While the creation of Kanye West’s The Life of Pablo was quite possibly the most transparent process of his career, untold stories abound. Lucky for us, Fonzworth Bentley shared a rather special one with The FADER.
Bentley scored a co-production credit on the aforementioned album’s standout intro, “Ultralight Beam,” a song that unsurprisingly kept him busy. He claims responsibility for not just aiding in production and engineering, but also for making the calls that nabbed both Kirk Franklin and Kelly Price.
By the time we did SNL, I don’t think the record was 10 days old yet.
As he contributed, he observed—freestyle sessions starring Chance the Rapper and Justin Bieber, boards manned by Swizz Beatz, and even brief naps on a bed brought to the studio for Kanye’s benefit (sound familiar?). The man born Derek Watkins did a good a*s job and watched others do the same. Below you’ll find highlights from the interview. Head over to The FADER for the full story.
On the origin of “This is an ultralight beam”:
“Justin [Bieber] hops on the phone and is like, ‘Tell Yeezy whatever he needs I got it.’ So Justin comes through and we vibed on that. And then Ye went right in. Ye was like, ‘Let’s all catch a freestyle.’ In his freestyle he said, ‘This is an ultralight beam.’ He sings that and was singing the melody. Then Chance catches the vibe. A lot of what ended up in his verse was from this freestyle—as far as his patterns and some of the words.
On his reaction to first hearing Kelly Price’s recording:
“I sit there and play [what she sent me] in the kitchen and my wife’s there. And bro, what you hear on the record is exactly what she sent. Both of us burst into tears because it was so right on. It was perfect […] I play it for [Kanye] and he closes his eyes and he’s like: ‘Kelly. Dope. Call her in. Call Kirk in. Let’s go.'”
On the recording of the heavenly gospel choir and Kirk Franklin:
“Kirk’s in there with headphones and he said, ‘What are you hearing?’ I told him that we wanted to amplify what was already there. He began to teach the choir the parts and he taught it in seven minutes, bro. And I’m talking one-one-thousand, two-one-thousand, he taught all the parts to every choir singer in seven minutes. It was like watching a master at work.”
On other collaborators doubting the choir and Kanye’s persistence:
“That is one of Kanye’s greatest gifts: his ability to hear and see and to execute editing. He’s never married to anything. The best idea wins. You’ve got to understand, everybody wasn’t completely on board with the choir and all this stuff. Some people thought it might be too literal, but again, like I said, the best idea wins.”