After changing music, oh, about five or six times, by working with The Beastie Boys, JJ Cool J, and Johnny Cash, Rick Rubin hit Genius to share the wisdom he’s gathered in his 30-plus years of producing. He annotated some of the classic songs he’s produced on—from Jay Z to Kanye West—as well as work he’s simply a fan of. You can tell he’s still a big music fan, drawing on memories of his start, and what he’s listening to now.
You can check out all of his annotations here, and here are a few to obsess over.
On Kanye West’s “Only One” feat. Paul McCartney:
I was in St. Barths two days before the single came out. Kanye said, “I’m thinking about putting out ‘Only One’ tomorrow at midnight.” I said, “Should we mix it?” He was like, “It hasn’t really changed — it’s pretty much what it was.” I hadn’t heard it in almost two months, so I asked him to send it to me, and he did. And I said, “I think this can sound better than it does.” We never really finished it finished it.
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.
…Kanye is a combination of careful and spontaneous. He’ll find a theme he likes quickly, and then live with that for a while, not necessarily filling in all the words until later. At the end, he’ll fill in all the gaps.
He was upset at one point when I said that he wrote the lyrics quickly. He’s right — they percolate for a long time, he gets the phrasing into his brain, lives with it, and then lines come up. It definitely starts from this very spontaneous thing.
On “Only One,” a lot of those lyrics came out free-form, ad-libs. The song is essentially live, written in the moment. Some of the words were later improved, but most of it was stream of consciousness, just Kanye being in the moment.
On Jay Z’s “99 Problems”:
Jay came into my studio every day for like a week, I kept trying things that I thought would sound like a Jay record, and after like three or four days he said, “I want to do something more like one of your old records, Beastie Boys-style.” Originally that’s not what I was thinking for him, but he requested that vibe, and we just started working on some tracks.
Musically, there were a couple of different ideas that [engineer] Jason [Lader] and I were working on independently that we played back together, and the way the beats overlapped was really interesting. It wasn’t planned out, it was more experimenting.
There was a part where it really sounded crazy and the beats were fighting each other. Jason was operating the Pro-Tools, and I’m saying “Move to the left, move to the right, try this beat, add this, do this,” and then he makes it do it. There’s nothing live on the track.
It’s a combination of three samples — “The Big Beat” by Billy Squier, “Long Red” by Mountain, and “Get Me Back On Time” by Wilson Pickett — and two programmed beats coming in and out.
On James Blake’s “Retrograde”:
There are so many records now where it’s about really, really heavy sub-bass, maybe a hi-hat, and just a voice.
I think a lot of it is the James Blake influence. I feel like he’s really influenced everybody a lot. I know in the artist community everybody loves Blake. James Blake is spectacular, I love him all the time. Live, he’s even better than on record.
On LL Cool J’s “Rock the Bells”:
It was never about proving anything, it was just that this is what I like and this is true to who they are. The only reason those first records were so aggressive, it had little to do with me. That was the good music at that moment. It wasn’t because it was that, it was the music. If the best music in that moment was folk music, that’s probably what I would have done first. I mean, I like all kinds of music, I always have, I’ve always listened to all kinds of music.
On Dr. Dre’s “Nuthin’ But a G Thang”:
I never really listened to The Chronic. I guess I never liked smooth? Same with Puff, who really brought R&B into it. I preferred hip-hop when it was nothing like R&B. I love breakbeats and B-boy style drum machines. I never liked the slick stuff.
On Kanye West’s “Bound 2″:
Something we talked about with Kanye was doing an alternate version of Yeezus,because there are so many versions of songs, great versions. There are versions just as good as what’s on the album, just different. I know as a fan of the album, I’d like to hear that. Maybe some day, whenever he wants. But it exists! That shit exists.
… “Bound 2″ was a track that initially wasn’t a sample-based track. It was a band track with singing, no idea who. I got involved late in the game.
