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Rick Rubin: Kanye West Lets His Art Lead

'Yeezus' producer opens up about West's new album

Rick Rubin, Kanye West.
Alberto E. Rodriguez/Getty Images; Antonio de Moraes Barros Filho/WireImage
June 14, 2013 1:45 PM ET

After weeks of video installations projected on buildings, late-night television performances and rampant speculation, Kanye West's much-anticipated new album, Yeezus, will be released on Tuesday, thanks in large part to producer Rick Rubin. In an interview with The Wall Street Journal, Rubin talked about West's creative process and revealed a few of the methods behind the madness that is putting out an album.

The rapper recruited Rubin, who has worked with the likes of the Beastie Boys, Red Hot Chili Peppers and Johnny Cash, just a few weeks before the album was due to help finish several songs and give the album a sense of cohesion before the album was due.

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"It was good for me to go to the god, Rick Rubin, and play him my shit, ask him questions and allow him to take this project to an entirely new level," West said earlier this week at a listening party in New York.

After hearing the partially finished album, Rubin agreed to contribute to the project. "From what he played me, it sounded like several months more work had to be done," Rubin said. "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."

Instead of taking months, they finished it in mere weeks, despite the rapper's complicated schedule. Rubin recalls West promising to complete lyrics and record vocals on five songs, amid a baby shower for pregnant girlfriend Kim Kardashian and a looming flight to Italy. 

"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," Rubin said. "A remarkable feat. He had total confidence in his ability to get the job done when push came to shove."

Rubin also applauded West's decision to eschew the usual promotional strategies for releasing an album. "Kanye chooses to let his art lead," Rubin said. "He didn’t want a premeditated commercial [single] for his album as he looks at it as a body of work. I like it anytime an artist follows his own vision of a project and doesn’t use the cookie cutter template expected of most artists." 

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