Published Feb 03, 2015Super producer Rick Rubin recently created an account on lyric annotation site Genius, and has been dropping anecdotes and sharing his thoughts on some of his favourite work.
He's shared stories about the making of tracks by artists like Kanye West, Jay Z, Beastie Boys, Johnny Cash, Slayer and the Dixie Chicks, as well as leaving annotations on work that he wasn't behind the boards for from artists like D'Angelo, Beck and Vampire Weekend.
Rubin reveals that while he was vacationing in St. Barth's, he got a call from West saying he wanted to drop his Paul McCartney-featuring "Only One" single the following evening. Rubin explains the ensuing scramble:
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. It used to really give me anxiety, but now I just know that's what it is. That's how he likes to work.
As for Jay Z's iconic hit "99 Problems," Rubin admits that he wanted to remove the rapper's personal nod to the producer. As we all know, though, "You crazy for this one, Rick" remains a memorable part of the final version. Rubin annotated the line:
When we were finished, when we were putting it together, I was taking that ad-lib out, and he was like "No, no. That stays in." I was like, "Really?" I come from an era of hip hop where we didn't do shoutouts. A pre-shoutout era.
Rubin continues to open up about his creative process, sharing the story of writing "Girls" with the Beastie Boys:
Adam Horovitz and I wrote "Girls" on a train. 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.
You can see these gems, plus declarations of praise for more recent favourites like Vampire Weekend's Modern Vampires of the City and Beck's Morning Phase by checking out Rubin's full collection of annotations over here.