It was destiny for Coodie and Chike to make jeen-yuhs: A Kanye Trilogy. The duo directed Ye’s video for “Through the Wire,” but before that Coodie left his career in stand-up comedy to pursue a dream of filmmaking. That dream would take Coodie on the ride of his life following Ye from Chicago to New York City, where Ye would make everyone at Roc-A-Fella Records listen to his demos for The College Dropout until Jay-Z signed him. Coodie filmed Ye off and on for 21 years, until the musician moved into the Mercedes-Benz Stadium in Atlanta last summer to finish his latest album Donda.
We spoke with Coodie and Chike about why they kept Ye from editing the documentary, what they think of Ye’s suggestion that Drake narrate the movie, and how, according to Coodie, God wrote the movie and Jesus directed it.
The first movie in jeen-yuhs: A Kanye Trilogy—act i: VISION—hits theaters for one-night-only screenings on February 10, followed by its Netflix debut on February 16. act ii: PURPOSE hits Netflix on February 23; act iii: AWAKENING follows on March 2.
The Film Stage: Coodie, you attribute the timing of this documentary to God. What told you now was the time, after 21 years of filming?
Coodie: There was another time that we could have done it, but you know everything happens for a reason, or it wouldn’t have happened, you know? So when we got to this point it was like: all the signs were there. We were meeting with Time Studios; I went into their office with a bunch of tapes and threw it on the table. They were like, “We down.” When we tried to make it happen with Kanye before people got in the way of that happening. I’m like, “You know what, we have to just make this happen. I’m about to show Kanye,” so we did it. And that’s how it happened.
How did Kanye know it was finally time to make the documentary?
Coodie: Kanye called me and wanted my blessing to use some footage I shot of him and his mom. It just so happened that week, we had a rough cut of the sizzle. So I was like, “Oh, I need your blessing. I’m going to fly out to you.” I went out there and I showed him, he was ready. He was like, “Yo, we got to put this out tomorrow!” And I said, “Look, the way we have to do this is, you have to trust me 100%. You cannot be involved creatively because it won’t be authentic if you are. Trust me and we’re going to tell the story that these kids, these dreamers need to see,” because all this story is about is unlocking your genius. Everybody has a genius.
Chike, at any point did you talk about having Kanye do an interview for the documentary?
Chike: No. Coodie had so much vérité footage that one of the things we knew quickly was that we didn’t want to incorporate any talking heads. There was a thought that when we initially sat down with Kanye, we had one thought that we would shoot Kanye in black-and-white and in different styles. It’s so crazy because, as our journey grows and the more we become students of film, every year things change. So it’s totally evolved from that way of thinking to what you see now, where we thought it’d be stronger told as vérité cinema.
Has Kanye seen the documentary and what does he think of it?
Coodie: The last I saw Kanye was a week ago and I asked if he watched the documentary and he said that’s not his process. Back in June, during his birthday, I went to show him the film, but I set it up where everybody that was with him at the beginning will be watching it with him. I felt like: it’s so emotional, and it’s about bringing back a lot of memories, that he needed all of us around. It’s emotional to me and everybody that’s watched it. So I’m like, he needs us so we can laugh together and cry and embrace each other and have a real deep conversation after we watch all three films. But it just never happened, and everything happens for a reason, so, I feel like God just wanted it to happen the way it’s happening now.
What did you think of Kanye’s suggestion that Drake should narrate the documentary?
Coodie: I was getting emails about it all night. Drake has just seen the first movie and he fell in love with the storytelling. He said this movie was his Inception and that’s why he wanted to be another voice. I just let them know that the best voice is to let people know about the doc. But Kanye really probably wanted Drake, but Kanye didn’t watch the doc—so maybe if he watched the doc he would know why it wouldn’t make sense for Drake to narrate it.
Maybe Drake can do a commentary track.
Coodie: I feel like we should do, somewhere, Drake gives his perspective of the doc. Like, take the footage and do a whole other thing with Drake where he gives his thoughts to how Kanye inspired him, which would be amazing as well. We should probably do that with a bunch of artists and a bunch of people that you don’t even know.
Chike: Any artist that can offer affirmation to what this process is, as far as most artists at that level like Drake. He’s super-successful. He’s successful in his genius. He’s found a passion and he’s done the same thing where he’s had a lot of adversities. I don’t know his personal story, but I know to achieve the amount of success he’s had with his gift, he’s putting a lot of work towards it. I think he can only be another vessel to help empower everybody else that’s looking to be successful, to follow their passions in life.
Are there any movies that influenced how jeen-yuhs was made?
Coodie: Hoop Dreams definitely was an inspiration to start the whole journey 21 years ago. This is such an original story, and God wrote it and Jesus directed it. It can only can be told this way; there wasn’t one movie other than Hoop Dreams that gave the idea to follow Kanye. We feel that we’re bringing a certain impact and change to what’s happening now in the culture. Not only that. The pandemic happened and that shut us down for six months and it gave us a second to focus on the project, and that’s why you got what you got. God was like, “Okay, let me shut everything down for a reason.” Everybody should find out the reason why he shut the world down for you.