Kanye West Isn't a 'jeen-yuhs,' Because No One Is

Directed by Coodie & Chike

Starring Kanye West

BY Nicholas SokicPublished Feb 18, 2022

About a week before jeen-yuhs made its Sundance premiere, Ye took to Instagram to demand final edit privileges from Netflix and the directors, his long-time collaborators Coodie Simmons and Chike Ozah. If the doc's title is taken literally, his very public demand was simply another savvy marketing technique, drawing controversy to the product before its release. But like pretty much everything about the man formerly known as Kanye West, it's impossible to demarcate the lines between talent, megalomania and self-destruction, if any exist. The first part in the four-and-a-half-hour series is illuminating in many respects, but it still doesn't quite solve the mystery of the man.

Contrasting the starry-eyed hopeful of act i: VISION with the belligerent, aggravating, incoherent and disturbing displays of the last several years, jeen-yuhs proves its title is an elaborate fiction. Which is not to say that Kanye West is a man without incredible talent — anyone paying attention for the last 20 years knows he's got loads of it. But this chapter shows that talent alone is not enough for any artist. If you want success in your field, you're going to need to put in blood, sweat and tears, and have a healthy heaping of luck on your side.

Take Kanye arriving unannounced to Roc-a-Fella Records playing "All Falls Down" to anyone who will listen in hopes of getting signed as a rapper. His monumental confidence remains, but viewers can recognize the chip on his shoulder forming in real time.

"If I do what I'm supposed to do," he tells an interviewer for MTV's You Hear It First, "People are going to look back, like, 'Man, remember when dude used to just make beats for people?'"

Setting aside the meta narrative that we know where all this takes him, there's plenty here for those who once loved him. Kanye and Mos Def rapping their College Dropout cut "Two Words" years before it's released, Scarface nearly getting on the same album, or Ye's heartwarming interactions with his departed mother Donda are little nuggets of gold for anyone who's been a fan of the rapper. 

And as he constantly reminds everyone in this documentary, he is a rapper. There's no doubt that, by the close of this docuseries, there will be plenty of speculation on how and why Kanye changed. But what was there from the beginning was his endless confidence, his bravado, and, in a funny moment in Times Square, his porn addiction.

At the close of the first part, Kanye heads to Chicago to meet up with JAY-Z on his Dynasty Tour, where he's invited onstage to announce his Roc-a-Fella signing. A chain is placed around his neck to the roars of an ecstatic arena, likening the whole scene to a prophetic coronation.

As I write this review, Kanye is working with accused rapist Marilyn Manson on Donda 2 and is engaged in a protracted harassment campaign against ex-wife Kim Kardashian and Pete Davidson. His litany of controversies is too long to list here, and anyone reading this is likely aware.

Despite knowing the empire he will come to build and the rot that will come with it, one can't help but be caught up in the euphoria of his coronation. At least for a time, he embodied the cliché of believing in yourself to make your dreams come true. Today, if he personifies anything, it's the dangers and limits of the "genius" label. What remains after part one is a bittersweet reminder of when you could cheer him on in his drive to conquer the world.

Latest Coverage