Act iii: Awakening picks up right after the success of Kanye West‘s debut album The College Dropout and goes through present-day, after the release of Donda. Unlike the first two parts of the documentary, the third seems much less personal and intimate. This is probably due to the fact that Kanye and Clarence “Coodie” Simmons‘ relationship had its ups and downs and Coodie didn’t film West for six years(2008-2014). Although it feels more distant, we still get a relatively good glimpse into the life of the man who has captivated us for years. Here are some of the biggest takeaways from the last part of the documentary:
The success of The College Dropout put Kanye West in a spotlight that he had not seen yet at the time. The increased celebrity status made it so that the rising star couldn’t go anywhere without a strong media presence following him. Kanye revealed to Coodie that he wasn’t ready for the general public to see what he was really like. This caused Kanye to start “acting” and “playing a role” to give the people exactly what they wanted from him. Hearing this makes you consider if Kanye actually ended up becoming the character that he started off just playing or if he was always this guy and it was who he didn’t want the media to see.
While most people might say that Kanye’s rants and outbursts started after his mother passed, the documentary shows us otherwise. In footage taken from a Donda Foundation event thrown by Ye and his mother, Donda West, Kanye took a simple question and answered it in a way that only he could. A reporter asked Kanye how his upcoming album Graduation would change the game. Ye used the question to speak to the crowd about the critiques he had been getting about being overconfident. He also made comments about slavery which oddly enough, may have foreshadowed his TMZ comment that “slavery was a choice.” Oftentimes we looked to his mother’s death as the point where he lost his filter or sense of couth, but if we look closely, the tendencies have always been there. The third episode does a solid job of exemplifying how the more famous Kanye got, the more he felt comfortable speaking his mind about any and everything.
This seems like the most obvious takeaway from act three and although it might be, it’s a little more complex than we might realize. The documentary shows how much of an emphasis Kanye put on having his mother around, especially after the successes of The College Dropout and Late Registration. Even after winning Grammys and going platinum, Kanye wanted his mother at everything from studio sessions to awards ceremonies. She mentioned that she had become more of a friend and confidant for her son than a parent, but if he ever needed her for the latter, she would always be there.
Watching the documentary and seeing how this relationship only continued to blossom as Kanye got bigger, it is very apparent why Donda’s death on November 10, 2007 was so catastrophic for Kanye. Following his mother’s untimely passing, Kanye’s energy noticeably changed. The documentary shows him on stage during multiple concerts where he has choice words for the media and everyone who told him that he should probably take a break and stop performing. As most would in his situation, Kanye was going through a tough grieving process. During this period, he and Coodie barely spoke and it was basically the beginning of six years that the two would be separated.
If there is one thing that hit home in the final installment of the trilogy, it’s the fact that taking care of your mental health is so essential. Kanye referenced numerous times how much it plays a factor in his everyday life. In a conversation with Kid Cudi while recording their joint project Kids See Ghosts, Kanye mentioned how mental health issues followed him even after he got all the fame and fortune he desired. He added “I already had the house and wife and the kids and the plaques and all this type of shit, but still had moments where I felt like suicidal, still have moments where I’m addicted to Percocets and don’t even realize it.”
Kanye’s mentions of his mental health didn’t stop there. He spoke about how, after his hospitalization in 2016, he was confused and he had hit a breaking point. Later in the documentary, we get footage of Kanye having a manic episode. During a conversation with some investors in the Dominican Republic, he speaks about taking medication the night before to have a normal conversation and turn alien into English. Sensing where the interaction might be going, Coodie cuts the camera. The next time Coodie filmed Kanye was in 2020 when he went to visit him in Wyoming to check in on his old friend’s well-being.
Although a good majority of the third act highlights Kanye and his mental health struggles, it was very refreshing to see him do what he loves most. We got a chance to see Kanye in the process of creating pieces for his Yeezy brand. We were also shown footage of Kanye working on Donda with the likes of Rhymefest, Dame Dash, Justin Bieber and Kaycyy. Another memorable moment caught Kanye on the phone with his father a day after his presidential rally. His father expressed how concerned he was about him. He gave Kanye advice about writing his speeches out in the future and Kanye was actually very receptive to it. Some of his old friends from Chicago are also present, giving Kanye words of encouragement and guidance. These type of interactions were important to see because they showed us that although he is clearly struggling with his everyday life and the issues he has to face, he still has people in his corner that care for him and want to see him do better. It also showed that when he’s in good spirits, he can still create with the best of them.
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