Artist, doubt yourself

…but never your right to try

Ben Human
8 min readFeb 28, 2022


* Article contains spoilers of the new Kanye documentary on Netflix, Jeen-yuhs.

Photo by Axel Antas-Bergkvist on Unsplash

“Always doubt yourself,” says a young Pharrell Williams to a young Kanye West in a new Netflix documentary, cautioning against the dangers of complacency. “When n…z tell you you hot, still doubt yourself.”

You can tell Ye’s in agreement, but he’s keeping quiet.

His problem isn’t whether to believe his friends in the biz telling him he’s all that. It’s that Roc-A-Fellas, the record company that signed him a year before in 2001, has been delaying the launch of his first album ever since, and it’s not looking like they’ll be releasing budget for it anytime soon.

What’s their problem?

It’s an open secret that the studio thinks a nerdy kid from middle class Chicago doesn’t have the street cred to make rap records. For their money he can just keep producing — that’s what he’s known for, after all (with credits on Jay-Z’s 2001 album, The Blueprint, and many others).

This puts him in conflict with something bigger than himself; an industry truism that every artist before him has struggled with: It’s not about who or what is hot or not, but what people in gatekeepers’ positions think the market wants and what backing you deserve. In short, art is a business, which means it’s about everything but the art.

While no-one doubts Kanye is as good a rapper as anyone, it’s irrelevant. Instead, a bunch of record studio execs— businessmen who are by definition unqualified to understand art, much less works of utter brilliance — get to rule on whose place it is to make certain kinds of art. And Kanye is not in the business case.

It happens to robots too

This clip from the animated feature Robots sums up Kanye’s problem in less than two minutes.

Robots: gate scene — YouTube

There’s a lot going on in the scene, in which Tim, the gatekeeper robot, delights in keeping inventors…



Ben Human