U2 Take Cues From Kanye West, Jay-Z

Bono says Jay 'just zones in on the text and he hangs onto the text, the word.'

It takes an iconic band like U2 to know there's always something new to learn. They might have inspired a whole generation of kids to start garage bands, but [artist id="1022"]U2[/artist] are still being inspired by this generation's megastars, and they owe all these new lessons to hip-hop.

[artist id="1230523"]Kanye West[/artist] said he was inspired by watching U2 perform and seeing the crowd's reaction. When writing "Graduation," he kept that response in mind, using fewer lyrics to make more of an impact so people could follow along. So has the band learned anything from West?

"Respect for the text, seriously, because we're musical [and] we come out of improvisations, and that's how we write songs," Bono told MTV News. "The melodies come out of those improvisations, and then eventually, I try to put into words what the music is telling me."

Learning from West is easy because he has what the rockers call "the whole equation."

"I think with Kanye, his understanding of what music, about what fashion, about what politics is — they are all each other," Bono explained. "Understanding the whole equation is understanding where your song sits in the world. Kanye knows where it sits."

The guys learned about lyrics and melodies from another hip-hop superstar: [artist id="1269"]Jay-Z[/artist]. "This is similar for Jay-Z. He just zones in on the text and he hangs onto the text, the words. That's his life," Bono said. "I learned that my melodies — because they were more operatic — my melodies were spoiling my chances to use a certain vocabulary."

The guys have also worked with Black Eyed Peas mastermind [artist id="1521450"]Will.I.Am[/artist], whom Bono called "a very important voice ... someone to watch."

"He's amazing, 'cause he sits at the Pro Tools and punches buttons for an hour," bassist Adam Clayton explained about the rapper's work ethic. "And at the end of the hour, you've got something that sounds great."

For Clayton, the most important lesson is also the simplest one: "It's all about the bass," he joked.