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


Sundance movie review: 'jeen-yuhs: A Kanye Trilogy' an intimate, sometimes indulgent doc

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

LOS ANGELES, Jan. 23 (UPI) — For a figure as public and reported on as Kanye West, one might wonder what more there is to know about him. The answer jeen-yuhs: A Kanye Trilogy offers is footage from before West was so public.

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

Part 1 of jeen-yuhs shows West producing beats for artists like Jay-Z. Fans will delight in seeing West freestyle with artists like Mos Def and defend himself against Dug Infinite’s dis track.

In 2002, West was looking to record his own tracks, too. Record labels at the time were resistant to the idea of a producer/rapper. So, West pounded the pavement himself, going into Roc-A-Fella Records and rapping live in their office.

When that didn’t work, West hit up Rawkus Records and other labels. In between those 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 believes it will pay off. He’s proven right in his career.

West’s monologues can devolve into ranting, too. To be fair to West, he was speaking casually with friends, and surely Coodie and Chike 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 genuinely poignant ones too. And clearly West knows how to produce because when it comes to the music, he edits his tracks down to their essence.

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

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

Part 1 of jeen-yuhs: A Kanye Trilogy captures West’s underdog era as he hustled with record labels. A tease of the remaining two parts promises more setbacks and turmoil in West’s life. Considering West is powerful enough to manage his own image now, this is a rare look at his formative years.

Netflix will release jeen-yuhs: A Kanye Trilogy weekly beginning Feb. 16.

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

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