The Origins of Kanye West Captured in Documentary

This review is part of our coverage of 2022 Sundance Film Festival.

The Pitch: Before his marriage to (and next divorce from) Kim Kardashian, before her abortive 2020 presidential campaign, before the wild tweets and horrific behavior that would define his public persona in the 2020s, had Kanye West and the music. From the beginning, the Atlanta-born, Chicago-raised producer turned rapper knew he would be one of the greatest musicians of all time; his first album, 2004’s Leaving College, there are lines to that effect (“I was born different”).

But it took the world a while to catch up with his ambition, and the problems didn’t stop there even after he finally got through. At his side for the past twenty years is Clarence “Coodie” Simmons, a comedian-turned-filmmaker who quickly sees something in the 21-year-old West and starts following him with a video camera the next. two decades, eventually involving his “Through the Wire” music video co-director Chike Ozah.

The results add to jeen-yuhs, a three-part epic docuseries styled afterwards Hoop Dream, another long fly-on-the-wall account of poor Black Chicagoans trying to make a name for themselves. Unlike the young basketball optimists in Steve James ’opus, though, the West actually did it, and it’s the rise in popularity that Coodie & Chike narrates in complete depth.

Part I: Vision: At the time of writing, only Part I of the doc – subtitles visions – premiered at the Sundance Film Festival, with two more features available when the whole thing comes to Netflix later this month. But even in this first hour and a half, Coodie & Chike paints a shocking blast-from-the-past account of the West’s origins, offering a glimpse into the man’s stages of ambition on the left. yet the fame.

Drawing from reams of archival footage, much of the fly-on-the-wall B-roll Coodie took as he hung out with West in recording studios, record label offices, and on the streets in Chicago, jeen-yuhs Its unique ability to be human is a man who has long been self-destructive in his self-made comparisons to Jesus Christ and strange diss tracks about Pete Davidson.

It is also interspersed with lilting, sleepy narration from Coodie himself, who inserts his own view of the account as a distant impartial observer. Admittedly a bit distracting, reading as an attempt to mix Kanye’s success with his own; There’s a feeling that, anywhere in this long narrative fabric, he’d rather position himself as the film’s co-lead rather than one of its writers.

If the film shifts to specific aspects of Coodie, it will lose focus: one gets the impression that we are heading into a supposed fallout between filmmaker and subject once the West gets better. (This is the problem of reviewing only the third part of a documentary: the seeds are sown that can be harvested in future installations.)

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