In the many commercials teasing Jay-Z’s forthcoming Magna Carta Holy Grail album, Jay is surrounded by a supergroup of his longtime collaborators—Swizz Beatz, Pharrell Williams, Timbaland—as he plays new music and explains the songs. Also seen in the snippet videos is the legendary Rick Rubin, founder of Def Jam Records and producer of LL Cool J’s Radio, The Beastie Boys’ Licensed To Ill and most recently, Kanye West’s Yeezus. While Rubin and Jay have had a working relationship since their collaborative “99 Problems”—a single from Jay’s Black Album —according to a spokesperson for Rubin, he was reportedly not involved in the making of Magna Carta, but was rather merely in town when they shot the commercials, thus his presence in them.
When we recently caught up with Rick over the phone, he explained: “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.” He went on to divulge what he initially thought of Magna Carta, saying, “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.”