Kanye West has been an iconic cultural presence for much of the last two decades. Be it hip-hop, fashion, politics, or television, Kanye has been there to spit and to show his opinion in one way or another. And yet, West remains elusive, an enigmatic cipher whose refracted views are so bright that his rise and his roots remain hidden behind the curtain.
As of April, 2021 Netflix went about rectifying that with an announcement that they had purchased a ‘Ye documentary that spans over 21 years of the rapper and designer’s career. During the streaming service’s Tudum event, Netflix announced the title of the documentary, Jeen-Yuhs (as in genius) and revealed a clip that already has audience’s buzzing.
The two-minute trailer catches Mos Def and West rolling out freestyled verses that would later become Two Words, a standout on the artist’s seminal debut, The College Dropout. Kanye’s emotional delivery begins at intense and amps up from there.
West’s machine gun bar is punctuated by an emphatic expletive and, “Pay me!” halfway through. The people in the room clap and voice the requisite accolades for the solid, stuffed bars. And yet, West, off screen, is still going. When the camera cuts back, he’s leapt from his seat, eyes blazing, not satisfied until listeners are laid flat out on the floor.
“Screamin’ Jesus save me! You know I had a game B. I can’t let ‘em change me, cuz’ on judgement day, you goan’ blame me…”
An elated Mos Def (an artist at the top of the hip-hop world in 2002, no less), can only grin like a little kid and utter an awed “Whhhaaattt?” after the eruption.
The young man is revealed not only by the boulder-sized chip on his shoulder, but by an insistence to show and to prove, even to just a few men in a hotel room, that this human will not be stopped.
“From the bottom, so the top’s the only place to go now.”
Vehemence spills over into a vitality that sparks the scant spectators. Wood Harris, who would soon be known for his own epochal performance as Avon Barksdale in The Wire, even flashes a quick, stunned eyebrow-raise at the burst from the man who would soon become one of the most popular and controversial figures in music.
The multi-part series will be chronicled by Clarence “Coodie” Simmons and Chike Ozah (aka, Coodie & Chike), two frequent West collaborators. The pair have been collecting these views into ‘Ye’s life and work since the early 2000s, granting a never-before-seen access into the celebrity’s story.
Netflix paid out approximately $30 million to get their hands on the documentary footage and the never-before-seen archival takes. Jeen-Yuhs will span two decades, covering everything from Ye’s beginnings, his career in music and fashion, his failed 2020 presidential bid, and the death of his mother, Donda West. Whether or not that covers ‘Ye’s separation and divorce from Kim Kardashian remains to be seen.
Don’t get too impatient for Jeen-Yuhs, though, as this documentary is set to release “sometime” in 2022.