One of the most magnificent stories in music this year is that the iconic Rick Rubin might be the producer of the year. Rick is set to appear on Jay-Z’s upcoming Magna Carta Holy Grail album, and he played a significant role in Kanye West’s stunning Yeezus album.
TheDailyBeast just got a big get when they did a pretty in-depth interview with Rick Rubin. During the interview they talked about a lot of things, including the beginning of Rick’s career and some of his musical inspirations.
But, let’s be real, we want to hear what he has to say about Yeezus and it turns out it’s a lot.
Rick said that Kanye first contacted him about Yeezus just a month before it was set to be released:
“Kanye called me. I’d just finished working at the studio for about two months on another album, and I was getting ready to go away on vacation for a couple weeks. Then he called up and said, ‘Can I just come play my album?’ And I said, ‘Sure.’ I always like to hear what he’s working on. So he came over to my house in Malibu. We listened. I thought I was going to hear a finished album, but actually we listened to probably three and a half hours of works in progress.
What did the album sound like at that point?
Kind of meandering, unfocused, usually without his vocals. I assumed that the album was scheduled to come out next year. So I said, ‘When are you thinking of finishing up?’ And he said, ‘It’s coming out in five weeks.’ Like completely confident and fine.”
Kanye then asked Rick to work on the album, a process that left Rick stressed out:
“To me it seemed impossible what he was asking. I remember I wasn’t feeling that well that day, and I was thinking, is the music making me sick? I don’t feel good about this. We ended up working probably 15 days, 16 days, long hours, no days off, 15 hours a day. I was panicked the whole time.”
At the end of the day, Rick ended up doing what he does best: fixing the music by subtracting, not adding:
“There was so much material we could really pick which direction it was going to go. The idea of making it edgy and minimal and hard was Kanye’s. I’d say, ‘This song is not so good. Should I start messing with it? Can I make it better?’ And he’d say, ‘Yes, but instead of adding stuff, try taking stuff away.’ We talked a lot about minimalism. My house is basically an empty white box. When he walked in, he was like, ‘My house is an empty white box, too!'”
A really cool story came when Rick detailed how Kanye recorded a bunch of vocals in, like, an hour. It was Kanye’s Michael Jordan-playoff moment:
“Three days before Kanye had to turn the record in he tells us, ‘I’m going to Milan tonight.’ There are probably five songs that still need vocals at this point. Two still need words! So he says, ‘I have to go to this baby shower before I go to Milan. I’ll be back at 4 p.m., and from 4 to 6 I’ll do the vocals. Then I have to go.’ I say, ‘OK,’ thinking it’s not OK, and he says, ‘Don’t worry. I’ll score 40 points for you in the fourth quarter.’ Again it just seemed impossible, but that’s basically what he did. He didn’t come back until after 4, and we probably didn’t start until after 5. He said, ‘I have an hour and 10 minutes. Let’s go.’ And then it was full-on NBA finals [laughs]. It probably ended up taking two hours. Five vocals. He wrote two lyrics on the spot.”
Yeezus has 10 tracks but, according to Rick, they created enough material for another album. So here’s the million-dollar question: will there be another Yeezus album?
“Maybe,” according to Rick.
Check out the entire interview. It really is cool: he also drops a lot of gems about his come up.