He came in one day and said he got inspired driving up the Pacific Coast Highway, on the way to my studio. He thought it would be a good thing to try the sample he found, so we tried that and the whole song changed. The chorus was still the old way, where it was sort of a band version. I took everything out of that and reduced it to one sort of ugly sounding synth. I would say the old version was more like MOR, R&B. That’s just an example of one song on Yeezus that changed a lot. Some of them changed a little, some of them changed a lot.
On Kanye West’s “Blood on the Leaves”:
I think he worked mostly out of an apartment in Paris, but I don’t really know the details, I never went there. I do know that it was a large space, because you could hear the reverb of the space in a lot of the tracks even when you didn’t want it. I think he liked the vibe there more than thinking it was a good place to make a good-sounding recording.
On Kanye West’s “I Am a God”:
When he played Yeezus for me, it was like, three hours of stuff. We just went through it and figured out what was essential and what wasn’t. It was like deciding a point of view, and it was really his decision to make it minimal.
He kept saying it about tracks that he thought weren’t good enough and needed work. If he was going to leave me to work on stuff, he’d say, “Anything you can do to take stuff out instead of put stuff in, let’s do that.”
On Kanye West’s “Black Skinhead”:
Kanye played at some festival after the release of Yeezus, and his whole rant was something to the effect of “I turn on the radio and nothing speaks to me, and I don’t want to have anything to do with it, and I don’t want my music on the radio because I don’t like what the radio is.” So in that mindset, it makes sense that he makes a record that isn’t for that. It’s not about that. It’s so anti. It’s almost anti-hip-hop. It’s crazy.
On the Beastie Boys’ “Girls”:
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.
From Music Business Worldwide:
When Beyonce’s husband Jay Z took the wraps off his relaunched Tidal last Monday (March 30), he not only promised HD audio and visual content to subscribers, but teased exclusives from some of the world’s biggest artists.
That came to pass within days, with ‘exclusive’ content on Tidal including concert footage from Alicia Keys plus playlists from the likes of Jason Aldean and Coldplay.
Beyonce’s Die With You, however, is the first track to premiere on the $19.99/$9.99-per-month Tidal platform. It is currently unavailable – legally – elsewhere, including Spotify and iTunes.
But there’s a problem. The nature of an ‘exclusive’ surely demands that fans don’t rip the title and upload it onto YouTube – and that’s exactly what they’ve done numerous times with Die With You.
In fact, it was on the video site within minutes of arriving on Tidal. Sony Music Entertainment appears to have been submitting copyright claims left, right and centre on YouTube.
Tuesday’s relaunch of Jay Z’s TIDAL music service was a little short on details – which was planned, don`t worry, these superstars tend not to give up everything at once – Here is the declaration that Kanye West, Madonna, Nicki Minaj. Beyonce, Jack White, Alicia Keys, Rihanna, Chris Martin of Coldplay, Usher, Daft Punk, deadmau5, J Cole, Jason Aldean, Calvin Harris and Jay Z signed on stage during the event.
Throughout history, every movement began with a few individuals banding together with a shared vision – a vision to change the status quo.
That vision came to life with a first step. Our first step begins today through the platform TIDAL.
TIDAL is an artist majority owned company with a mission to reestablish the value of music and protect the sustainability of the music industry rooted in creativity and expression.
As part of our vision to introduce change to the current system, we will continue expanding this platform into an all-encompassing destination in the coming months. We are working diligently everyday to enhance the overall service.
Today, the site incorporates high quality sound, video and exclusive editorial, but there are more features on the way. In time, TIDAL will not just be a streaming service but an immersive platform with enhanced experiences.
With TIDAL we are making a commitment to build a platform that reflects ideas contributed directly from artists, providing an enriched experience. Music presented and heard the way the artists intended.
We want our mission with TIDAL to spark conversation and lay a foundation for tomorrow’sburgeoning stars.
Our movement is being led by a few who are inviting all to band together for a common cause, a movement to change the status quo.
Today marks the next step.
