It's been nearly a week since Kanye West released Yeezus, and the album is still a lightning rod within the music community. Many songs on the album defy conventional structure and the album is without question West's most volatile to date. Several people are still puzzled by it, so Pitchfork broke it down by talking to seven producers who worked on the album. The end result was a recap where Anthony Kilhoffer, Mike Dean, TNGHT's Hudson Mohawke, Evian Christ, Noah Goldstein, Bon Iver's Justin Vernon and Travis Scott provided insight into West's darkest, most twisted fantasy to date.
Read excerpts below, or visit Pitchfork's website for the full piece:
Evian Christ On getting the call to work on Yeezus:
"When Kanye's camp was working on Cruel Summer, they were apparently listening to my mixtape Kings and Them a lot. So when they decided to come out with this industrial, electronic, dark vision for Yeezus, they hit me up. In January, they told us, 'Kanye’s in the studio on Sunday, it’d be good if we could have some stuff to play him.' That was on the Friday before, so I had two days to make some tracks that were specifically tailored to Kanye West. I don’t think I went to bed that night. I just made track after track after track—nine altogether—and sent them over. A couple of days later, they were like, 'This is great, we’ve started working on one.' That track eventually became 'I'm in It.'"
Justin Vernon on "I'm in It":
"I don't even know what I'm singing on 'I'm in It'—I'd have to look at it. Kanye's talking about a bunch of really violently and stunningly visual sex shit in there, but it's not like he's saying stuff like that to his friends 24 hours a day. I mean, sitting around the studio, we all have intelligent conversations about the state of women in the world—I wouldn't say we had a conversation about feminism, necessarily, but we're sensitive to it."
"I have no idea what the Jamaican dude [Assassin] is saying. At all. But it's fucking awesome as hell."
Mike Dean on the method to Kanye's madness:
"There's always some competitiveness. During the mixing process, people can get edgy. Like, me and Anthony Kilhoffer will be working on the same thing, trying to beat each other, but we're still good friends."
Hudson Mohawke on what didn't make the cut:
"There are a lot of amazing songs that were left off [Yeezus]—stuff that you might consider to be more melodic or in-line with Kanye's previous material—purely because they didn't necessarily fit this rough-edged, 90s-industrial-type vibe. A lot of the record is trying to avoid obviousness. Through the entire process of putting it together, there were tons of easy slam dunks, but rather than just going for the hits and having an album that nobody's going to give a fuck about in a month or two, he intentionally sidestepped the obvious route each time. I think that's what going to give it more longevity and put it in a category of records that you'll go back to in 10 years time."
Justin Dead on the album's sound:
"I assumed that he was gonna do the maximalist thing again with this album, but it's more like: 'Boom! We just made a song, and it bangs, so fuck you.' It's such an awesome contrast."
Noah Goldstein on "I Am a God":
"If you watch LeBron dunk in the middle of a game, you’re gonna get up and freak out. And it was like that when Kanye spit the first verse of 'I Am a God'."
Noah Goldstein on those "damn croissants":
"Sometimes I don’t realize which lines are going to really resonate, but Kanye always does. Actually, "hurry up with my damn croissants" was one where I was like, “Are you really sure you want to say that?” [laughs] And he’s like, 'Yes! That’s staying in!' He literally has the best gut instincts of anybody I’ve ever worked with, as far as what music should be. So when he says a line has to stay in, I’m like, 'OK!' I will not argue with the god."
Travis Scott on "Blood on the Leaves":
"'Blood on the Leaves' is a crazy-ass song, bro. That's the Kanye West genius right there: Only he would think that 'Strange Fruit' was missing a HudMo beat, and that the HudMo beat was missing 'Strange Fruit'."
Noah Goldstein on people's reactions to the album:
"I really like the fact that people are loving this album or they're like, 'This is trash!' I don't really like up-the-middle music, because where's the opinion in that? I'd rather have people hate it than be in the middle."