Coodie Simmons and Chike Ozah interview: ‘jeen-yuhs’ directors
“jeen-yuhs: A Kanye Trilogy” co-directors Coodie Simmons and Chike Ozah both vividly remember how they first encountered Kanye West as a rapper. For Simmons, it was back in Chicago with West performing with GLC after seeing him lay down beats in local barbershops. “I was like, this dude is the one. He was so charismatic on stage and his lyrics; the things that he was talking about, I was like, this guy is a standout artist,” Simmons tells Gold Derby during our recent webchat (watch the exclusive video interview above). The first time Ozah heard Kanye rap, it was when he played “Jesus Walks” for him. “To be bold enough to rap about Jesus and talented enough to create a song about Jesus. I could literally ride around the block, pumping a song about Jesus and pop my head and feel cool. That’s a major accomplishment!”
SEE 2022 Emmy nominations: Complete list of contenders for 74th Primetime Emmys
“jeen-yuhs: A Kanye Trilogy” is a three-part documentary series on Netflix that features a look at the artist both pre-fame and at the height of it. The first two parts chronicles Kanye’s efforts to be taken seriously as a rapper despite already having proven himself as a producer leading up to the release of his debut album, “The College Dropout.” The third part sees Simmons and Ozah reconnecting with Kanye in 2017 and examines his pivot to gospel music as well as his more controversial statements about Donald Trump and slavery being “a choice.” The series was nominated at this year’s Emmys for Best Documentary or Nonfiction Series.
When it comes to their personal favorite songs by Kanye, both Simmons and Ozah both chose songs from earlier in his career. For Ozah, it’s “Roses” off of his sophomore album, “Late Registration.” “It’s not the most popular song, but it’s just the melody of it. It comes off like a sad song and emotionally I just get attached. I’ve been attached the I heard the beat. I’ve just locked into it ever since.” Simmons chose “Jesus Walks” because of how it hit him on a very personal level. “Throughout my life in the hood of Chicago, Jesus saved me so many times, so when Kanye made that song, it just resonated.”
Getting nominated at this year’s Emmys was a welcome surprise for both filmmakers. Ozah says that they were both already excited just from the reactions they saw online from people who had seen the series and talking about the impact it had on them. “It far exceeded what we expected and we had high expectations for the way we wanted this film to impact people. So knowing that that had already been accomplished, it makes this like the icing on the cake.” Simmons also believes it to be a testament to the perseverance it took to actually finish the project. “Just keep going. It might take you 21 years, like it took us, but guess what? We’re here now and we got nominated!” Ozah adds, “I’m so gracious for the nomination. Like, that’s the win there. Nothing else has to happen!”