Inside the mind of a ‘Jeen-yuhs’

Kanye West’s documentary shocks with vulnerability


photo courtesy of Netflix

Rapper Kanye West sits next to his mother, Donda West, in front of their home in South Shore, Chicago as they reminisce on Kanye’s journey to fame.

Quinn Burton, Staff Reporter

To many, Kanye West is a musical genius and cultural icon who has been a pivotal member of the hip-hop industry for years, but what led him to become one of the greatest rappers of all time? Well, his newest Netflix documentary, “Jeen-yuhs” explores the ups and downs of his career and his rise to stardom.

The first episode of the three-part, almost five-hour-long documentary series hit Netflix on Feb. 16, intriguing both older and newer fans. At first, when I heard Kanye was releasing a documentary I was like “ehh what’s next?” but I was surprised by the vulnerability he showed throughout the docu-series. 

Directed and shot by West’s longtime friend and collaborator, Clarence “Coodie” Simmons Jr. over a period of more than two decades, “Jeen-yuhs” is exactly what fans of the old Kanye have been waiting for. This documentary provides an intimate look inside of the humble beginnings of West’s career and examines what it was that transcended him into becoming the cultural icon that exists today.

The first act in the trilogy, “VISION,” paints a portrait of Kanye’s certainty of his stardom, desperately searching for someone willing to open the door for him. Kanye wasn’t an industry plant. In fact, this documentary shows that nearly everyone in the industry was perfectly content with him sitting on the sidelines. No one wanted to give him a record deal; however, even through rejection Kanye never stopped believing that he was destined for greatness. With the support of his mother, a few friends, and his own ego, he slowly carved a place for himself in music history.

Throughout the entirety of the docu-series, Coodie did a fantastic job of capturing enough candid footage to weave together a fascinating insight into the mind of Kanye. Having previous knowledge of Kanye in the tabloids, the picture I painted of him was set in a bad lighting; however, I didn’t realize that I was only receiving half the story. Luckily, the documentary uncovers the truth behind every event and scene that we don’t normally get to see. 

In the second act, “PURPOSE,” Kanye’s career begins to kick off as he continues to dominate the rap and hip hop realm. Unfortunately, just as his career was kicking off, a shocking accident threatened his life. When a car crash and a broken jaw jeopardize it all, the unstoppable artist turned his pain into platinum. While in the hospital, Kanye spent weeks writing lyrics about the physical and mental pain he went through. Possibly the most inspirational aspect of the documentary was Kanye’s fight to be the greatest; he never gave up, not even when he hit rock bottom.

In the third act, “AWAKENING,” Kanye explores the importance of grievance and mental health while battling the loss of his mother, Donda West, who passed away at the age of 58 due to artery disease. Her tragic passing had a huge impact on everyone who knew her, especially Kanye. Following her death, Kanye’s mindset had completely changed. Footage of him using profanity on stage and having breakdowns during live performances arose during this time. He even acknowledged that people suggested that he should take a break and stop performing, but he kept going.

After his mother’s passing, West’s personality had noticeably changed. Later we would soon find out about his ongoing struggle with bipolar disorder. In a conversation, West talks about taking bipolar medication so he can “translate alien into English,” and how he struggles to communicate his truth in a “world of lies.” I never expected to see vulnerability from a man who I had thought built up an ego; however, this brought to light the reasoning behind Kanye’s actions I previously hadn’t been aware of. 

This documentary shows a young man trying to fulfill his dreams and a sweet supportive mom who was inspiring him all the way through. The documentary itself is great at balancing the narrative, hinting at things to come, showing everyday moments that feel loaded with significance to the overall story. After viewing the docu-series my perspective of the man who Kanye really is has changed drastically. Should a person’s whole life be judged on its later stages? Of course not; the earlier Kanye, his expressions, drives and influences are as interesting as anyone else’s. It’s a compelling human story.