producer, focused on repping Chicago with lyrics about faith, hustle, and ambition turn into a man who openly supported Donald Trump, unsuccessfully ran for President, called slavery a choice, and is now in every tabloid for all the wrong reasons? From “jeen-yuhs” to internet gangster? “jeen-yuhs” shows how Kanye West never took the time to process the grief from losing his mother. He worked non-stop, increasing his workload after his mother’s death, and began touring. Like many of his fans, I often wonder if the Kanye we see today would even exist if his mother was still alive or if Kanye would have taken time to process such an unimaginable loss.
The last episode was hard to watch. In interviews, director Coodie Simmons says there were moments that he refused to film because of the sensitive nature of Kanye’s mental breakdowns. However, viewers are still able to see Kanye’s mental health deteriorating and it’s heartbreaking.
Kanye’s deteriorating mental health is still on display with his daily antics on social media. From airing his dirty laundry with his ex-wife, openly threatening his ex-wife’s boyfriend on social media, to creating beef with comedian, D.L. Hugley, Kanye is known more now for his erratic behavior and social media antics than his musical gifts and talents.
That’s the real tragedy of “jeen-yuhs”. Kanye West’s story is truly inspiring and a testament to believing in yourself even when it seems impossible. Directors Coodie and Chike created an incredible documentary showing the many sides of a man whose talent and creativity have been both a blessing and a curse.
As I watched Kanye’s mental breakdowns, I could not help but wonder where his friends are. Are they trying to help him? Is anyone around him pushing him to address his mental health issues and heal? Where are his people?
As I finished “jeen-yuhs”, I still echoed Coodie’s sentiments in part one. I still want Kanye to win but not in music. He’s already won in that arena. I want Kanye to win…in life, healthy, whole, and more importantly, with peace of mind.