Rick Rubin: “Kanye Told Me ‘Yeezus’ Was The First Album Where He Was Happy With The Way It Came Out”

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Who better than Rick Rubin to help Genius live up to its name? Over the last two days, the Zen Master has been sprinkling his knowledge all over the lyrics site, annotating classic records he produced for the likes of Jay Z, Beastie Boys, LL Cool J, Slayer and Johnny Cash. He’s even been sharing his opinion on other songs — some personal favorites (Ghostface Killah “Intro”) and some not so much (Snoop Dogg “Nuthin But a G Thang”).

Rubin especially delves into Kanye West’s recent catalog, providing insight into the making of his new single “Only One” and sharing some particularly interesting tidbits about Yeezus. Like how it’s the first album Kanye was totally happy with. And how an alternate version exists.

Read more below…

Kanye West Featuring Kid Cudi “Guilt Trip”:

Kanye told me Yeezus was the first album where he was happy with the way it came out.

Kanye West Featuring Charlie Wilson “Bound 2″:

Something we talked about with Kanye was doing an alternate version of Yeezus, because there are so many versions of songs, great versions. There are versions just as good as what’s on the album, just different. I know as a fan of the album, I’d like to hear that. Maybe some day, whenever he wants. But it exists! That sh*t exists.

Kanye West Featuring Paul McCartney “Only One”:

Kanye is a combination of careful and spontaneous. He’ll find a theme he likes quickly, and then live with that for a while, not necessarily filling in all the words until later. At the end, he’ll fill in all the gaps.

He was upset at one point when I said that he wrote the lyrics quickly. He’s right — they percolate for a long time, he gets the phrasing into his brain, lives with it, and then lines come up. It definitely starts from this very spontaneous thing.

On Only One, a lot of those lyrics came out free-form, ad-libs. The song is essentially live, written in the moment. Some of the words were later improved, but most of it was stream of consciousness, just Kanye being in the moment.

Jay Z “99 Problems”:

Jay wrote the first verse in about twenty minutes, sitting in the back of the control room. He would just be kind of humming, and we’d keep looping the track, and maybe after thirty minutes he jumped up and was like “We got it!” And he did it ten times, and every time he did it, it was different. Most of the words were the same, but the phrasing was different. He’d written and memorized the words and then was playing with different ways of doing it. It was incredible.

Kanye West Featuring Justin Vernon & Assassin “I’m In It”:

I remember a few days after Yeezus came out, Kanye sent me a message, so excited, like, “I just realized there’s no snare drum on Yeezus until the sixth song! How cool is that?”

Kanye West “I Am a ? ”:

When he played Yeezus for me, it was like, three hours of stuff. We just went through it and figured out what was essential and what wasn’t. It was like deciding a point of view, and it was really his decision to make it minimal.

He kept saying it about tracks that he thought weren’t good enough and needed work. If he was going to leave me to work on stuff, he’d say, “Anything you can do to take stuff out instead of put stuff in, let’s do that.”

D’Angelo “Playa Playa”:

I don’t think there’s an album I’ve liked more than I’ve liked Voodoo in the fifteen years since it came out. I just think it’s spectacular.

James Blake “Retrograde”:

There are so many records now where it’s about really, really heavy sub-bass, maybe a hi-hat, and just a voice.

I think a lot of it is the James Blake influence. I feel like he’s really influenced everybody a lot. I know in the artist community everybody loves Blake. James Blake is spectacular, I love him all the time. Live, he’s even better than on record.

Ghostface Killah “Intro”:

I just listened to Supreme Clientele the other day, and it’s kind of untouchable.