‘It reminded me of Andy Warhol’: Paul McCartney talks collaborating with Kanye West

Musicians Paul McCartney, Rihanna and Kanye West perform onstage during The 57th Annual GRAMMY Awards at the STAPLES Center on February 8, 2015 in Los Angeles, California. Larry Busacca/Getty Images

When Sir Paul McCartney collaborated with Kanye West in 2015, the duo surprised many fans with three songs that were all hits, FourFiveSecondsAll Day and Only One.

The collaborations all happened on one condition. “The only deal I made with Kanye was that if it doesn’t work, we won’t tell anyone,” McCartney told Rolling Stone.

When McCartney worked with West, he reminded him of another artist: Andy Warhol.

READ MORE: Kanye West now has more Top 40 hits than Michael Jackson

The Beatles legend said the collaboration took place over a “few afternoons in the Beverly Hotel,” where he was able to understand West’s process.

“I’d hear things like, ‘He’s got a room full of guys working on riffs, and he walks around going, I like that one,” McCartney revealed.

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“It reminded me of Andy Warhol, these artists who use students to paint their backgrounds and things. It’s a well-used technique I thought, ‘I don’t know how I’m going to fit into that, but let’s see. Here goes nothing.”

It ended up working out very well. All Day samples something McCartney had written back in 1969 and was the result of him telling West the story of how he came up with it after the birth of his first child (he was looking at Pablo Picasso’s The Old Guitarist).

“I whistled it for him. His engineer was recording it, and it went into the pool of ingredients. Kanye was just collecting things. We weren’t going to sit down and write a song so much as talk and spark ideas off each other,” McCartney said.

READ MORE: The day Muhammad Ali met the Beatles

After McCartney heard All Day, he thought, “‘I get it. He’s taken my little whistle-y thing.’ It returned to me as an urban hip-hop riff. I love that record.”

The British singer-songwriter’s interest in hip-hop didn’t start with the West collaboration. When he was asked if he listened to the genre for pleasure or to simply keep up, he responded by saying he listens to it for educational purposes.

“I listen to it for, you could call it, education. I hear a lot of it and go to concerts occasionally. I went to see Jay Z and Kanye when they toured. I’ve seen Drake live. It’s the music of now,” McCartney admitted.

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West has labelled himself a genius in the past and told Jimmy Kimmel in 2013 that he would be lying if he said he wasn’t.

“For me, you know, I’m a creative genius,” he told the talk show host. “And there’s no other way to word it. I know you’re not supposed to say that about yourself. And I say things the wrong way a lot of times but my intention is always positive. For me to say I wasn’t a genius I’d be lying to you and myself.”

READ MORE: Previously unseen footage of The Beatles in 1965 released

McCartney was asked whether he considers the controversial rapper a “genius.”

The 74-year-old replied: “I don’t throw that word around [laughs]. I think he’s a great artist. Take My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy. I played it when I was cooking, and it was like, ‘This is good. There’s some really innovative stuff.’ When the word came from his people, through my people [laughs], I thought, ‘Let’s give it a go.'”

The two musicians have both publicly discussed their admiration for each other. West told BBC’s Zane Lowe that meeting McCartney was like meeting fashion.

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“Meeting Paul McCartney was like meeting Ralph Lauren,” he said. “[They are] the greatest of their fields. Period. Of all time.”

READ MORE: Kanye West finally speaks out about Taylor Swift and Kim Kardashian’s Snapchat

The Yesterday hitmaker was also asked if he feels that hip-hop music in this era is as important to him as the music he made in the ’60s (some people say rock is dead and had its moment as a historical force).

“Time will tell if it’s as good. That’s not for me to say. But I think it’s exciting. You go to a club and hear a great hip-hop record – it definitely does the business. I wouldn’t want to critique it versus A Day in the Life,” he responded.

McCartney added: “For me, it’s like reggae in that I wouldn’t particularly feel I could do it. I would leave that to Bob Marley, to the people that are it. It’s the same with hip-hop. It was exciting to work with Kanye, to have a contribution to All Day. [Smiles] It’s the best riff on the record.”
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McCartney is currently on his One on One world tour, which will end in Indio, Calif., on October 15.

Read Paul McCartney’s full interview with Rolling Stone here.

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