WSJ: Can you recall a scene from the sessions that might help people understand his method in the studio?
RR: 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 had to run out to catch the plane, he did exactly that: finished all lyrics and performed them with gusto. A remarkable feat. He had total confidence in his ability to get the job done when push came to shove.
In a new interview with the Wall Street Journal, Rick Rubin shares some details about his involvement in Kanye West'sYeezus. My favorite snippet of the interview is above, as 'Ye knocked out what sounds like an incredible amount of work to meet the album deadline. 40 in the 4th, as he says. Ha! More interesting details are below and the full interview is, once again, here. Just a few more days everyone!
WSJ: When and why did you join the “Yeezus” project?
RR: Kanye came over to play me what I assumed was going to be the finished album at three weeks before the last possible delivery date. We ended up listening to three hours of partially finished pieces. The raw material was very strong but hadn’t yet come into focus. Many of the vocals hadn’t been recorded yet, and many of those still didn’t have lyrics. 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.
WSJ: How would you describe the new sound he was driving for, and how you did you help him arrive there?
RR: He wanted the music to take a stripped-down minimal direction. He was always examining what we could take out instead of put in. A good example would be the song that became “Bound.” When he first played it for me, it was a more middle of the road R&B song, done in an adult contemporary style. Kanye had the idea of combining that track with a cool sample he had found and liked – I removed all of the R&B elements leaving only a single note baseline in the hook which we processed to have a punk edge in the Suicide tradition.
Kanye West at Design Miami/Basel Fair in Switzerland, June 12, 2013
Last night, Kanye West held an impromptu listening session for Yeezus coinciding with Design Miami/Basel Fair in Switzerland. He performed "New Slaves" a capella and introduced his album like only 'Ye would: with a passionate speech about his fight against dumbing down culture. Here it is transcribed.
“Right now it’s a fight against the separation and constant dumbing-down of culture, and I’m standing in the middle of it. So if you know what people say are my lowest moments, those moments where I sat and saw them try to dumb down culture, and I would not allow it to happen on my clock. [Applause]
“So when I used to go to fashion shows with my boys and we’d be eight deep, it was almost like a civil rights, like a sit-in. They wouldn’t even let us in. They had no idea what rap would mean to this world, what rap would mean to the art world. Before the Kendrick Lamars and the A$AP Rockys, it was Kanye West in a hotel room at the Le Maurice getting a ‘No, no, no, no’ to every single fashion show.”
“But I thought it was so important to get close to the artists who worked so hard on making a usable form of art— like this furniture right here, like everything that is in all these rooms that inspire us so much — and I fight in my position of being a very commercial celebrity boyfriend, I fight to push culture forward every chance I get. And I only frown because paparazzi ask me dumbass shit all the time, and I think about changing the world, and I think about what I can do to make things better. And, without further ado, I want to play you guys my new album. It’s called Yeezus.”
- Kanye West
First, I love that transition. Ha! Ok, here's my album. It's called Yeezus. But nevertheless, I'm with the Swiss crowd in [Applause] as well. I admire Kanye's voice, creativity, and fearlessness as a leader and I really can't wait to hear Yeezus and see the ensuing impact it has on culture. I'll leave it at that for now and include one more interesting snippet from Kanye last night. He calls YouTube "ugly" and talks more about his art background. Man, that woulda been cool to be an art student in class with Kanye, right?
[I hate YouTube because] the player is so ugly, and it’s presented in such a terrible manner. I want everything I do to be presented in an art context, as this is a form of sonic art. I was an artist originally, I have been in art school since I was 5 years old. I got scholarships to three art schools, Art Institute of Chicago, Saint Xavier, and the American Academy of Art, where I ended up going—and I dropped out because I had an assignment where I was supposed to do an ink painting or something, and I would take two weeks to do it, and when I looked at my work, I just felt that I would never be one of the great visual artists of the world. I just felt like I would end up like—and this is no knock to anybody that does this—but I felt like I would end up working at an ad agency or something like that. I wanted to make something of impact. I found that when I would drop samples, my friends would react to it more. I felt that I had a real talent in chopping and appropriating music.”
Kanye West's first interview in... years?! In an absolutely fascinating interview with Jon Caramanica of the New York Times, Kanye talks about a variety of topics from his career and personal life, ranging from all his albums, upcoming fatherhood, and of course, the upcoming album, Yeezus. I loved how revealing the interview was about 'Ye, on such an array of different things. Well, it's not as if we don't know who Kanye is, but it is refreshing to hear him speak so candidly on things in the past and deeper subjects like his trendsetting to end the interview. Plus, how 'bout the story of his basketball career to kick it off? 'Ye can hoop! Alas, here are some snippets into the mind of Kanye West.
On compromising artistry in regards to 'My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy':
It’s always going to be 80 percent, at least, what I want to give, and 20 percent fulfilling a perception. If you walk into an old man’s house, they’re not giving nothing. They’re at 100 percent exactly what they want to do. I would hear stories about Steve Jobs and feel like he was at 100 percent exactly what he wanted to do, but I’m sure even a Steve Jobs has compromised. Even a Rick Owens has compromised. You know, even a Kanye West has compromised. Sometimes you don’t even know when you’re being compromised till after the fact, and that’s what you regret.
I don’t want to come off dissing “Dark Fantasy.” It’s me never being satisfied and then me coming and admitting and saying the truth. As much as I can air things out for other people, to air things out for myself, to say, “I feel like this could’ve been stronger.”
