Sundance movie review: ‘Jeen-yuhs: A Kanye Trilogy’ an intimate, sometimes indulgent doc

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Kanye West walks the streets of New York. Photo courtesy of Sundance Institute

LOS ANGELES, Jan. 23 (UPI) — For a character as public and publicized as Kanye West, one wonders what more there is to know about him. The answer jeen-yuhs: a Kanye trilogy features footage from before West was so public.

Coodie met West at a birthday party for Jermaine Dupri in 1998. A host of Chicago’s Channel Zero public access show, Coodie met West again while covering the local rap scene. He decided to follow West’s career. Now, directors Coodie and Chike have shaped two decades of West’s career into a three-part Netflix series, which premiered virtually at the Sundance Film Festival.

Part 1 of jeen-yuhs shows West producing beats for artists like Jay-Z. Fans will be thrilled to see West freestyling with artists like Mos Def and defending himself against Dug Infinite’s dis track.

By 2002, West was also looking to record his own material. Record companies at the time were reluctant to have a producer/rapper. So West beat the pavement himself, getting into Roc-A-Fella Records and rapping live in their office.

When that didn’t work out, West contacted Rawkus Records and other labels. Between these meetings, West discusses his work ethic. His confidence does not become ego. West shows his work throughout the documentary, so it’s reasonable that he thinks it will pay off. He has proven himself in his career.

West’s monologues can also turn into diatribes. To be fair to West, he was casually chatting with friends, and Coodie and Chike surely had plenty of such moments to choose from.

It can get hard to listen to for 90 minutes, let alone two more episodes of jeen-yuh. But, Coodie and Chike balance the more indulgent moments with some truly poignant moments too. And it’s clear that West knows how to produce because when it comes to music, he edits his tracks down to their essence.

jeen-yuhs shows West with a sense of humor about the shortcomings of being a working artist. The WGCI Music Festival dropped West’s last name long before he officially did, and he makes some astute observations about what that would mean if it happened to other artists.

West’s mother, Donda, appears to be a fundamental force in West’s success. She wisely encourages him, and she supports him by remembering the old raps he wrote. Donda can rap them from memory.

Part 1 of jeen-yuhs: a Kanye trilogy captures West’s underdog era as he rocked the record labels. A glimpse of the remaining two parts promises more setbacks and turmoil in West’s life. Considering West is powerful enough to handle his own image now, that’s a rare look back at his formative years.

Netflix will release jeen-yuhs: a Kanye trilogy weekly from February 16.

Fred Topel, who attended film school at Ithaca College, is a Los Angeles-based UPI entertainment writer. He has been a professional film critic since 1999, Rotten Tomatoes critic since 2001, and a member of the Television Critics Association since 2012. Learn more about his work in Entertainment.

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