On Wednesday, Kanye West‘s documentary Jeen-Yuhs premiered on Netflix and for the first time ever, fans around the world caught a glimpse into the hard work and dedication, mixed in with a lot of self-determination, that moulded Chi-town’s finest into the rap-fashion billionaire impresario he is today.
Jeen-Yuhs act 1: Things we learned from Kanye West documentary
The common reaction from fans, after watching the first part of the trilogy, was a mixture of tear jerks and gasps of disbelief, particularly at how Kanye professed his future, 22 years ago, before he was a household name in global music.
The man knew it all the way back in 1998 that he was destined for greatness, with nothing to his name but a backpack and a pink Polo golf shirt.
The first part of Jeen-Yuhs explores the Chicago native’s early grind, from his stint as a member of the rap group The Go-Getters, to his relentless pursuit of a record deal that would, inevitably, change the face of Hip-Hop music at the time.
Here are the things we learned about Kanye West from his Jeen-Yuhs documentary.
PLEASE NOTE: The content below contains spoilers that may affect the viewing experience of those who have not, as yet, watched the first part of the documentary.
Label executives overlooked Kanye’s most-successful single
The one thing that left fans irritated was seeing how short-sighted record label executives were back in the day (some would argue they still are). Kanye was revered as a producer and that’s the box he was forced in, but his ambition for the spoken word triumphed any and all limitations the music business tried to place on him.
In the documentary, Kanye and his crew, which includes Coodie, the film director, bomb-rush into Roc-A-Fella offices in search of a record deal.
Ye proceeds to greet a number of artists he meets in the hallway and, with The College Dropout demo tape in his hand, he barges into the offices of Chaka Pilgrim, the head of marketing at the time, and an assistant executive, and forces them to listen to All Falls Down.
Of course, his approach was brash and, most probably, he was being a nuisance, but the fact that neither of the executives he performed the song for picked up its market potential speaks volumes about the artistic prowess, or the lack thereof, of record label executives.
It’s wild to think that “All Falls Down” wasn’t always a hit. Even when you see the vision it takes a lot of faith and persistence to prove it to everyone else.#jeenyuhs is now streaming pic.twitter.com/gAo0rQmKkJ— Strong Black Lead (@strongblacklead) February 16, 2022
Of course, when the single eventually dropped in February 2004, it peaked at number seven on the Billboard Hot 100 and scored a Grammy Award nomination for Best Rap/Sung Collaboration.
Kanye was earning a decent living from production back in Chicago
Before he followed his destiny with a move to New York, Kanye was a sought-after producer in Chicago. Back then, he charged local rappers $500 a beat and, as a young up-and-coming act, the income was enough to afford him a decent living.
I was stayin in Chicago, I had my own apartment, I be doin like, just beats for local acts just to try to keep the lights on, and then to go out and buy, get a Pelle Pelle off lay-away, get some Jordans or something or get a TechnoMarine, that's what we wore back then. ("Last Call", The Collage Dropout)
Donda West was the fuel to his ambitions
The star of Jeen-Yuhs act 1 is, undoubtedly, Donda West. Kanye’s mother makes a number of appearances in the first part of the trilogy and, perhaps, for the first time ever, fans got to witness the deep love and care Donda had for her only son.
At times when things were not going his way, in his pursuit of a recording deal as a rapper, he turned to his mother, who showered him with words of wisdom, genuine appreciation for his genius and untethered attention.
The tear-jerking moment, in our opinion, came when Kanye paid his mother a visit when he was in Chicago for a music conference. Coodie had tagged along to capture footage for Ye’s MTV You Heard It FIrst interview and the crew made a stop at Donda’a apartment.
There, Coodie, and the watching world 22 years later, witnessed the rarely exhibited mother-son chemistry between Kanye and Donda. The advice she gave her about managing his self-confidence rings true to this day and left fans highly emotional.
The second part of the Kanye West documentary will be available to stream on Netflix from Wednesday 23 February 2022.