Rick Rubin has produced some of hip-hop’s most seminal albums. Classics like LL Cool J’s Radio, the Beastie Boys’ Licensed To Ill and Run-D.M.C.’s Raising Hell are landmark recordings. When Kanye West recruited the super producer to put finishing touches on his highly-anticipated sixth album, Yeezus hip-hop fans were excited to hear what they were doing together. Rubin’s previous work was known for both minimalism and rock-oriented flourishes–two factors that are prevalent in Kanye’s recent work. So the collaboration made sense.
The strange thing, however, was that Kanye recruited Rubin only three weeks before the album was due to be released.
In an interview with the Wall Street Journal, Rubin explained how the two came to be collaborators and admitted that the process was harrowing with the deadline fast approaching.
“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,” Rubin said. “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, many of those still didn’t have lyrics. From what he played for 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 helping him finish it.”
“We were working on a Sunday and the album was to be turned in two days later,” Rubin added. “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.”