Rick Rubin

Ads for Magna Carta Holy Grail, the surprise new Jay-Z album that’ll arrive later this week, had Jay in a room with four of the greatest rap producers ever: Timbaland, Swizz Beatz, Pharrell, and Def Jam co-founder/megabearded guru Rick Rubin. Those ads sure made it seem like Jay had a dream lineup of beatmakers in his back pocket. As it turns out, though, that’s not the case. Rubin, who recently executive produced Kanye West’s Yeezus and helped pare the album down into postmodern fight music, actually had nothing to do with the making of Magna Carta Holy Grail, and in fact he was something of a prop in those commercials.

Talking to XXL, Rubin, who first worked with Jay when he produced “99 Problems,” says that he just talked to Jay about the album, nothing more:

The point of me being in the commercials was that he was filming a documentary and he asked me — I imagine he’s just comfortable talking to me — to come listen to the songs with him and just talk about the songs. Just listen to it and talk about it, and that’s what we did. It was fun… I liked what I heard, but it was a little difficult — after just coming from the Kanye sessions — to listen to Jay’s album, because they’re so different. I was in a very alternative and progressive headspace, and Jay’s record is a more traditional hip-hop record.

That’s almost kind of a dis? Regardless, Magna Carta Holy Grail goes out for free to Samsung Galaxy users 7/4, and Jay has already made so much money for it.

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Comments (27)
  1. More fuel for the fire.

    Everybody should pirate this album.

    • I agree! At first, I thought all that stuff about making money, name dropping expensive brands, and being a “business, man” was just metaphorical. Turns out this guy is actually kind of a crass materialist, how weird.

  2. “Jay’s record is a more traditional hip-hop record.”

    Translation: This album stinks

  3. Magna Carta Holy Grail OF DECEPTION!!!!!

  4. Well at least he didn’t just hire some hobo off the street to appear in the video and made people just assume that Rick Rubin was involved.

  5. I like the idea of an old grimy dude with a beard as a sexy prop.

  6. Aaron Cunningham  |   Posted on Jul 1st, 2013 +3

    I’m not sure how describing MCHG as “a more traditional hip-hop record” than Yeezus constitutes a diss. Far from it. If you’re describing Yeezus for someone who has never heard it before, one way to approach it is that it’s music that happens to feature some rapping. It’s decidedly NOT a traditional hip-hop record. Comparatively speaking, MCHG couldn’t help but be “a more traditional hip-hop record.” It’s like pointing out that a Pontiac is “less expensive than a Bugatti.”

    • ^that. Plus, Jay-Z has always made fairly traditional hip-hop records. And who are the other producers involved? Timbaland, Neptunes, Swizzz…. that’s basically the roster Jay-Z’s worked with since before the Blueprint. Bo1da and Mike Will Made It should contribute on-trend but far from groundbreaking tracks, as per usual. Really, of those five, only Timbo can be called an “experimental” producer but (1) he takes a lot more risks when doing R&B than rap (exception: Missy, but see #2) and (2) he takes a lot more risks when working on album-length collaborations with an artist who has their own vision (Aaliyah, Missy, Nelly Furtado, J.T.) .

    • So you’re saying that Rick Rubin is calling Jay-Z’s album a Pontiac? Pretty sure that’s even worse…

  7. you’re crazy for this one, Rick

  8. I’m still extremely confused about this album, i.e. why the hell did jay make it an ad for a smart phone? Sure he made money, but he isn’t exactly a starving artist, he can do whatever he wants, either way the album would still have sold. This just gives me a sour feeling about the album, less artistic integrity, more product-placement.

    • I agree, there’s more marketing for this than any album I’ve seen in recent memory (probably going back to Green Day’s American Idiot) all just to for a fucking “traditional rap album.”

      WTF JAY-Z, even numb/encore was somewhat progressive. This better be good because if we get another Kingdom Come after this bullshit I’m throwing a bitch fit.

      • I’m going to sound very mean (I don’t know any other way to ask it), but were you in a coma during the promotional blitz for The 20/20 Experience? Much more noble than signing a deal for Samsung to buy 1 million copies of your album and the “Rick Reveal” but still annoying and expensive as f***.

        Sure, Jay-Z has bombarded us for about a month but Justin Timberlake (maybe more so their respective management and labels) basically had the months of February and March (as he will get, the months of August and September (more on that later)). Countless websites and magazines had 20/20 Experience ads, JT did a bunch of s*** with Tom Ford (who is also slated to have a Jay-Z song named after him on MCHG), JT was able to perform in conjunction with the Super Bowl, host and perform on SNL, perform at the Grammys and Brit Awards, and he had a week residency on Jimmy Fallon. Then after his record was finally released and the media lost their s***, Questlove leaks news that there is a part two coming out in September. Of course on top of all of this, Jay-Z and JT are in cahoots to play an epic summer tour together. All in all, Jay-Z and JT have sort of kind of been making power moves for about a year now and I’m sure that we’ll be hearing/seeing more of them in the coming months. I want to like JT because he is talented, appears to be a genuinely nice guy, and people that I respect enjoy his art but most of the things that he does reminds me of desperate people; cute but not a good look.

        I’m not really mad but I’m glad that I got that minor rant out of my system, and if you actually happened to be in a coma earlier this year, I apologize. You and a bunch of other people may have been too busy with school, work, and/or more important matters of life to notice the constant barrage…which is the reason for the constant barrage?!?! F***!!!

        • Agreed. I fail to understand why JT and JayZ get the free pass they get from everyone, even the most critical writers. These are 2 people I want to like so bad cause they seem like legit cool people and pretty good at art and VERY good at business.

