What you need to know about Kanye’s upcoming album and documentary

Documentary “jeen-yuhs: A Kanye Triology” comes to Netflix amidst Kanye West controversies. Photo courtesy of Netflix.

ERIC NOFZIGER | STAFF REPORTER | enofzige@butler.edu 

Are you tired of hearing about Kanye West yet? If the answer is yes, then you’re unfortunately out of luck; the rapper, producer, businessman, self-appointed god and self-proclaimed monster is the star of an upcoming three-part Netflix documentary, the first of which releases Feb. 16. 

He’s also allegedly — emphasis on that word — prepping a new album called “Donda 2,” a sequel to last year’s two hour-long tribute to his late mother. “Donda 2” is scheduled — again, emphasis there — to drop on Feb. 22.

The documentary, entitled “jeen-yuhs: A Kanye Trilogy,” premiered its first part at the Sundance Film Festival in January and received critical praise. The film will soon see a wide release via Netflix, with each of the three parts, “Vision,” “Purpose” and “Awakening,” hitting the service in weekly installments.

jeen-yuhs” is directed by Chika and Coodie, a duo known for directing music videos and the acclaimed 2012 film “Benji” for ESPN’s “30 for 30” series. Coodie is a longtime friend of West, and the first part of the trilogy consists of the director’s footage from the early 2000s following the beginning of West’s career. It depicts Kanye as he moves from his hometown of Chicago to New York in order to secure a record deal and make his name as a rapper.

As is usually the case with Kanye, the announcement and release of “jeen-yuhs” came with its own set of controversies. In a mid-January Instagram post, Kanye demanded he be allowed to edit and give final approval of the documentary so that he can “be in charge of [his] own image.” 

In a more recent post unrelated to the documentary, West threatened to suspend his upcoming Coachella performance until Billie Eilish apologized to Travis Scott for stopping one of her performances to get a fan an inhaler, a move which Kanye apparently perceived as a backhanded dig at Scott’s Astroworld tragedy. Eilish soon responded in an Instagram comment, saying she never mentioned Scott by name and was only looking out for her fans. There is also an entire tabloid rack’s worth of material to be written about West’s and Kim Kardashian’s ongoing public spat currently surrounding — strangely enough — their daughter North’s TikTok account.

However, Kanye’s Instagram tirade didn’t stop there. In a series of posts over the weekend, West called out a number of celebrities, including Pete Davidson, Machine Gun Kelly and Kid Cudi, using memes, text message screenshots and nearly incoherent all-caps captions. At the time this article is being written, the only post that remains on West’s Instagram is a picture of himself in front of a crowd, accompanied by a caption in which he thanks fans for their support, takes accountability for what “came off as harassing Kim” and vows to keep learning and listening.

Despite all this controversy, fans are really enjoying “jeen-yuhs.” Andrew Krivsky, a senior international business and marketing major, was able to see the first part of the documentary at a special Feb. 10 screening at Kan-Kan Cinema in collaboration with GANGGANG. Krivsky appreciated seeing a side of Kanye in the film that seems almost lost.

“I loved [‘jeen-yuhs: part one’],” Krivsky said. “If you’re bothered by Kanye currently, this probably won’t change your mind, but for me it reinforced a side of him that I almost forget about with everything else going on right now.”

Joe Vainisi, senior computer science and computer engineering double major, also attended this screening and echoed Krivsky’s sentiments.

“I thought it was very well done,” Vainisi said. “It was especially interesting seeing him interact with his mom because he always says how much he loved her, but they actually did seem to be best friends.”

Both Krivsky and Vainisi also touched on the universality of the documentary, recommending it to not just Kanye fans, but anyone with an open mind, stating that it tells an inspiring story of struggle and perseverance.

Anticipation for “Donda 2,” on the other hand, is not so enthusiastic. Fans are frankly exhausted by the endless announcements, rollouts and public antics that always seem to crop up whenever a new Kanye album is “on the horizon.” While Vainisi is excited to hopefully hear new music from one of his favorite artists, he doesn’t trust West’s Instagram announcement stating the Feb. 22 release date.

“It’s not even fun anymore to be like, ‘Oh, do you think Kanye’s gonna release a new album?’” Vainisi said. “It’s just standard procedure at this point.”

“Donda 2,” which is reportedly executive produced by rapper Future, also comes off the heels of its predecessor “Donda,” released only half a year prior. Fans like Krivsky still enjoy “Donda” but recognize it was relatively forgettable and got swallowed up in all the Kanye noise.

“I always enjoy [“Donda”] while I’m listening to it, but nobody talks about it; I don’t even talk about it,” Krivsky said. “At this point, [Kanye’s] actual music has been overshadowed because there’s a difference between controversy lifting an album up compared to just completely engulfing it.”

If the never-ending Kanye discourse is even wearing down devoted fans of his music, the general public are quickly becoming exhausted. Emma Cushman, a senior chemistry major, only listens to Kanye now and then but said his recent actions have rubbed her entirely the wrong way.

“It just does not look good to publicly air out your dirty laundry between you and your ex,” Cushman said. “Past stuff like his running for president was more silly, but the stuff he’s doing now is getting pretty gross. You have children and a family, and yet you’re acting like you’re 17.”

Many people ascribe these actions to Kanye’s ongoing and well-documented issues with mental illness, namely his struggle with bipolar disorder. Fans are saddened to see what looks to be — at least from an outside perspective — the extremely public and tragic breakdown of a man dealing with mental health issues.

Cushman sympathizes with Kanye in this way but believes a break from the limelight would do him a world of good.

“I honestly think that [Kanye] needs to just go off the grid, get some professional help and sort out his family stuff,” Cushman said. “He needs to get his life together before he can go back in the public eye.”

In light of everything Kanye the celebrity is going through right now, “jeen-yuhs” serves as an interesting document of Kanye as a musician and human being. It depicts the superstar at a time in which he was still struggling to make a name for himself but seemed optimistic and full of life, before he was sucked up by an industry that builds people up and then breaks them down. Can Kanye ever get back to that place?

The first part of “jeen-yuhs: A Kanye Trilogy” is streaming on Netflix starting Feb. 16, and “Donda 2” will reportedly hit streaming services on Feb. 22.

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