Every Celebrity and Music Industry Cameo in Kanye West Documentary Jeen-Yuhs Explained

When viewers first encounter Kanye West in Jeen-Yuhs, Netflix’s three-part documentary, he’s a hungry young music producer who dreams of making it as a rapper in New York City’s hip-hop scene (Jeen-YuhsTIME Studios is the film and TV division of TIME. As West, who has since changed his legal name to Ye, makes his own way in the industry, he rubs shoulders with some of the major artists of the day—Mos Def, Pharrell, Ludacris, and of course, Jay-Z, who helped give West his big break before signing him to his Roc-A-Fella Records label, marking the start of a deep and complicated friendship.
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It’s no surprise, then, that Jeen-Yuhs—for which filmmakers Coodie Simmons and Chike Ozah followed West for more than 20 years—is full of familiar faces. Part 1 of the film highlights many of the connections that West made during his early years as an artist; people who became close friends, collaborators and creative partners who helped shape his musical legacy—and vice versa. And West wasn’t the only person in the scene whose star was on the rise; in part one of Jeen-Yuhs, a young (and then-up-and-coming) John Legend is seen working on West’s iconic debut album The College Dropout while Jamie Foxx is seen recording his feature on the song “Slow Jamz” off the same album, ahead of his Oscar win for Ray.

Here’s a rundown of every celebrity and industry cameo (in order of appearance) in part 1 of Jeen-Yuhs.

act i: VISION

Mase and Harlem World Rapper and pastor Mase, formerly signed to Sean Combs’ Bad Boy Records, and the hip-hop group he founded, appear in the documentary alongside West in an interview with Simmons for the Chicago hip-hop program Channel Zero At a 1998 birthday celebration for Jermaine dupri.

Jay-Z: The rapper, songwriter, music executive, and entrepreneur played a huge role in West’s rise in the rap industry. As the co-founder of Roc-A-Fella Records and the biggest name in rap during the late ’90s and early aughts, Jay helped give West his big break as a producer when West produced the song “This Can’t Be Life” for his 2000 album The Dynasty Roc La Familia. It was the beginning of a fruitful and long-lasting creative partnership. Jay-Z has since appeared on four of West’s 10 studio albums, including his most recent release, Donda, They teamed up to create a new partnership. The Throne is on the horizon, a collaborative album.

TalibKweli & Mos Def: The rappers, who rose to prominence as the hip-hop duo Black Star, were both early supporters and collaborators of West’s, advocating for him to get signed to Rawkus Records, the conscious hip-hop label they worked with. Although West didn’t receive a Rawkus record deal, Talib Kweli as well as Mos Def were featured on the tracks. The College Dropout. In a particularly moving scene in the documentary, Mos Def and West perform an a cappella rendition of what later becomes the track “Two Words” on the album.

Kanye West's Performance at the Canal Room
WireImage John Legend, Mos Def and Consequence were at the Canal Room 2003 with Damon Dash

JB Marshall: Now a manager and music executive, JB, also from Chicago, was a close friend of West’s during his early days in New York. In the documentary, he bests West in a spirited game of pool at West’s Newark, N.J. apartment, during an informal hang with other Chicago natives.

Greg “OlSkool Ice-Gre” LewisWest was a music executive and rapper who met West while he bought an abstract beat from a producer to start his own band Abstract Mindstate. While Lewis and West were both from Chicago, they didn’t strike up a friendship until they were in New York City; in Jeen-Yuhs, Lewis can be seen working on the track “Two Words” at the makeshift studio in West’s Newark apartment. Later, he became the longtime A&R for West’s GOOD Music label.

J. Ivy: J. Ivy (poet, spoken word artist) is the writer in chief Jeen-Yuhs, but he’s also featured prominently in the documentary. As a Chicagoan, he found friendship with West and became a New Yorker who was creative and also lived in New York. He eventually wrote and performed on the documentary. Students who drop out of college track “Never Let Me Down.” More from music history: during a studio session for the album, Ivy came up with John Legend’s stage name.

Tarrey Torae: The singer from Chicago is featured prominently on the track “Family Business” on The College Dropout the lyrics of which are inspired by her anecdotes about her own family; in the documentary, there’s a clip of her doing an early recording of the song at West’s apartment.

ConsequenceQueens’ rapper and music producer, also the cousin of A Tribe Called Quest‘s Q-Tip, was a close friend of West’s after he moved to New York, often socializing with him at his Newark apartment, as seen in the documentary. He’s featured on the track “Spaceship” on The College Dropout and was later signed to West’s GOOD Music label.

Charles “88 Keys” Njapa: During West’s early years in New York, the rapper and producer was a close friend and collaborator of his; in the film, he appears at an early listening session in West’s home.

Kanye West's Album Preview Party
WireImage Damon Dash and Kanye West during West’s Album Preview Party at 40/40 in New York City in 2003

Damon “Dame” DashRoc-A-Fella Records co-founder and music executive, entrepreneur and musician, is seen as a looming figure. He offers West a deal while allowing him to produce and make beats for the other Roc-A-Fella musicians.