        • OK. I can respect that comparison, but here is a few reasons why it’s different, and PLEASE correct me if I’m wrong.

          First off, I don’t recall those 20/20 ads featuring a cell phone company, or any company’s name, tacked onto them as well. Every time a music blog posted updates about his new album, I don’t remember them having to type out the name of the cell phone company backing his new album.

          You cite his live performances at award shows, the Super Bowl (wait I thought Beyonce performed?), SNL (his fifth time) and his week on Fallon. Yeah, they were shoving it down our throats, but he PERFORMED and at times, it was kind of ENTERTAINING. Going to all those events is a cash grab sure, but at least we saw Justin WORK for it. Plus, at that point, we’d been hearing songs on the album that made some of us genuinely excited for his new album.

          Jay-Z took a check and let a cell phone company use his image to sell fucking phones. He hasn’t done ANY performances (sans the performance he has planned on a sign in NYC) and hasn’t let us hear ANY of his new songs. We’ve seen him laughing and moaning in a black and white commercial. TRY HARDER JAY.

          See, JT & Jay-Z are clearly on the same level. JT used his name and worked through the traditional music avenues that aren’t really offered to just anybody. Jay-Z used his name to sell cell phones and use commercials, a deal not really offered to just anybody.

          I feel like if Jay would’ve done everything that JT did, I’d have less of a problem with him putting out a new album. But you say it so clearly above: one of these big superstars worked his ass off promoting his new album and the other took a check and let somebody else do it whilst dragging his name in the mud.

          NOW if Jay-Z used the sponsorship to make ticket sales to that JT/Jay-Z concert like $10 a pop, that COULD have been excused. If anything, I feel sorry for JT being associated with this hack. His guest verse on “Suit & Tie” is the worst part on 20/20.

          • You hit the nail on the head.

            Seriously, I don’t care about promo, people will always make promos because they want shit to sell. In that case, they are advertising the album whereas Jay’s album is advertising a phone and vice-versa. Ass-Kicked89 were you in a coma? or are you brain-dead? because those are two very different things. Also all of those promos were not necessarily shoved down the throats of the masses, you didn’t have to watch the concerts, or SNL or any of that, in those cases YOU have to CHOOSE to tune in.

      • I don’t think theres any MORE promo for this album Taylor, it’s just that all the album promo is also for a cell-phone.

        • Touché, RJ, and one hundred points to Gryffindor! I didn’t really go into any of my opinions about Jay-Z (everyone here (including all of you above this comment) already did a good enough job summing up his shrewd practices and someone already made a reference to his lyric, “I’m not a businessman, I’m a business, man.”), because my argument was primarily about how (I’mma let you finish but) JT had the “best” (most) promotional/appearance material of all time (that has really stood out to me in recent times).

          Like y’all said, nothing wrong with that if you are working your ass off, have the talent, and you have the money. However, I was also speaking on the level of details and planning that went into making sure that JT would be seen/heard for the better part of the year 2013 and 2014 (he still has a Cohen brother film, Inside Llewyn Davis coming out in the near future (starting its promotional campaign with “oscar buzz” from Sundance already), the second part of the 20/20 Experience later this year, and there is no way he won’t be nominated for Grammys next year unless his records somehow cancel each other out (I guess Kanye did this in a way with the releases of MBDTF and Watch the Throne in the same year if it is to be believed that his shut-out from Album of the Year category wasn’t the panel ostracizing him for the Taylor Swift incident). It is genius (or maybe more accurate words are very proficient and efficient), and yet, I can’t help but find fault (probably because I’m a hater and jealous).

          And for the record, yes, my parents dropped me enough in childhood, and I consumed enough alcohol (cop-out: I was drunk before and during the above spiel) and acid in adulthood to identify as brain-dead on my tax returns.

  9. Jay-Z reminds me of Beyonce. I feel like both of them are capable of making really good music, but every time out, they fail. Corporations.

  10. I hadn’t bothered to watch these videos until this “news” broke today, but really, what about them made anyone think he was materially involved in the album production? He looks like he just showed up for the pre-release listening party – mostly for the pizza and couch to crash on. He doesn’t even remotely attempt to add anything in these videos. That said, I didn’t really read “more traditional hip-hop album” as a diss either.

  11. Hey Rick, he ain’t with you he’s with Beyonce you need to stop acting lazy.

  12. Question, will Rick Rubin be involved in a Rick Ross recording ever? Big Rick. Biggy ricky. Biccky riggy nahsayin?

    Ima hire Jay-Z to make an appearance in an ad im bout to make to advertise my public relations services.. In it I’ll show myself just doin all the daily tasks.. and then Jay-Z comes up as my assistant – “hi sir I’m a disgraced former rapper, current grabber of more shit to throw into the most hyphenated and hyped job title ever.. like assistant.. now I’m a hotel owner HYPHEN assistant get it!? Cool, right? Never been done.. right?” .. but then the next day I’m gonna put out a press release about how, uh, Jay Z’s not actualy my assisant, so I kind of needlessly portrayed him as that too puff up my needless puff piece for a piece of shit product/service I’m offering.”

    New album’s gonn suuuuuck! What a loser.

  13. There is no difference between Kanye and Jay-Z. The media, including blogs such as this, are deathly afraid of saying anything negative about either one of them or they’re getting paid to hype them both.

    • It’s called “music.”

      I think if you actually listened to both artists rather than hating cuz of the hype alone, you’d know that there’s clearly a difference.

  14. That’s Rick Rubin for you, the paragon of artistic integrity. I, for one, am looking forward to Shakira, Oral Fixation, vol. 3.

  15. Rick is NOT crazy for this one…

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