For their upcoming Netflix documentary, Jeen-Yuhs: A Kanye Trilogy, filmmakers Coodie Simmons and Chike Ozah followed Kanye West’s career for more than two decades, capturing “both his formative days trying to break through and his life today as a global brand and artist”.
Ahead of the three-part film’s release in 2022, the pair have discussed the process of documenting the life and career of the Donda rapper (now officially named Ye) in a “director on director” conversation for the streaming giant’s Netflix Playlist showcase.
“We were at the right place at the right time, all the time,” says Simmons, who recalls meeting Ye as a “talented” kid at a Chicago barbershop. “The first time Kanye did a song with Jay-Z, we’re documenting that. The first time Kanye let Pharrell hear ‘Through the Wire’, we’re right there.”
The collaborators also discuss how they worked on the “Through the Wire” music video, with Simmons incorporating footage of West’s car accident recovery from the documentary project, and bringing in Ozah (then working at MTV) to piece it together.
“There’s a whole history lesson of music that’s happening,” says Ozah, discussing the wide scope of Jeen-Yuhs. “We’re crossing generations… At the end of the film, Kanye’s collaborating with artists that were babies. The crazy part is, Kanye’s a through-line. He’s still as relevant at the end as he is in the beginning.”
Described as a “faith-based documentary”, Jeen-Yuhs apparently makes use of 267 hours of footage, which Simmons sifted through during quarantine, saying: “It was just in a big duffle bag.” When he started looking, however, he adds that “the story just directed itself”.