Basically: A chapter about Kanye’s car accident, the creation of his first album College Dropout, and the critical success following its release.
As I sit here, probably too late for me to be up writing, watching Kanye stream his new album DONDA 2 to an entire stadium, I have to think about his first record: College Dropout. Purpose, the second act of the JEEN-YUHS documentary trilogy, is about creating that album. It starts with what, in a way, is becoming a 2000s rap myth. While driving in LA, Kanye was in an automobile accident that he almost didn’t survive. His jaw was broken and it had to be wired shut. The film also shows that, after his signing, it seemed the Roc-a-Fella Records leadership wasn’t making Kanye their priority as an artist. They wanted him to focus on producing tracks for their other artists. That’s the only reason he was in LA and driving that late—he was working on other people’s music.
From there, Kanye’s project was basically shelved. Narratively speaking, this puts Kanye back into the underdog protagonist role. This framing works for those who don’t know his older work as well as for those who do. To see those at the Roc basically play him for Peedi Crakk with modern eyes, it’s like: “Dang, y’all was slacking. Peedi wasn’t really it.”
Purpose is full of cameos by stars like Ludacris and Jamie Foxx. We see them creating their feature parts on the album, which is some of the best music doc footage I’ve seen in years. You get a sense of real drive and creative direction. Since Kanye is both an artist and producer, he talks to each artist about his concept for the song as a producer. It’s something I think a lot of rap fans really don’t understand about what a producer does in hip hop music. There’s also a fantastic scene of when Pharrell first hears “Through the Wire” and he loses it. It’s something you don’t often see: Two creatives just enjoying each other’s presence and work. When one asks the opinion of a peer, they respect each other.
Coodie & Chike (sorry for not bringing up Chike in my Act 1 review) really do a great job laying out the story. We still get to see Donda West a lot in this act. We also get the wonder of moving around an NYC that no longer exists. More than Act 1: Vision, Purpose brings about nostalgia for “Old Kanye.” Still, it also makes me continue to question that idea of an “Old Kanye.” Vision shows a struggling Kanye without the resources of the current one. It’s all there—the same attitude—Kanye is just happier with his mother around. That might be the key.
Purpose feels like Coodie & Chike are taking a look back at their “Through the Wire” video and asking: “How can we do it better and expand it?” Most of the audience will now see why Kanye became an inspiration for many. His drive to achieve, be recognized, and never give up because he believed in himself comes across as very heroic. Many forget—and maybe he did too—that Kanye is a human being.
Catch y’all later with Act 3: Awakening…
In the End: JEEN-YUHS Act 2: Purpose is an excellent documentary about creating a classic album. It’s attractive to watch even without seeing the other acts. Great music nerd stuff.