In that Kanye West’s dizzying, sometimes logic-defying career and public presence has been a head-scratching tale in motion, a straight music doc on Kanye would likely fail to capture the man, the myth, the surreal celebrity saga. Along comes the Emmy-nominated three-part Netflix film jeen-yuhs: a Kanye Trilogy (directed by Coodie & Chike) which gains considerable points as an innovative music doc, serving as both extremely inside job and objective oversight on the phenom in the spotlight. For West fans, detractors and all of us in the great between, jeen-yuhs is a case of personal and powerful music doc-making worth watching.
Yes, we eventually get to the quirks in the Kanye story — his palling around with the demon Trump, his tasteless Grammy trashing of Taylor Swift, reality TV follies with Kim Kardashian, his fleeting run for presidency (why not?) and his almost comical braggadocio throughout his career. But the lead-up begins with an invaluable “prehistory,” as his budding filmmaker and longtime Chicagoan friend Coodie begins piling up footage on Kanye the up-and-comer. We spend time with Kanye’s wise mother and future manager, a potent influence and grounding force on West’s life and art. We follow his efforts to transcend life as a coveted producer and take up his fate as a great rapper, stymied partly by a car accident in Los Angeles.
It is rare to gain such a close-up and embedded, archival view of a star on the rise, before the world paid attention. Such intimacy and access recedes in part two of the trilogy, called “Purpose,” in which West’s meteoric rise lands him in a bright public eye, and his affiliation with Coodie and Chicago allies gets shuttled to the side.
Part three, Awakening, is jam-packed with conflicting emotions and intentions, from West’s triple-Grammy anointment in 2005 to his adventures in a fashion line, Trumping, starting a gospel choir, and a reconnection with Coodie and the mission of creating the chronicle we’re currently watching. Voila, the long-haul process and parties involved in this documentary blurs the lines of outside observer and insider insights, with Coodie as a valued narrator to a remarkable and occasionally bizarre story still unfolding.