Kareem “Biggs” Burke: West has a lively discussion with Roc-A-Fella Records co-founder, music producer, entrepreneur and music executive in a memorable section of the doc about his desire to first be recognized as a rapper rather than a producer who also raps.

Gee Roberson The manager and music executive was formerly the VP of A&R at Roc-A-Fella Records; in an entertaining bit from the film, West crashes the label offices, interrupting Roberson on a phone call. Roberson later became West’s manager.

Kyambo “Hip-Hop” Joshua and Big Face Gary: These music executives were both A&Rs at Roc-A-Fella Records while West was working at the label as a producer—they appear in a segment filmed at the office.

Chaka Pilgrim An iconic cameo by the former president and music business executive of Roc Nation Record has been made Jeen-YuhsRoc-A-Fella Records is where a young Kanye raps in front of her, in hopes that she will sign a record contract.

DJ Clue The DJ, producer, and radio personality associated with New York City’s Hot 97 and Power 105.1 radio stations appears in the documentary as an integral part of the hip-hop scene West is trying to make his mark on.

Memphis Bleek The rapper, songwriter, and music executive is best known for being Jay-Z’s hypeman during his heyday; in the documentary, he discusses the state of Chicago hip-hop with West during a studio session.

GQ Presents Kanye West's Platinum Party
WireImage Kanye West, Just Blaze New York City 2004

Justin “Just Blaze” Smith: Jeen-Yuhs, during a studio session together, West calls the producer and DJ his “best friend and arch enemy”; at the time, they were both producing for Roc-A-Fella Records.

Gimel “Young Guru” Keaton: The audio engineer, producer, DJ, and music executive worked with West at Roc-A-Fella Records; in the film, he shares an anecdote about how West came up with a beat for the Scarface track “My Block.”

Joe “3H” Weinberger: The former A&R of Capitol Records and Interscope, Weinberger tries unsuccessfully to sign West to Capitol Records and is present in the documentary for many listening and studio sessions; when he was unable to convince record execs at Capitol to sign West, he helped facilitate the deal with Roc-A-Fella. If you listen carefully to the nearly 13 minute outro of “Last Call,” you can hear a sample of Weinberger talking about signing West.

Ali Richmond: The former A&R for Rawkus Records appears in a touching clip in Jeen-YuhsIn this interview, he discusses his desire to sign West.

DeVon “Devo Springsteen” Harris: The producer and songwriter, who also happens to be West’s cousin, makes an appearance in the documentary as West’s one-time personal assistant.

FilmMagic Damon Dash, Quddus, and Kanye West during a 2004 Visit to MTV’s “TRL”

Quddus Phillippe Former MTV VJ, and presenter of Total Request Live Multiple times, West appears in documentary as an early supporter who helped to launch West to mainstream success through his appearance on MTV.

Vernon “Xtreme” Brown, Dug Infinite, Ernest Dion “No ID” WilsonThese producers were West’s early mentors, and supporters when he was growing in Chicago. Jeen-YuhsDug Infinite starts a small, public beef with West on Chicago radio. West is credited No ID for the interview but Dug Infinite doesn’t credit him. West counters, claiming that West was edited by the interviewer.

Lateefa “Teefa” Harland: This documentary shows West inviting West on the program to return home to Chicago during the visit of the radio personality.

Donda West: West’s beloved mother, a Chicago State University professor, has many poignant moments with her son in the film, but none more so than a sweet segment where she encourages him to continue pursuing his dreams while maintaining some humility, noting that the “giant looks in the mirror and sees nothing.”

Che “Rhymefest” SmithThis is the appearance of the producer, rapper, writer, and author. Jeen-YuhsOn a Chicago visit with West. He and West later co-founded Donda’s House, a non-profit youth organization.

Bradley “Scarface” Jordan: West and the producer of Geto Boys hip-hop music, rapper, performs a fun segment in this documentary. The College Dropout. While he doesn’t appear on the final cut of the album, during the studio session, he gives West major affirmation for the song “Jesus Walks.”

Pharrell Williams Hosts Store Opening of Nigo's A Bathing Ape
WireImage for the Bathing Ape/NowherIn New York City, Pharrell and Kanye West in 2005

Pharrell Williams The rapper, singer, songwriter, and producer shares an intimate and surprisingly spiritual moment with West during a studio session, where West does an impromptu listening of “Through the Wire,” eliciting an ecstatic response from Williams.

Beyoncé Knowles: It is the singer, songwriter, entrepreneur, and actor makes a brief appearance at the concert where West’s signing with Roc-A-Fella is announced.

Jeen-YuhsPremieres will be available on Netflix starting February 16. Twenty-four years in the making, this documentary about Kanye West was directed by Coodie & Chike, from TIME StudiosCreative Control


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