Genius Insights from ‘That Guy Who Looks Like Santa” Behind Kanye and Jay-Z’s Music


Rick Rubin is the music world’s Wizard of Oz.

Some of my friends have been asking me recently, “Who’s that Santa looking  guy who keeps showing up lately in pictures and videos with Kanye West & Jay-Z.” This man is Rick Rubin, and he is a music producer savant who has had his hand in timeless albums from artists including and not limited to The Beastie Boys, Black Sabbath, Johnny Cash,  and of course the royal likeness of Jay-Z and Kanye West.  Oh yea, he also founded Def Jam Records out of his dorm at NYU in the early 80’s.

He’s also the guy Kanye West rushes to with a pile of music (16 songs to be exact), who then takes West’s chaos and whiddles it down and minimilizes it to be the critically acclaimed, 10 song album, Yeezus. Rubin pulled this off all in 5 weeks, at the iconic Shangri La studio/home that he bought in Malibu. Here are my favorite zen-master like quotes from the Daily Beast’s recent interview with Mr. Rubin:

…On taking your time to create a finished product:

“From the beginning, all I’ve ever cared about is things being great. I never cared about when they were done. Because I also feel like I want the music to last forever. And once you release it, you can’t go back and fix it, so you really have to get it right. And that takes time.”

On his planned ignorance in the creative process…

“The things that can’t be a factor are time, chart position, radio success, sales—none of those things can get in the way of something being great. All they do is cloud the picture.”

How he changed Johnny Cash’s Life:

“On our first album, there was a song he wrote, I can’t remember which one it was, but I listened to it and said, “Do you think you could take some of the ‘I’s and ‘me’s out of it?” And he thought about it and he was like, “Yeah, I think I can do that.” And he did. So 10 years later, I’m visiting him in Nashville. He’s in a wheelchair. He’s blind, pretty much. It felt so awkward. So I said, “What have you been working on lately?” And he said, “I’ve been working on using ‘I’ and ‘me’ less.” And I said, “Really?” And he said, “Yeah. Remember? You gave me that comment on the song? That’s what I’ve been working on.” Incredible. He didn’t mean it in the context of songs. He meant it in the context of life.”

On knowing and not knowing…

“I never decide if an idea is good or bad until I try it. So much of what gets in the way of things being good is thinking that we know. And the more that we can remove any baggage we’re carrying with us, and just be in the moment, use our ears, and pay attention to what’s happening, and just listen to the inner voice that directs us, the better. But it’s not the voice in your head. It’s a different voice. It’s not intellect. It’s not a brain function. It’s a body function, like running from a tiger.”

Read the Daily Beast’s article here, and take some time to listen back on Rubin’s masterpiece albums with your newfound perspective.


Just a select few songs with Rubin’s magic touch. 

NOW, check out how amazing September 2013’s month of music was: Every. Single. Great. Album. That. Came. Out. In. September. (And our October Playlist…) 

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