The Daily Beast has published an interview with UPROXX obsession Rick Rubin and, naturally, it does not disappoint. In it, Rubin discusses his relationship with Kanye West, mentioning that when West approached him about helping him polish Yeezus, it was set to be released in five weeks and was, in Rubin’s words, “kind of meandering, unfocused, usually without his vocals.” He also went into the whole process of working with Kanye on the album, and it sounds exactly as chaotic as you’d expect it to be.
He wasn’t stressed.
Not at all. I said, “I have a record coming out in November that’s a lot further along than this.” He said, “Really? What are you doing for the next five days?” I said I was going to go away. Then he said, “Please help me. Would you be open to fixing it and shaping it and finishing it off?”
Did he realize how much more work it needed?
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.
What was the process like during those 15 days? How did you find a direction for the album?
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!”
It’s a good thing you were on the same wavelength, because the sheer logistics of finishing the album must have been daunting.
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.
Kanye West is all over the place. That sounds about right. Also, Kanye and Rick Rubin both live in empty white boxes. That also sounds about right. Go read the whole thing when you have a minute. It’s interesting, to say the least.