As part of a nearly hour-long interview with BBC Radio 1’s Zane Lowe, producer Rick Rubin spoke on his relationship with everyone from Detroit rapper Eminem to the late Johnny Cash, his transition from magician to musician in his early years, and more.
To kick off his conversation with Lowe, Rubin detailed the moment he was recruited for Kanye West’s sixth studio album, Yeezus. He says the G.O.O.D. Music emcee visited him to play what he thought was a finished product only to hear three hours’ worth of vocal-less music.
Rubin later doted on Kanye, calling the Windy City wordsmith “the most consistently great, creative person in music.”
“There were loads of great ideas and there were many, many tracks. And we listened to everything together,” Rubin said. “We listened—He originally came over and said ‘Hey, I wanna come play you my new album.’ And I thought we were going to listen to a finished album. And then we listened to about three hours of music. Most of which didn’t have vocals. And at the end of it it’s like ‘Wow. So, what’s it gonna be?’ I’m thinking it’s a year away. And he’s like ‘Well, I’m putting it out in—’ I think it was like six weeks, five. ‘It’s coming out in five or six weeks.’ It’s like ‘Really?’ I said ‘I have another album that’s a lot further along than this and it’s not coming out for probably five months.’ And he said ‘Really?’ It’s just a funny conversation. Cause it was completely normal to him. It’s just the way he works. And then we listened to some music together, other music. And at the end of it he said ‘Would you just help me finish it? Let’s go in together.’ He said ‘I think we can probably do it in five days.’ It ended up being more like three weeks or a little over three weeks.
“From a creative standpoint I can’t think of anyone who has come out—who has been more consistently great from the time they started making music until now,” he added. “I can’t think of anyone else. I think he’s the most consistently great, creative person in music today.”
“Maybe the best rapper of any emcee,” Rubin said. “He may be the best…He’s very hyper-critical of detail. And hears the music in a very deep way. And hears internal rhythms in tracks. And writes words to work on so many different levels rhythmically within what’s going on musically. To where if we change a little thing in the track to better the track it might not work in his mind how it relates to what he’s saying and how he’s phrasing. His phrasing is so glued to the music and written that way. Like he just sees it as not just riding the flow. It’s much more complex. And he’s always writing. He’s always writing—Not when he’s making an album. He’s always writing in life. He’s got these notebooks he carries around and he’s always writing. And he said to me he knows probably 99 percent of it, 98 percent of it will never be used for anything. But he wants his facility to be there so that when he needs to write something it’s like practice.”