Home News How ‘jeen-yuhs: A Kanye Trilogy’ Filmmakers Pulled the Curtain Back on One of Music’s Biggest Stars

How ‘jeen-yuhs: A Kanye Trilogy’ Filmmakers Pulled the Curtain Back on One of Music’s Biggest Stars

by Andre
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Filmmakers Clarence Simmons and Chike Ozah — better known as Coodie and Chike — have worked with Kanye West on music videos like “Through the Wire,” “Two Words” and “Jesus Walks.” But their latest collaboration was much longer than a four-minute song and took a bit more time to make.

jeen-yuhs: A Kanye Trilogy is a sprawling three-part documentary made over 21 years. An intimate and revealing portrait of Kanye West’s experience, the doc showcases both his formative days trying to break through and his life today as a global brand and artist.

To celebrate the docuseries’ Netflix debut, the filmmakers discussed how they cut down 400 hours down to the four-hour final product, how they funded the project’s early days and what they hope viewers take away from the documentary.

What can viewers expect?

Clarence “Coodie” Simmons: We have three acts: Act 1 is Vision, Act II is Purpose and Act III is Awakening. I had to have a vision. So when I ran into Kanye in Chicago and I saw how charismatic he was and how energetic and talented he was, I’m like, “That was the vision.” When I put the camera on, that was the vision, to document him, not knowing if he wanted me to film him at the time or not. It’s just one of those gradual things that happened. I knew his style somewhat didn’t fit with the rappers back then. It was different. But I knew he was going to do something great.

What do you want viewers to take away from the trilogy?

Chike Ozah: If you put your mind toward your passions and have faith in God, you can achieve anything. It doesn’t come without hard work; it doesn’t come without adversities; it doesn’t come without strains in friendship. But if you keep pushing through for years, you will eventually succeed. Kanye’s a billionaire, but when we first start this film, Kanye’s not a billionaire by any means. So even just seeing that growth. It’s definitely empowering.

How did you go about editing down 400 hours of footage into four?

Coodie: It was a team process. We have brilliant editors, Max Allman and Jason Harper and Byron Leon, who dug into these tapes. They were finding things that I forgot that I had. You have to think about all the things that you have not seen yet. So we had to be real strategic about the storytelling.

What do you remember about meeting Kanye for the first time?

Chike: I met Kanye much later than Coodie, when I was working at MTV. It was so refreshing because he was another brother that appreciated art and design, and I could have conversations with him. I was the only Black person on MTV’s design team. He would come up and sit up with me, and we would just run it. That was refreshing and that’s pretty much initially how we bonded.

Coodie: I just bonded with Kanye like a little brother. I’m a lot older than Kanye. He had a group called The Go Getters. They were performing one night and I’m looking at them. When I saw Kanye, I was like, “He’s the one.” He was producing most of the music, but also his stage presence was like, “Yo, this is crazy.” When I ran into him again I was like, “I got to film the dude.” And he moved to New York and I’m watching the first BET Awards. And I’m like, “That’s the same song I heard at the barber shop. That’s Kanye.”

But I didn’t know how I was going to get to New York. I didn’t have the money. Then one day, I’m driving on the freeway. I get off on North Avenue on the north side of Chicago and all of a sudden, this angel, whom I call angel now, opened my door with a nine millimeter to my head and was like, “Yo, give me the money.” He wound up taking my car. But the reason why I called him the angel is because I had a condo and had insured my condo, anything that was in my car and the car was insured. So I got a lump sum of money. And with that, I moved to New York. Everything happens for a reason, good or bad.

Can you talk about how this trilogy can serve as an inspiration, particularly for younger viewers?

Chike: Just coming from where we come from, you just got so many reasons to not trust your instincts and follow your passions. A lot of times, we just really out here trying to survive. So nobody ever really had an opportunity to afford any time to just sit and think about, “What do I actually want to do with my life? How can I spend time?” If we can give our brothers and sisters in these low-income areas an opportunity to believe, give them an advantage off of that, then we did our job with the film.

Act 1 of jeen-yuhs: A Kanye Trilogy is now available to stream on Netflix.

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