by John Downey '23 on March 26, 2022
Arts & Entertainment
Talia Rueda ’23
Fans of Kanye West can now catch a glimpse into the saga of the artist’s battles and brilliance that have unfolded over the course of his 20-year career thanks to West’s longtime friend, filmmaker Coodie Simmons.
Although some fans of West may not know much about Simmons or may have never even heard of him, jeen-yuhs, the new docuseries from Simmons about West’s life, proves that the two have had quite a mutually impactful relationship. Their connection has ebbed and flowed over the years, but has shaped both into the creatives that they are today.
The first part of jeen-yuhs aired on Jan. 23 and took viewers right back to the early 2000s, the beginning of West’s career. It follows him making beats as he lives in various studio apartments, yearning for more in life. Witnessing the humble beginnings of one of today’s most well-known artists is not only dumbfounding, but also does exactly what a documentary strives to do: create a greater appreciation and admiration for such a person.
West came from nothing and strove to break barriers in the music industry. He did not simply want to release his first album, The College Dropout, but also wanted Chicago to be represented in the rap scene and for those in the music industry to acknowledge his production and rap skills as two separate talents, as labels initially only saw him as a producer.
While this was not necessarily a bad thing, as his production was high-quality, it proved to be to his detriment because his production skills were so elevated that no one thought his rapping talents could be of that caliber as well. However, the release of his music video for his single “Through the Wire” changed everything. The praise he received for it led Rock-A-Fella Records to fund his first album.
The documentary demonstrates how at this moment in his life, West receives what he had long hoped for: recognition, appreciation, and fame. Along with these exciting developments, however, comes a strain on his relationship with Coodie, as well as increasing controversy over his boldness as both an individual and as an artist. To add difficulty to an already conflict-laden time in West’s life, this period sees him excitedly win Grammy awards while also grappling with the death of his beloved mother, Donda.
Jeen-yuhs emphasizes that despite this tragic loss, West does not take a break from making music, rather working tirelessly and dedicating his artistry to his mother. Notably, at this point in the documentary, Coodie and Kanye have not seen one another for six years.
Their reunion comes at a music festival. In the documentary, Coodie expresses how he was nervous to see his old friend after so much time had passed. He recalls how odd he felt that though he knew West from the beginning of his career, he did not know “Yeezus,” or the persona West was embodying at the time.
At this point in his life, West is seemingly on top of the world. His career has reached new heights as he embarks on his The Life of Pablo tour, launches the Yeezy clothing line, and experiences the joys of marriage and fatherhood.
Coodie remains behind the scenes throughout this period, capturing West’s life from afar as his old friend’s battles begin to outweigh his brilliance. The documentary shows West’s infamous social media rants and the growing concerns of those around him before depicting the artist receiving the mental health care he needs. During this time in West’s life, he and Coodie ultimately reconnected, per the rapper’s request.
The film next explores how West’s diagnosis with bipolar proves accurate as he continues to make erratic statements to the public. Coodie captures several spur-of-the-moment rants from the artist that make little to no sense.
The footage from the most recent years of West’s life and career is perhaps the most up close, personal, and insular to the artist. Coodie documents West’s recent prioritization of spirituality as well as his life in the Mercedes Benz stadium while creating DONDA. Coodie is there for West in the artist’s most vulnerable times, capturing not only the iconic moments of West’s career, but supporting him off-screen when the bad outweighs the good.
The documentary suggests that West and Coodie’s bond represents the ups and downs of the rapper’s career. During the period in which the two lost contact, the rising star was making a name for himself and figuring out who he wanted to be; now that he has grown into himself and become an influential artist, he seemingly yearns for deeper connections with those who knew his younger self. Although fans may not have expected this relationship to be such a focal point of the film, when considering West’s journey as an artist and person, it makes a great deal of sense.
jeen-yuhs: A Kanye Trilogy is now streaming on Netflix.