Rick Ruben on Producing Yeezus

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Rick Ruben on Producing Yeezus

Kanye brought in the legendary Rick Rubin in the creative process of his upcoming Yeezus album and had him add some finishing touches on the project. Rick is now credited as an executive producer on the LP, and sat down with Wall Street Journal to talk about it.

When and why did you join the “Yeezus” project?

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.

How would you describe the new sound he was driving for, and how you did you help him arrive there?

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.

Can you recall a scene from the sessions that might help people understand his method in the studio?

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.

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