Kanye West in 2013 (Shareif Ziyadat/FilmMagic/Getty Images); Rick Rubin in 2012 (Jon Kopaloff/FilmMagic/Getty Images)

If you're one of the many listening to Kanye West's newest album, Yeezus, right now, you should probably learn about producer Rick Rubin. Embedded in hip-hop's story since the early days of Def Jam, Rubin has produced records for everyone from LL Cool J to Johnny Cash, but it was his minimalist creativity that pushed West to request his talents for Yeezus, officially out on June 18.

The Wall Street Journal asked Rubin to explain West's new sound, but he really described hip-hop's latest direction.

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.

Where does "Yeezus" put him in relation to hip-hop and the broader music culture?

He is a true artist who happens to make music under the wide umbrella of hip hop. He is in no way beholden to hip hop's typical messaging musical cliches. Hip hop is a grander, more personal form because of his contributions, and hopefully his work will inspire others to push the boundaries of what's possible in hip hop.


Read more at the Wall Street Journal.

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