As a long-time fan of Kanye West, the drop of his new Netflix docuseries, ‘Jeen-Yuhs,’ was everything I needed to confirm what was already known: Kanye is the icon of our generation. Love him or hate him, the Chicago native predicted how you would feel about him way before you even knew him. The documentary trails the artist in the early stages of his career – a time when his mom was his most prominent advocate and inspiration – when he predicts his own greatness, Kanye recalls, “And with the backing that I got… I’m not going to say that there’s no way that I can fail, but hopefully, with God’s blessings—and I got the Roc on my side, and I got Chicago on my side—it shouldn’t be no way for me to lose, really.”
Kanye was right. There’s no way he could fail with the confidence that was instilled through his mom’s vision of him. Donda West, let her name be known as the Black woman Kanye leaned on, and consequently the same type of woman he needs now. So, before we look into Kanye of today and the Kardashian energy associated with him, we must understand Kanye of the past.
The documentary shows an authentic young Kanye, wearing a retainer and hustling daily to prove himself. To date, he still has not strayed far away from having to prove who he is. As Kanye plays “All Falls Down” in the Roc-A-Fella office, he is blatantly ignored by employees and nearly anyone who would listen to him.
As you’re watching, there’s one question that is nearly impossible to escape your mind: why didn’t anyone notice Kanye’s greatness immediately? How was this man his only advocate even though his music had potential?
To understand Kanye and his influence on music, it’s important to remember that no one was like Kanye before him. The now gospel-focused artist introduced the world of hip hop to more expectations. Back then, rappers who preceded Kanye like The Game, 50 cent, Cam’ron, Jadakiss, Young Jeezy, and Lil Wayne were rapping about their fame, money, women, and gang-related associations and without bluntly saying it, they were creating a dark energy around rap, where Kanye brought in God, his mother, wanting to reach his highest potential and family affairs. Kanye was the token black artist in the mainstream MTV era (pre-the Taylor swift incident).
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The Loud One In the Room
Throughout his career and as he became more comfortable, he started dropping tidbits of his political views, from prominently and definitively proclaiming he didn’t believe in labels or corporations, taking a stance against Bush, and his famous line, “Even if you in a Benz, you still a nigga in a coupe” proves Kanye’s consistent character. Kanye was a people’s guy. His music reached everyone because he was showing them who he was. His albums followed his trajectory dropping out of college and owning his past and decisions yet to make.
Kanye’s fourth studio album, “808’s and Heartbreak,” achieved a revolutionary moment in pop culture and introduced vulnerability. We now have Drake and Travis Scott to carry on the legacy.
As we continue to watch Kanye’s documentary on Netflix, we’ll watch the emerging superstar and the most intimate moments that help describe and define him.
Featured photo: Kanye West/Netflix
Her work has been published in Refinery29, Elite Daily, the Copenhagen Post, and more. She studies public relations and corporate relations at NYU. She loves reading, cheese plates, reality TV, and event planning. She lives in Williamsburg, but Miami is her second home. Follow her on Instagram @alyssa_s_ashley.