By Ellie Riser
On January 23rd, comedian turned videographer, Coodie Simmons and director Chike Ozah worked with Netflix to release a 3 part docu-series on Kanye West, and if you’ve ever followed or listened to Kanye West, you need to watch it. Here’s why:
As many of you know, I am an adamant Kanye West fan. Not to be confused with Yeezy or Ye, I am a Kanye West fan, meaning, I grew up listening to his music in the car on the way to the beach. The very first songs I ever saved to my Spotify library in 2015 were those of Graduation album. I really started paying attention to his music when I was 13, after he released The Life Of Pablo, and since then I have always kept a special place in my heart for his craft. This series only furthered my respect for the rapper that once was Kanye, and broke my heart for the man we see all over our social media today.
Sadly, watching him now, it’s hard to say that there’s any “Kanye West” left. It’s not only heartbreaking to watch through the perspective of music quality, as there hasn’t been a full length album that did his talent justice since TLOP, but to see someone who used to to be an unapologetic voice for black people around America do a full 180 and become the token black man who fraternized with Donald Trump was a slap in the face. Especially at OES, a lot of the time it feels as if I’m the only person who knows what Kanye West used to represent, even though I know that most of my peers listen to his music regularly. That’s why I feel that this documentary was like mourning the death of Kanye West. While he is still alive physically, and quite honestly with the way things have been going I’m not sure how long that will still be true, almost every part of him that once inspired or spoke to me has been dead for many years.
To watch this trilogy is to truly step into the process of a creative genius and to see the unraveling of a man becoming so enveloped by fame and pride that he can’t even create at the level he once did. The first episode is all about his come-up as a rapper/producer, and even though I knew he had been grinding for a long time before he blew up, I had no idea at what scale. Watching him play hits like “We Don’t Care” for people in 2002 and literally no one caring was like a knife to the heart. To see that side of Kanye, the side that wrote “Through The Wire” and lyrics like, “We buy our way out of jail, but we can’t buy freedom/We’ll buy a lot of clothes, but we don’t really need ’em/Things we buy to cover up what’s inside/’Cause they made us hate ourself and love they wealth”, was both gut wrenching and fascinating. Selfishly, it made me feel robbed of being able to grow up with a Kanye West that reminded me more of my dad than the reclusive caricature we have now.
I don’t want to make excuses for the way West has acted for the past 6 years, he is a grown man with access to any and all help he could ever need, however the dynamics that play into the struggles he faces now are things that are so much deeper than a mental-break or attitude problem. Coodie’s narration allows for us to see just a small part of what it’s been like to loose Kanye as a friend, and he highlights the loss of Kanye’s mom, Donda, as a large factor in all of the recent chaos. Kanye’s relationship with his mom is one of the purest forms love I think I’ve ever seen on camera. From the moment she left his life it was clear that he would never recover.
If you’re a person who has fed into the conversation about Kanye either online or in person, bashing him or egging him on, I urge you to watch this series and reconsider your role.