Netflix’s “Jeen-Yuhs” Documentary series provides raw look at the old Kanye


Photo From Netflix

Jeen Yuhs showcases Kanye’s early years before becoming a star.

Margaret Dougherty, Editor-In-Chief

It has been difficult to avoid hearing about Kanye West recently. The rapper’s threats to pull out of Coachella and desperate public pleas to win back Kim Kardashian are just a few moments that made recent headlines. However, long before Kanye became such a polarizing figure, he was a charming young producer out of Chicago determined to make it big. The new Netflix documentary “Jeen-Yuhs: A Kanye Trilogy,” which will be released in three parts over the coming weeks, follows the rapper from the beginning of his career with hours of footage recorded over two decades. 

The first volume of “Jeen-Yuhs” is incredibly raw. The film is narrated by Clarence “Coodie” Simmons, a former public access television host who focused on local hip-hop talent in Chicago. Coodie recognized Kanye’s potential before many others did, deciding to make an ambitious documentary about Kanye’s attempt to find success as a rapper.  

Regardless of whether or not you’re a Kanye fan, it’s hard not to root for the underdog that we see in the first episode. The young Kanye is earnest and hard-working with lofty goals. Yet despite his obvious talent, he struggles to break through in the music industry. Viewers watch as Kanye roams the halls of the Roc-A-Fella offices, playing “All Falls Down” for any employee who will spare a moment to listen. We watch as he tries to convince Scarface to contribute to “Jesus Walks,” pulling out his retainer to rap properly. Later on, we see him eating at a Burger King after finally getting signed by a label. These innocent moments shine a light on the future billionaire’s humanity behind his ego. 

It’s remarkable to see just how much Kanye has changed since his humble beginnings, but also just how much he has stayed the same. One theme that is constant in “Jeen-Yuhs” is Kanye’s oversized self-confidence. It’s easy to assume that the rapper’s arrogance came after years of award-winning albums, wealth and adoring fans. However, the documentary shows that humility has never come easy to Kanye. Even when he was the only one betting on himself, Kanye never faltered in his belief that he would be a star. 

One of the film’s most heartwarming moments comes when Kanye visits his late mother, Donda. It is obvious just how much of an influence she had in her son’s life. She not only offers her full support of his career, but she extends a gentle wisdom that Kanye desperately needs. In one scene, Donda lectures Kanye on the difference between confidence and arrogance. She says, “The giant looks in the mirror and sees nothing.” 

There’s no denying that Kanye West is a giant. He exceeded every goal he set for himself, becoming one of the most successful figures in modern music. Considering this fact, at face value “Jeen-Yuhs” is a fascinating look at an incredible rise to fame. Yet it’s hard to watch “Jeen-Yuhs” without considering the years of controversy, erratic behavior and celebrity feuds that have come to define Kanye. When Kanye looks in the mirror, he almost certainly sees himself.