Genius is one word that has constantly been used to describe Ye (formerly Kanye West) over his 20-plus year career. Ye has always been musically respected despite any controversy outside of the studio. From his production behind the board to his flow on the mic, Ye knows how to get people talking about his music, whether it’s good or bad. Including now with the release of the three-part docuseries jeen-yuhs: A Kanye Trilogy directed by Coodie and Chike.
This brings me to my next point, the conflict about covering jeen-yuhs. There’s no doubt he’s one of music’s most influential figures. Still, I don’t want people to confuse the coverage of this docuseries as us being complicit in Ye’s behavior over the last several years. From his “slavery was a choice” comments to his recent behavior towards his estranged wife, Kim Kardashian. While many use his mental health as a pass for manipulative behavior, there is no excuse for him to embarrass, ridicule, or threaten Kardashian or her boyfriend, Pete Davidson or have temper tantrums about private family matters on social media.
Nevertheless, the doc isn’t about Ye. It’s about the old Kanye, the straight from the soul Kanye, you know, the Kanye that people are always saying they “miss.” As an OG Kanye West fan, watching this documentary was bittersweet. You see Kanye happy and proud of his work, but the journey to signing to Roc-A-Fella in August 2002 was rough. But that’s what makes Kanye so great, the way he has survived his tribulations and always celebrated his triumphs. Throughout the first hour and a half of Act I, we learned a few things about Chicago’s finest and got a better understanding of some things we thought we knew. Here are the five revelations from jeen-yuhs‘ first episode, “Act I: Vision.”
1. Coodie Is A Legend In His Own Right
As the narrator and co-director of this film, Coodie effortlessly introduces himself to the world without making the moment about him. Outside of the music videos, Coodie and Chike have directed for Kanye, Erykah Badu, and other well-known music figures, Coodie and Chike directed the critically acclaimed ESPN 30 for 30 film, Benji. Coodie had a career as a comedian and appeared on Def Comedy Jam and BET’s Comic View, and was the founder and host of Channel Zero, which is how he met Kanye.
2. Being A Rapper Was Always The Ultimate Goal For Kanye
The story of Kanye’s rap career has always been seen as a producer that happens to rap (see the Roc-A-Fella roster track “Champions“), but we learn in the documentary that rapping was always the ultimate goal for Ye. His motivation for making beats was for him to make instrumentals for him to rhyme on.
3. There’s More To That “All Falls Down” Moment Than Meets The Eye
The film shows Ye going to Roc-A-Fella’s office and playing his breakout single “All Falls Down” for any and everybody in the office. Some folks looked unimpressed, leaving viewers to believe that no one believed in the song, but according to a tweet from former Roc-A-Fella A&R Wayno Clark, “All Falls Down” was nothing new to the office. “[Kanye] played this song in the office and did this with a camera crew like 10 times. How many times can you have a crazy reaction to something you’ve heard 10 times? It was kind of annoying at that point.”
4. Kanye Was A Hard Sell
Before signing to Roc-A-Fella in 2002, Joe “3H” Weinberger at Capitol and Rawkus A&R Ali Richmond were interested in the possibility of signing Kanye. Still, it was hard to convince the higher-ups that he was the real deal. On top of the fact that he was a producer transitioning into a rapper, he didn’t fit the stereotypical rapper mold. He wasn’t a gang banger, and he never sold drugs. He was a young man from the suburbs of Chicago that didn’t wear baggy clothes. He was different, and being different in the early aughts was a risk many labels weren’t willing to take. Even with the cosign of Hip-Hop’s dynamic duo Black Star, Rawkus passed on Ye, and the deal with Capitol fell apart in the 12th hour. While we didn’t see this in the doc, Ye talks about the Capitol deal on The College Dropout closer “Last Call.”
5. Nothing Is Worse Than When Your Idols Turn Into Your Rivals
After returning home to Chicago for a WGCI radio event, we see Kanye laughing and exchanging stories with his mentors, including producer No I.D. and rapper/producer Dug Infinite. These two men taught Kanye the game when it came to producing. So imagine Kanye’s surprise when he heard Dug Infinite on the radio shortly after premiering a diss track after feeling snubbed in an XXL interview where Kanye named No I.D. his idol. After Dug’s track and the interview were aired, Ye went to WGCI to explain his side of the story. Shortly after that, the two had a face-to-face conversation where Dug said it was just “Hip-Hop,” but Kanye clearly looked hurt. The two had a conversation off-camera and things seem to be fine after. Ironically, this scene kind of foreshadowed how Ye handles his relationships with friends like Kid Cudi, Consequence, and Rhymefest, just to name a few. We see all his troubles disappear once he sees his mom, Dr. Donda West, who is clearly Kanye’s saving grace during his grind to a deal. Watching her rap his old songs was a highlight.
Honorable Mentions: Scarface turning down “Jesus Walks” and being freaked out by Kanye’s retainer laying out in the open. Ye standing feet away from Ma$e at Jermaine Dupri’s birthday party in 1998. (Ma$e is someone who I’ve said Ye has mirrored his career around, but that’s a different article for another day.) And, of course, Kanye’s hustle to get on MTV’s You Hear It First.