As If You’re Reading This It’s Too Late blasts onto the Billboard 200 at No. 1, five songs from the set enter the Hot 100, led by this track at No. 49. He now has 80 Hot 100 entries, the sixth-best total in the chart’s history. And, with Lil Wayne guesting on Drake’s “Used To,” a debut at No. 91, Weezy ups his count to 125 career visits.
Here’s an updated look at the acts to make the most appearances dating to the Hot 100’s 1958 launch:
207, Glee cast
125, Lil Wayne
108, Elvis Presley (whose career predated the Hot 100 by more than two years)
91, James Brown
83, Jay Z
The chart lets you sort the numbers across five analytics: No. 1 albums, hit rate, consecutive No. 1s, albums released, and career span. Even though this information is available already online, it’s fun to compare the careers of Pearl Jam and Barbara Streisand, because, well, music.
Click image to open interactive version (via Concert Hotels).
300 MILLION RECORDS WORLDWIDE
WHO: BEYONCÉ AND JAY Z
WHAT: “ON THE RUN TOUR: BEYONCÉ AND JAY Z” in partnership with #BeyGood benefitting the Shawn Carter Foundation
WHEN: June 25 – August 5, 2014
WITH: Exclusively with Chase
HOW: Members of Beyoncé’s Fan Club will have access to pre-sale tickets beginning Tuesday, April 29 at 8am local time. For details visit, www.beyonce.com/tour.
Exclusively, Chase credit and debit customers will receive advance access to purchase tickets from Tuesday, April 29 at 10am through 10pm local time. A non-exclusive presale window will continue through Thursday, May 1 at 10pm local time. Chase credit and debit customers will also have exclusive access to purchase a Chase Lounge VIP ticket package which includes a private pre-show lounge with food, drinks, music and more.
Tickets for “ON THE RUN TOUR: BEYONCÉ AND JAY Z” go on sale to the general public starting Friday, May 2 through the Live Nation Mobile APP at www.livenation.com.
Beginning today, Monday, April 28, fans can visit https://www.facebook.com/Beyonce and ttps://www.facebook.com/JayZ
for more information about getting early access to tickets on Wednesday, April 30 at 10:00am local time.
WHERE: See below dates.
ON THE RUN TOUR ITINERARY:
Wednesday, June 25 Miami, FL Sun Life Stadium
Saturday, June 28 Cincinnati, OH Great American Ballpark
Tuesday, July 1 Foxborough, MA Gillette Stadium
Saturday, July 5 Philadelphia, PA Citizen’s Bank Park
Monday, July 7 Baltimore, MD M & T Bank Stadium
Wednesday, July 9 Toronto, ON Rogers Centre
Friday, July 11 East Rutherford, NJ MetLife Stadium
Tuesday, July 15 Atlanta, GA Georgia Dome
Friday, July 18 Houston, TX Minute Maid Park
Sunday, July 20 New Orleans, LA Mercedes-Benz Superdome
Tuesday, July 22 Dallas, TX AT&T Stadium
Thursday, July 24 Chicago, IL Soldier Field
Sunday, July 27 Winnipeg, MB Investor Group Field
Wednesday, July 30 Seattle, WA Safeco Field
Saturday, August 2 Los Angeles, CA Rose Bowl
Tuesday, August 5 San Francisco, CA AT&T Parl
“On The Run: Beyoncé and JAY Z,” in partnership with #BeyGOOD, will donate $1 from every ticket purchased to the Shawn Carter Foundation to support students. Additionally, a portion of the proceeds from each Chase Lounge VIP Ticket Package will also be donated to The Shawn Carter Foundation.
The mission of the Shawn Carter Foundation is to help individuals facing socio-economic hardships further their education at institutions of higher learning. Students served by the Shawn Carter Foundation represent diverse backgrounds, and face significant barriers to success such as teen pregnancy, homelessness, poverty, former incarceration, sexual and domestic abuse, and gang membership. The Foundation supports these students on the run to greatness through its scholarship fund, annual college tours, study abroad experiences, counseling initiatives, and holiday toy and meal drives. For more information visit www.shawncartersf.com.
