Netflix kicked off the week-to-week release of jeen-yuhs: a Kanye Trilogy on Feb. 16. Presented in three acts by Clarence “Coodie” Simmons and Chike Ozah, the documentary series has been 20 years in the making and is a sobering portrait of the artist formerly known as Kanye West, in contrast to the resounding current controversy of Ye. But long before fame catapulted West to the top of the charts and tabloids, the Chicago native carried himself through life with the same kind of bravado. The confidence and, yes, genius is observed in even just the first episode. In “Vision,” we see West lay down his roots in his hometown scene and persevere his way into a rightful record deal. Read on for the most revealing moments from the jeen-yuhs introduction.
A number of times throughout “Vision,” West removes his fleshy pink retainer before laying down vocals on a track. The moments are quick, but a reminder that this genius is indeed a human. Who else got flashbacks to post-braces freedom?
After making the jump from Chicago to New York City, West knew that he just needed to convince Jay-Z and his Roc-A-Fella co-founders to give him a record deal. He had the music to prove his worthiness. So one day, as Coodie describes in his narration, “we decided to bum rush their office and I kept my camera rolling.” With appearances from Gee Roberson, Kyambo “Hip Hop” Joshua and “Big Face” Gary, West finally makes his way to Chaka Pilgrim (who at the time was in marketing at the label) and plays (and raps along to) “All Falls Down.”
A look back on West’s “You Hear It First” MTV feature reveals his career-long vision. Among the interview is his correct prediction that he’ll become mononym-level famous. (Who really could’ve predicted he would chop the first half of his first name too?) “I’m trying to get to the point where I can drop my last name off my name,” he says. “I got some songs, I got some stuff in my heart that the world needs to hear.”
“I’ll never forget the night Kanye told me he got the call that was going to change his life,” narrates while West and friends walk through the city. “Because of his drive, his persistence, Dame Dash was finally ready to make a record deal official.” So where did they celebrate? Burger King. With a soda in hand, West tells Coodie, “I can’t believe I got a f****** deal though, that we even sitting here right now.” “Ain’t gonna be like this next month,” Coodie responds.
“Vision” finishes with West paying a visit home to see his mom, Donda. This may not be the first time we see Donda in the film, but it is the farthest look back so far. She takes West and Coodie to his childhood home for a bit of grounding before his whole life changes. The scene features the mom and son sitting on the porch. “Kanye was always self-absorbed,” Donda says before a tender recollection of elementary school memories. The two reminisce on a talent show, for which West performed Stevie Wonder’s “I Just Called to Say I Love You.” Watching it while getting news and social media alerts related to his ongoing divorce makes the moment especially heartbreaking.
Part 1 of jeen-yuhs: A Kanye trilogy is now streaming on Netflix.
Photography by: Courtesy Netflix