On the influences from Dead Prez, Mos Def, and Talib Kweli:
And because I could make the soul sound in my sleep, it finally gave me a platform to put the message that my parents put inside of me and that Dead Prez helped to get out of me and Mos Def and [Talib] Kweli, they helped to get out of me: I was able to put it, sloppily rap it, on top of the platform that Jay-Z had created for me.
Before, when I wanted to rap, my raps sounded like a bit like Cam’ron; they sounded a bit like Mase; they sounded a bit like Jay-Z or whoever. And it wasn’t until I hung out with Dead Prez and understood how to make, you know, raps with a message sound cool that I was able to just write “All Falls Down” in 15 minutes.
On Kim Kardashian and fatherhood:
Any woman that you’re in love with or that loves you is going to command a certain amount of, you know, energy. It’s actually easier to focus, in some ways.
...That is a really interesting, powerful question. One of the things was just to be protective, that I would do anything to protect my child or my child’s mother. As simple as that. I don’t want to explain too much into what my thoughts on, you know, fatherhood are, because I’ve not fully developed those thoughts yet. I don’t have a kid yet.
Well, I just don’t want to talk to America about my family. Like, this is my baby. This isn’t America’s baby.
The deep Chicago influence of 'Yeezus':
Yeah, it’s like trap and drill and house. I knew that I wanted to have a deep Chicago influence on this album, and I would listen to like, old Chicago house. I think that even “Black Skinhead” could border on house, “On Sight” sounds like acid house, and then “I Am a God” obviously sounds, like, super house.
On being an innovative trendsetter:
Yeah, respect my trendsetting abilities. Once that happens, everyone wins. The world wins; fresh kids win; creatives win; the company wins.
I think what Kanye West is going to mean is something similar to what Steve Jobs means. I am undoubtedly, you know, Steve of Internet, downtown, fashion, culture. Period. By a long jump. I honestly feel that because Steve has passed, you know, it’s like when Biggie passed and Jay-Z was allowed to become Jay-Z.
I’ve been connected to the most culturally important albums of the past four years, the most influential artists of the past ten years. You have like, Steve Jobs, Walt Disney, Henry Ford, Howard Hughes, Nicolas Ghesquière, Anna Wintour, David Stern.
I think that’s a responsibility that I have, to push possibilities, to show people: “This is the level that things could be at.” So when you get something that has the name Kanye West on it, it’s supposed to be pushing the furthest possibilities. I will be the leader of a company that ends up being worth billions of dollars, because I got the answers. I understand culture. I am the nucleus.
4. New Slaves feat. Frank Ocean (samples “Gyöngyhajú lány” by Omega)
5. Can’t Hold My Liquor feat. Chief Keef & Justin Vernon
6. I’m In It feat. Justin Vernon
7. Blood On The Leaves (samples “Strange Fruit” by Billie Holiday) (Prod. Hudson Mohawke)
8. Guilt Trip feat. Travis Scott
9. Send It Up feat. King L
10. Bound feat. Charlie Wilson (samples “Bound” contains samples of “Bound” by Ponderosa Twins Plus One and “Sweet Nothin’s” by Brenda Lee)
Note: the features and production are unconfirmed, BUT this is a look at the tracklist compiling information from last night's Yeezus album listening party and all of the performances and previews up until this point. We'll update this as soon as there's a final word on the 10 tracks, but for now, this is what it's shaping up as.
Kanye West talks 'Yeezus', the album's promo, and thank you's
Last night, Kanye West held a listening party for Yeezus in NYC and above is a video of him talking about the idea behind putting it out and some thank yous and shoutouts to all those that helped put the album together. Here are some more tidbits from the night:
- Explaining the album's title: "West was my slave name and 'Yeezus' was my God name."
- In attendance: Jay-Z, Beyonce, Q-Tip, Timbaland, Busta Rhymes, DJ Khaled
- The album was played twice and more features include Chicago's King Louie and Bon Iver's Justin Vernon
- He named a couple of tracks that Daft Punk worked on with him: "Onsite" (the album's first track) & "I Am A God"
Also last night: John Legend & Chrissy Teigen on Oprah's Next Chapter, as the power couple sat down with the living legend for a sit-down on a number of topics. First above: John Legend revealing the unseen side of close collaborator and friend, Kanye West. JL continues to hold it down as he shouted out J. Ivy for giving him the name John Legend with Oprah, as J. Ivy posted this morning. There are many more clips on Oprah's site here, which include the story of how his 2011 proposal almost got ruined by airport security, the rumors of the couple cheating on each other, and how John knew Chrissy was the one. Fans of the couple will certainly enjoy.
"This is the beginning of... forever..!!" - John Legend
Kanye West x American Psycho themed music video. That does sound interesting, to say the least. I'm sure soon enough we'll see the final product, as InTouch reports and indicates:
The theme of the video is none other than the family friendly motif of American Psycho.
“Kanye spent the weekend shooting an American Psycho-inspired video in Brooklyn with Scott Disick and Jonathan Cheban,” an insider tells In Touch. “Jonathan actually gets killed in the end.” The video, which was shot at Brooklyn Fireproof soundstages, is supposed to be released later this week in anticipation of his new album.
“Kanye wants the video to go viral and drum up more publicity for his album,” the insider reveals.
“Kanye is definitely on edge and nervous about how this album will sell. He won’t promote it the normal way, and he wants to create buzz with all these weird, secret demonstrations.”