Rick Rubin, a co-executive producer on Eminem’s The Marshall Mathers LP 2, recently spoke about the rapper’s dedication to his craft.
“I would say that he is probably the most obsessive artist, maybe, that I have met in any genre,” Rick Rubin says in an interview with complex.com. “He is very, very dedicated to his craft. To the point to where it seems like there is nothing else in his life. It truly is a 24-7 thing for him. One of the reasons that many artists make good records when they’re young and then as they grow up, maybe they’re not doing their best work anymore, is because—especially if you’re successful—other things in life take over. Whether it’s family life or just other interests. It just happens.
“When you make a record when you’re 19 and then you‘re making a record when you’re 40, usually when you’re 40 there are other things in your life that are more important than music by that time,” Rubin continues. “When you’re 19 it might be the most important thing in your life. I would say Em’ is unusual in that he’s a grown-up who is as dedicated and focused on music as… I can’t imagine he was ever more so at any other time because it’s full-on all the time, 24 hours a day. Whether he’s working on a record, not working on a record, he’s writing all the time. Full time.
“We were just talking about it the other day,” Rubin adds. “He said, ‘I write constantly, to the point where while I’m writing in my books I know 95 percent of this stuff, 98 percent of it’s never gonna get used. But by writing all the time it’s like I’m sharpening my tools. And I’m more able to draw upon that skill-set when needed. And sometimes a reference that I wrote two years ago might come back and find it’s way into a record completely unrelated just because I was doing this homework and coming up with a new rhyme scheme or just hearing a word I liked and thinking about how that could rhyme. And there might not be any context for it. But then I might be working on a song years later and think, ‘Oh, maybe that phrase could work in this context.’…And it’s like that always. There is no time off. And it’s really unusual. I’ve never met another rapper like that, who is so on. So on and so obsessed. It’s number 1 in his life. Period. That’s it.”
Rubin says that he is also obsessive, though not as much as Eminem.
“I’m obsessive about it being as good as it could be,” Rubin says. “But I’ve found for me it helps to get away from and get back to it, get away from it and get back to it. With the hopes that every time I get back it’s almost like hearing it for the first time. Because I know in my case, if I work on something too consistently for too long, I’ll get tunnel vision. And I will not hear it the way other people will hear it.
“That’s one of the great things about getting to work with different artists,” Rubin continues. “If I could focus on one thing for a period of time and then go into another project, maybe later that day or the next day and focus my full attention on that one, then the next day when I come back to the first project I’m really fresh and really open to hearing it. You don’t carry the baggage of what you thought it was supposed to be. Whereas if I listen to the same thing over and over and over again, in that moment I would lose objectivity.”
Rick Rubin Says He & Eminem Worked As Tag Team On “MMLP2”
During the interview, Rick Rubin also discusses his work with Eminem in the studio.
“I collected up lots of possible ideas of starting points,” Rubin says. “A lot of samples and a lot of beat ideas and I’d play him a bunch of stuff and just say, ‘Tell me which of these feels like a good starting point.’ And then he would pick a bunch of them and then we would develop each of those a little bit. And then he would listen to them and say, ‘OK, these are the ones I want to work on.’ Then he would take them to write and then we would find more stuff.
“We worked like a tag team,” Rubin says. “We had two rooms set up at the Shangri-la Studio in Malibu. In one room we were building beats and in the other room he was doing vocals. Anytime he would have a vocal thing together, he’d bring it in and play it for me and we would talk about it. Anytime I would have a new version of a beat or change in a beat or further developed a beat, I would call him in and he would listen to it and say what he liked and what he didn’t. We just kinda worked together, back and forth.”
In a DJ Whoo Kid’s Shade 45 interview published November 3, Eminem spoke about working with Rubin.
“I’m a huge fan of Rick, and the shit that he does, and how he’s able to dip in and out of different genres of music and master all of them,” Em said. “That’s pretty fucking crazy how he can do it. And obviously, his early work and shit with the Beastie Boys and Run-DMC. There was a little intimidation factor going in. I’m just such a fan and was just anxious and nervous to meet him, let alone work with him. And the fact that he even wanted to reach out and work with me is super humbling to me.”
The Marshall Mathers LP 2 was released this week. Rubin was the co-executive producer of the album along with Dr. Dre. Rubin also produced several selections on the album, including “Berzerk,” “Love Game” and “Rhyme or Reason.”