Witness the genesis of Kanye West’s rap career in “Jeen-Yuhs”
His life has never been easy. Before Kanye West interrupted Taylor Swift’s speech at the 2009 MTV Video Music Awards, before he made national headlines for his controversial comments about 400 years of slavery, before he changed the paradigm of street fashion with the Yeezy brand and before his breakthrough artistry transformed music forever, Kanye was a talented young producer from Chicago who was dedicated to breaking into rap – a feat easier dreamed of than done.
Although Kanye’s bars, verses and flows were visionary, as well as backed by the best entertainers in hip-hop, Kanye proved to be way ahead of his time. The top record labels in the industry did not share his dream and rejected the young and unique rapper.
In the first part of “Jeen-Yuhs: A Kanye Trilogy” titled “VISION”, the Netflix documentary series follows a young West as he initially fails to defy the overwhelming odds, but is ultimately bound to draw all the lights, create waves in the industry and become the most prolific and controversial artist in music.
The approximately 90-minute documentary, released exclusively on Netflix on February 16, is filmed, directed and narrated by Clarence ‘Coodie’ Simmons Jr., a longtime friend and collaborator of West. Although Simmons began his career as a successful comedian and television personality – as he states in the documentary – he saw West’s immense potential as an industry-changing artist, took a high-risk bet and abandoned his own professional ambitions to focus on documenting the young rapper/producer’s rise to stardom.
And 21 years of documenting Kanye later, it’s safe to say that Simmons’ risky decision paid off, and here we are today: audiences have a candid, first-hand account of humble beginnings. of West.
At the start of “Jeen-Yuhs,” audiences meet West as he has taken a leap of faith and moved from his hometown of Chicago to New York City in search of a record deal. Diving headfirst into the city’s thriving rap scene, West aims to grow from an acclaimed producer to an industry-leading rapper.
In stark juxtaposition to today’s scene, where high-profile hip-hop artists such as Tyler, The Creator, J. Cole and Eminem are both producing their beats and rapping, at the time of filming the documentary, the combo producer/rapper was virtually unheard of in the industry.
Plus, at a time when “gangsta rap” was at its height and many popular hosts had criminal histories, Kanye was a black sheep. He came from a middle-class upbringing, went to college before dropping out, maintained a non-belligerent demeanor and preferred to rap about black community social issues such as poverty, systematic oppression , lack of quality education, consumerism and police brutality. Due to all of these factors, as shown in the documentary, his personal image and rapping style failed to turn heads in the industry and left Kanye struggling to get signed to a record label.
However, as his late mother Donda often said – an English teacher and a monumental supporter and influence on Kanye’s rap career – West was truly special and with enough effort, drive and passion, he would eventually by breaking through and realizing his dream.
It’s comical and heartwarming to see young West in “Jeen-Yuhs.” No matter how many times he’s been humiliatingly rejected and abandoned, in the footage he keeps pushing forward and brazenly claiming he’ll one day be the greatest rapper of all time. It’s cliché, but imagine how stupid labels must feel for passing on the Kanye West.
“VISION” drops about a week before West’s highly anticipated 11th studio album “Donda 2” which will be released (most likely, maybe) on February 22, exclusively on Kanye’s own platform – the Stem Player. The second and third parts of the documentary, titled “PURPOSE” and “AWAKENING” respectively, will be released consecutively within the next two weeks.