The first episode of jeen-yuhs covers a year of transition: for Kanye from hustling beatmaker to industry pro, and for hip hop from the last fumes of the 90s to the future. These days the Kanye Persona can overshadow his music, but here you see what made him like that. He had to bust into the industry like the Kool-Aid Man, and keep flexing to hold on to his spot. At his best Kanye has a righteous energy, an individualist in among cliques and scenes.
Narrated by Coodie Simmons, one of the filmmakers with Chike Ozah, the first episode covers the cusp of success. It’s not enough to have talent, it’s not enough to believe in yourself – that’s not how the game works. Kanye was too flashy for the underground and not showbiz tough enough for pop rap. The struggle is real, from Chicago rappers dissing him to buying a porn magazine at a street corner. These filmmakers got some incredible footage, like a recording session with Scarface and the famous Roc-A-Fella chaining that showed up in the “Through The Wire” video. They’re his friends, they’re on his side. Which is why this documentary is perfectly timed. An earlier version might have been filtered as a publicity puff piece.
I’m looking forward to where this inside footage goes next: The Black Album, the 50 Cent feud, right up to the presidential run and Trump nonsense. Kanye is his own best champion, but not his own best public advocate. Good to see this insightful documentary doing some of that work.