Kanye West confirmed the rumors during his Yeezus listening session in New York City: Rick Rubin is executive producing the album. In another rare interview, Rubin spoke with the Wall Street Journal about his role and why West recruited him to finish up the project. Perhaps the most insightful comment of Rubin’s inside story is Kanye’s ability to get things done during a pressing deadline. Also, Rubin explains his style of stripping down music to create a cohesive sound and it’s fascinating. Read some excerpt below, and check out the full interview here.
How would you describe the new sound he was driving for, and how you did you help him arrive there?
He wanted the music to take a stripped-down minimal direction. He was always examining what we could take out instead of put in. A good example would be the song that became “Bound.” When he first played it for me, it was a more middle of the road R&B song, done in an adult contemporary style. Kanye had the idea of combining that track with a cool sample he had found and liked – I removed all of the R&B elements leaving only a single note baseline in the hook which we processed to have a punk edge in the Suicide tradition.
Can you recall a scene from the sessions that might help people understand his method in the studio?
We were working on a Sunday [the same day West attended a baby shower for girlfriend Kim Kardashian] and the album was to be turned in two days later. Kanye was planning to go to Milan that night. Five songs still needed vocals and two or three of them still needed lyrics. He said, “Don’t worry, I will score 40 points for you in the fourth quarter.” In the two hours before had to run out to catch the plane, he did exactly that: finished all lyrics and performed them with gusto. A remarkable feat. He had total confidence in his ability to get the job done when push came to shove.
Where does “Yeezus” put him in relation to hip-hop and the broader music culture?
He is a true artist who happens to make music under the wide umbrella of hip hop. He is in no way beholden to hip hop’s typical messaging musical cliches. Hip hop is a grander, more personal form because of his contributions, and hopefully his work will inspire others to push the boundaries of what’s possible in hip hop.