Kanye West’s ‘Yeezus’: Rick Rubin Talks About Working Down To The Wire With West

Carl Williott | June 14, 2013 11:16 am

Earlier today (June 14), Kanye West‘s Yeezus leaked, but there’s still lots to unpack. The only obvious takeaway after one listen is that Yeezy has undergone yet another creative transformation. The music itself sounds angrier than ever, but not all of the lyrics match with the defiance demonstrated on “New Slaves” and “Black Skinhead.” To get a better picture of how this exciting, vexing album came about, the Wall Street Journal sat down with the album’s executive producer, Rick Rubin.

And it turns out Rubin had a very crucial, very sizable role. He essentially turned the rough outline and demos of Yeezus into a finished product. But in addition to giving insight into his contributions, Rubin revealed that Kanye really did take it down to the wire, and churned out an impressive amount of material hours before the album was set to be delivered. Head below for interview highlights.

On working right up until the deadline: “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 he had to run out to catch the plane, he did exactly that:  finished all lyrics and performed them with gusto.  A remarkable feat.”

On his specific role: “The raw material was very strong but hadn’t yet come into focus[…] From what he played me, it sounded like several months more work had to be done. I joined the project because after discussing what he had played for me, he asked if I would be open to taking all of the raw material on and help him finish it.”

On the album’s minimalism: “He wanted the music to take a stripped-down minimal direction.  He was always examining what we could take out instead of put in.”

On Kanye’s impact on hip-hop: “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.”

Read the full interview over at WSJ.