One of the most ambitious Rick and Morty episodes might never come to fruition, and it’s all because of the multiverse’s greatest villain of all: capitalism.
Back in May 2019 — shortly after Rick and Morty was renewed for 70 more episodes — series co-creators Dan Harmon and Justin Roiland publicly offered Kanye West the chance to have full creative control over an episode of the series. (Kanye had outed himself as a huge fan of the show a year prior.)
As it turns out, the offer was far more than a runaway joke and it might still happen. However, in a recent interview with Harmon, he revealed that the mind-boggling collaboration was unceremoniously shut down by the forces of big business.
Harmon spoke at great length about Kanye West and a host of other topics in a video interview published by MSNBC on May 14. It aired as part of The Beat with Ari Melber. 15 minutes into the 20-minute interview, Melber asks Harmon about the offer to let Kanye West have full creative control over an episode of Rick and Morty. In August 2019, Kanye actually went to the Rick and Morty offices for a brainstorming session. They discussed specific plotlines and were “breaking an episode within moments.”
What about Rick and Morty speaks to Yeezy? “The guilty fantasy that we are the smartest one in the room,” Harmon said, “that we know better, that we have bigger fish to fry, and that we are surrounded by people that don't get it.” That very specific power fantasy embodies so much of the enigma that is Rick Sanchez. It also tells us that Kanye gets it — and that he would probably make a great (or at least interesting) episode of Rick and Morty.
“Time will tell,” Harmon said when asked if the Kanye episode will still happen. “When Kanye signs on as he did to do an episode, it’s not just going to be Kanye doing a guest voice or Kanye doing a song. We agreed that it needed to be interwoven with the Rick and Morty franchise having its own integrity and Kanye having his own.” Kanye’s role, it would seem, would theoretically be more like a writer, director, and star of such an episode.
But what sort of adventures would Kanye go on with Morty and Rick if he were to play himself?
“Without spoiling any details of what that story would be, suffice it to say that the end result was going to be a lot of original music,” Harmon said. Rick and Morty has delivered plenty of memorable original music in the past, with the intergalactic music competition from the “Get Schwifty” episode being a memorable example, or that time Logic performed towards the end of “Vindicators 3: The Return of Worldender.” The Kanye episode would be (or perhaps will be?) much bigger than that.
“That’s when seven different corporations — and I don't fault them this because that’s their job — they have to say ‘Wait a minute! Slow down, psychos. What are you doing?” Harmon said. In other words, for Kanye to create a slew of original music for Rick and Morty would probably bother his label, Universal Music Group, quite a bit. It would quickly devolve into a hotly contested debate between a number of corporations as to who owns the rights to what and which empires make money off of it. So while such a messy legal situation can’t exactly prevent a Kanye West episode from happening, it’s definitely a hurdle.
Consider that Kanye West created a stir in September 2020 when he publicly revealed sections of his contract with Universal over Twitter. Within a month, he considered buying the corporation outright to the tune of $33 billion just to secure the masters for his discography. It’s a hot topic in the music industry right now, and it’s the reason why Taylor Swift has been re-recording “Taylor’s Versions” of her most popular songs; her former label, Big Machine Records, owns all of her masters, and the artist wants to have full control over the means, production, and distribution of her work — along with the full profits.
Similar industry tensions are no doubt the primary hangup preventing the Rick and Morty Kanye episode from happening. Things might work out in the end, but it sounds like it won’t anytime soon. Here’s to hoping we might see it in Season 6.
Here’s a look at the full interview, which is full of many other excellent tidbits.