By Mathilda O’Neill, Third Year, Film & Television with Innovation
‘Act II: Purpose’ is largely concerned with Ye’s path from record deal to album release. The elation of his eventual success in act one’s end is subverted with another story of adversity, as he struggles to find his place within Roc-A-Fella records and secure a release date for his debut album.
The difficulty of this phase of Ye’s career is contrasted wonderfully against the ease of his music’s production, working with artists both familiar from youth and those made available to him by his record deal. Showing this offers up the most obvious treat of this documentary for any fans (myself included) of watching the final recordings for several songs off ‘The College Dropout’.
But Ye’s confidence in himself and his revelry in eventual success opens the door to the driving force behind many of his controversies: his ego.
The act closes with Ye’s speech after winning best rap album at the Grammy awards, ending famously with “Everyone wanted to know what I would do if I didn’t win, I guess we’ll never know.” Ye has long been notorious for his ego, even before the introduction of its most controversial elements, but it seems to me that the most valuable part of this documentary for those apprehensive towards him in light of this trait, is contextualisation. This moment comes at the end of an episode essentially dedicated towards Ye having to re-market himself in an industry that had already supposedly accepted him.
This narrative is anchored by the production and reception of ‘Through the Wire’, a narrative decision which I’m tempted to call genius by the way it navigates the egotistical image of Ye in the grounding touch of this footage. Mimicking the song’s own defiance to adversity, we see Ye once again touring studios and apartments showing his music to anyone who’ll listen.
The wonderful twist here is that he embraces this, incorporating these moments into the song’s music video is ultimately what lands him a release date for his debut album.
Not only has Ye had to secure his place in Roc-A-Fella records again, but he did so using his own creativity and personal connections. So for people like me who are just glad this music got out into the world, his braggadocios speech is exhilarating and cathartic and I think this act opens that up to people less impassioned with this artist. Once again the most interesting part of this documentary are the ways in which the pre-emptive charting of his history is integrated into his career at the time.
And once again, the worst parts of this documentary are the moments of intrusion by its co-director Coodie Simmons, the worst offender being an interruption of the momentum and euphoria of the College Dropout’s eventual release to highlight a visit from his parents. I’m being reductive of course, the intention is to show the rift that’s developing between the pair (as this occurs while Ye goes on tour without him) but this is a documentary about Kanye!
It’s an odd moment where showcasing the immediate joy of this experience is sacrificed to foreground how it made a man who’s implicated himself as the documentary’s ‘co-subject’ feel. And I do apologise because I’m fully aware I’m repeating myself, but there was certainly an opportunity to more seamlessly integrate this relationship into the narrative and failing in this is even more frustrating the second time around.
It’s apparent that this is building to a climax in the third and final act, and I just desperately hope that when this moment comes it proves well worth the trouble.
Featured Image: IMDB
Come back next week to read our review of the final act!