Rick Rubin on working with Jay Z: “I kept trying things that I thought would sound like a Jay record, and after like three or four days he said, ‘I want to do something more like one of your old records, Beastie Boys-style.’”
Rick Rubin offers insight into Kanye West’s latest track “Only One” amidst seas of annotations he added to the Genius.com network of sites Monday (February 2).
“I was in St. Barths two days before the single came out,’” Rick Rubin writes in his annotation. “Kanye said, ‘I’m thinking about putting out ‘Only One’ tomorrow at midnight. I said, ‘Should we mix it?’ He was like, ‘It hasn’t really changed — it’s pretty much what it was.’ I hadn’t heard it in almost two months, so I asked him to send it to me, and he did. And I said, ‘Think this can sound better than it does.’ We never really finished it. So we called all the engineers — and I’m trying to get all this to happen all remotely — and we got maybe three different engineers. This is the day before New Year’s Eve, and we’re all finding studio time, getting the files. Then they all start sending me mixes. I thought one was better than the others, and Kanye agreed. One guy mastered it, because it was due, and they turned it in. I had another guy master it, and it was better, but it was already too late. I think it switched the following morning. It was in real time! Like as soon as it was better, we had to switch it.
“That’s how it works in Kanye world,” Rubin continues. “It used to really give me anxiety, but now I just know that’s what it is. That’s how he likes to work.”
Kanye West’s Paul McCartney-assisted track, “Only One,” dropped on the last day of 2014.
Rubin says the Grammy-nominated Yeezus track “Bound 2” could have sounded very different.
“Something we talked about with Kanye was doing an alternate version of Yeezus, because there are so many versions of songs, great versions,” Rick Rubin annotates. “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 shit exists.”
Rick Rubin Discusses Writing “Girls” With The Beastie Boys
Rick Rubin co-founded Def Jam Recordings in the 1980s while living in an NYU dorm room. When he worked with the Beastie Boys, he says they did not shy away from acting goofy and childish.
“Adam Horovitz and I wrote ‘Girls’ on a train,” Rubin says. “We trained down to DC to record with the Junkyard Band, this band of kids who played D.C. go-go on garbage cans. We put out a Junkyard Band single on Def Jam. On the train back, we wrote ‘Girls’. It was rooted in an Isley Brothers song, ‘Shout.’ It was written with that music in mind and then we sort of did our version of what that would have been. We just wrote really stupid, offensive words.”
Rubin has worked with artist from across the spectrum, and he annotated his work with artist such as Johnny Cash, Slayer and Jay Z. Hov tapped into classic Rubin to achieve “99 Problems.”
“Jay came into my studio every day for like a week,” Rick Rubin annotates. “I kept trying things that I thought would sound like a Jay record, and after like three or four days he said, ‘I want to do something more like one of your old records, Beastie Boys-style.’ Originally that’s not what I was thinking for him, but he requested that vibe, and we just started working on some tracks.”
The 51-year-old Rubin has won seven Grammy awards, most recently 2012’s album of year for his work on British songstress Adele’s 21.
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