When Kanye West asked Rick Rubin to help get Yeezus ready for release, the veteran producer didn’t think it was feasible to meet West’s looming deadline. “To me it seemed impossible what he was asking,” Rubin told The Daily Beast. “I remember I wasn’t feeling that well that day, and I was thinking, ‘Is the music making me sick? I don’t feel good about this.'”
After West played him a rough cut of the album that Rubin thought was due out next year, the producer spent two hectic weeks helping West shape the album to meet a deadline that was a mere five weeks away. “We ended up working probably 15 days, 16 days, long hours, no days off, 15 hours a day. I was panicked the whole time,” Rubin said.
The rough cut ran nearly three and a half hours, Rubin said, and West had initially intended Yeezus to have 16 songs. Rubin suggested trimming. “That first day, before he even asked me to work on it, I said, ‘Maybe you should make it more concise. Maybe this is two albums. Maybe this is just the first half,'” Rubin said. “That was one of the first breakthroughs. Kanye was like, ‘That’s what I came here today to hear! It could be 10 songs!'”
Is there a second half to Yeezus on the way? “Might be,” Rubin said.
In the studio, the two began deconstructing the tracks to get the “edgy and minimal and hard” sound West was looking for: When Rubin asked if he could toy with a track, West would say, “Yes, but instead of adding stuff, try taking stuff away.”
“We talked a lot about minimalism,” Rubin continued. “My house is basically an empty white box. When he walked in, he was like, ‘My house is an empty white box, too!'”