Despite appearing in a commercial with a bunch of other middle-aged rich dudes for it Rick Rubin wants to make clear he wasn’t actually involved in the creation of the forthcoming Jay-Z album Magna Carta Holy Grail, which will be available (to select users of Samsung smartphones!) on July 4. To be fair this pretty much comports with the impression one gets from the Samsung/MCHG commercial, in which Rubin does nothing more than lie on a couch and hold forth about the meaning of life (or something).
According to a report from XXL a statement from Rubin’s spokesperson says Rubin was “not involved in the making of Magna Carta, but was rather merely in town when they shot the commercials.” I hadn’t assumed so but I guess some outlets were taking the commercial to mean that Rubin was producing the album, or at least some tracks on it, perhaps because Rubin’s hip-hop producing was on everyone’s mind due to the many stories written about his extensive 11th hour contributions to Kanye West’s Yeezus.
XXL caught up with Rubin for a brief phone interview in which he explained further: “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.”
Rubin then goes on to make some comments differentiating what it was like to listen to the songs on Magna Carta Holy Grail versus his marathon sessions working on Yeezus which have led to a lot of blog commentary that Rubin is somehow dissing the Jay-Z record in comparison to the Kanye West record. I don’t really take it that way. Rubin says in reference to Magna Carta “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.”
To me this is all pretty obvious. No one expects Jay-Z, especially in 2013, to make anything like Yeezus, with its jittery, paranoid, coked out rhythms. Of course anything Jay does will be a “traditional hip-hop record” in comparison. Whether MCHG is any good is a different question, but one I don’t think Rubin is speaking to. At any rate post “retirement” Jay-Z hasn’t really made an engaged/engaging album other than 2007’s American Gangster.