Launched in 2013, #BeyGOOD inspires people everywhere to be kind, be charitable and get involved in their local communities. To date, over 2 million fans have joined in to raise awareness and resources for causes important to them. For more information about the charities we support visit, www.Beyonce.com/BeyGood and follow them on Twitter @BeyGood
From Beck previewing his Morning Phase album for in-flight air travelers to hear via Gogo Inflight Internet before its formal release date to Bruce Springsteen streaming his recent Higher Hopes album more than a week before its release as a promotion for the TV show The Good Wife, there’s more to release dates than a specific date. We take a closer peek at various types of release strategies (release dates, formats, exclusives and previews) and how they relate to post-release success.
Although New Music Tuesday has been famous for decades, the tradition is shifting, with the most obvious example being a recent one: Beyonce’s self-titled visual album released last year. Released at midnight on Friday, Dec. 13, 2013 as an iTunes exclusive digital release, the surprise album sold an impressive 617,000 units in its first three days without any radio airplay or pre-release promotion. It was available only as a digital release until Tuesday, Dec. 18, which is when brick-and-mortar stores began selling the album. Beyonce’s album continues to perform very well digitally, with almost 50 percent of the album’s sales in 2014 being digital.
ANTICIPATING THE ALBUM
Sometimes artists choose to sell an EP or make their music available for streaming before a formal album release. For example, New Zealander Lorde released The Love Club EP and Tennis Court EP in March and June 2013, respectively, before offering fans her Pure Heroine album in September 2013. Pure Heroine has sold 1 million albums to date.
Streaming previews are another way for artists to build anticipation for upcoming albums. Last year, after a seven-year hiatus, Justin Timberlake made part 1 of The 20/20 Experience available for streaming in its entirety via the iTunes store for free before the official release. Upon release, the first part sold 968,000 albums in its first week and remained in the top spot for three consecutive weeks. Furthermore, it was the top selling digital album of 2013. Songs from both parts of the album have totaled 234 million streams to date*. Daft Punk used a similar strategy for its Random Access Memories album, which the French duo released for streaming a week before it was available for purchase, and the majority of album sales to date have been digital albums. Furthermore, songs from the album have been streamed over 232 million times to date*.
Digital providers aren’t the only ones playing exclusives. Online music blogs like Stereogum and Okayplayer are amplifying their sites with streaming music—including exclusive previews. For example, Schoolboy Q’s recently released Oxymoron album was made available for streaming on YouTube three days before it was available for sale. He also performed the entire release for NPR Music’s debut First Listen Live concert series. The album debuted at the top spot with 139,000 albums sold and now has accumulated over 29 million streams*—evidence that retail exclusives and previews remain successful promotional strategies.
THE POWER OF THE PREVIEW
Contrary to what one might believe, giving away music for free can also build excitement and generate music sales. The mixtape, which has been prominent in hip-hop culture for decades, is a classic example—one that’s been updated over time to stay in step with advancing technology. For example, last year, Baauer made his “Harlem Shake” available for free on iTunes before making it available for purchase. Later, when it was priced for sale, the popularity had picked up enough to support it, and the title was the top streamed song of 2013 with 490 million streams. To date, it has sold 1.9 million digital songs.
Another famous example is Jay-Z’s partnership with Samsung in 2013 to debut the artist’s Magna Carta Holy Grail app, which gave one million Samsung device owners exclusive, full and free access to the album days before it was released. Despite the giveaway, the album was one of Jay-Z’s best first-week debuts and the seventh best-selling digital album of 2013, with 640,000 digital albums sold. The effort shows us that the excitement built around a free release can lead to greater sales.
As we’ve seen with many examples, creative release strategy is something that has evolved as artists take advantage of technology and the exposure and reach of multiple platforms. The most successful artists and releases maximize ways to reach their fans and we will see the most creative artists and marketers continue to push to new levels.
*Nielsen captures programmed, on-demand, and tethered streams from various providers including AOL, Cricket, MediaNet, rdio, Rhapsody, Slacker, Spotify, YouTube/VEVO, Zune and more.