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Frederick Jay "Rick" Rubin (born March 10, 1963) is an Americanmarker record producer and the co-head of Columbia Records.

One of the most prominent names in popular music, Rubin came to prominence in the 1980s as the original DJ of the Beastie Boys, and for co-founding Def Jam Records with Russell Simmons before establishing American Recordings. With the Beastie Boys and Run D.M.C., Rubin helped popularize a fusion of rap music and heavy metal, and he has worked extensively with hard rock and heavy metal groups, notably Danzig, Slayer, the Red Hot Chili Peppers and Metallica.

In the 1990s, he produced the "American Recordings" albums with Johnny Cash. MTV called him "the most important producer of the last 20 years." In 2007, Rubin was listed among Time's 100 Most Influential People in the World.

Life and career

Def Jam years

Rubin was born in Lido Beach, New Yorkmarker and grew up in Long Island, New Yorkmarker, in a Jewish family. His father was a shoe wholesaler and his mother a housewife. While a student at Long Beach High School he befriended the school's AV Director Steve Freeman who gave him a few lessons in guitar playing and songwriting and helped him create a punk band called "The Pricks". At school, Rubin was unpopular among the other musicians due to his complete lack of musical ability beyond a few rudimentary guitar chords. During his senior year Rubin founded Def Jam Records using the school's four track recorder. Moving on to New York Universitymarker he played guitar in an art-punk band called "Hose", influenced by San Francisco's Flipper. In 1982, Hose became Def Jam release #1, a 45 rpm 7" vinyl single in a brown paper bag, and no label. The band played in and around the NYC punk scene, toured the Midwest and Californiamarker, and played with seminal hardcore bands like the Meat Puppets, Hüsker Dü, the Circle Jerks and the Butthole Surfers. The band broke up in 1986 as Rubin's passion moved towards the NYC Hip Hop scene.

Having befriended Zulu Nation's DJ Jazzy Jay, Rubin began to learn about hip hop production. By 1983, the two men produced "It's Yours" for rapper T La Rock, and released it on their independent label, Def Jam Records. Producer Arthur Baker helped to distribute the record worldwide on Baker's Streetwise Records in 1984.

Jazzy Jay introduced Rubin to concert promoter/artist manager Russell Simmons in a club, and Rubin explained he needed help getting Def Jam off the ground. Simmons and Rubin edged out Jazzy Jay and the official Def Jam record label was founded while Rubin was still attending New York Universitymarker in 1984. Their first record released was LL Cool J's "I Need a Beat". Rubin went on to find more hip-hop acts outside The Bronxmarker, Brooklynmarker and Harlemmarker including rappers from Queensmarker, Staten Islandmarker and Long Islandmarker, which eventually led to Def Jam's signing of Public Enemy. "Rock Hard"/"Party's Gettin' Rough"/"Beastie Groove" EP by the Beastie Boys came out on the success of Rubin's production work with breakthrough act Run-D.M.C. His productions were characterized by occasionally fusing rap with heavy rock.

It was the idea of Rick Rubin's friend Sue Cummings, an editor at Spin magazine, to have Run-D.M.C. and Aerosmith collaborate on a cover of Aerosmith's "Walk This Way" in 1986, a production credited with both introducing rap-hard rock to mainstream ears and revitalizing Aerosmith. In 1986, he worked with Aerosmith again on demos for their forthcoming album, but their collaboration ended early and resulted in only rough studio jams.

In 1987 The Cult released their pivotal third album Electric. Produced by Rubin, the album remains one of The Cult's trademark and classic works. Rubin would later work with The Cult again for the single "The Witch".

Rubin is credited as "Music Supervisor" in the movie Less Than Zero and is the producer of its soundtrack.

Rubin portrayed a character based upon himself in the 1985 hip-hop motion picture Krush Groove, which was inspired by the early days of Russell Simmons' career as a music producer. He then wrote and directed a second Run-D.M.C. film, Tougher Than Leather in 1988.

Def American years

In 1988, Simmons and Rubin went their separate ways, partly due to a power struggle that Rubin lost with Def Jam president Lyor Cohen. Simmons stayed in New York with Def Jam, and Rubin left for Los Angeles, Californiamarker, where he created Def American Records. In Los Angeles, he signed a number of heavy rock acts, including Slayer, Danzig, Masters of Reality, and Wolfsbane, as well as alternative rock group The Jesus and Mary Chain and controversial stand up comedian Andrew Dice Clay. Rubin also produced the Red Hot Chili Peppers' breakthrough album Blood Sugar Sex Magik. He retained a close association with rap, signing the Geto Boys and continuing to work with Public Enemy, LL Cool J and Run-D.M.C. among others.

American Recordings years

Rubin originally had given his label the name "Def Jam". The word "jam" in urban culture is slang for a song or musical composition that is well-liked for its attractive rhythm and dance appeal. Nine years later, Rubin found that the word "def" had been accepted into the standardized dictionary; in 1993, Rubin held an actual funeral, complete with a casket and a grave, for the word "def". Def American became American Recordings. In regard to this he stated:

The first major project on the renamed label was Johnny Cash's American Recordings (1994), a record including six cover songs and new material written by others for Cash at Rubin's request. The album was a critical and commercial smash, and helped revive Cash's career following a fallow period. The formula was repeated for four more Cash albums: Unchained, Solitary Man, The Man Comes Around (the last album released before Cash's death), and A Hundred Highways. The Man Comes Around earned a 2003 Grammy for Best Male Country Vocal Performance ("Give My Love to Rose") and a nomination for Best Country Collaboration with Vocals ("Bridge Over Troubled Water" with Fiona Apple). Rubin introduced Cash to Nine Inch Nails' "Hurt", and the resulting cover version of it on The Man Comes Around would become the defining song of Cash's later years.

Rubin produced a number of records with other older artists, which were released on labels other than American. These included Mick Jagger's 1993 Wandering Spirit album, Tom Petty's 1994 Wildflowers, AC/DC's 1995 Ballbreaker, Donovan's 1996 Sutras, and Metallica's 2008 Death Magnetic. According to drummer Lars Ulrich, Rubin will likely be the producer for the next Metallica album, though there are no plans at present for its creation.

In 2005, Rick Rubin executive-produced Shakira's two-album project Fijacion Oral Vol. 1 and Oral Fixation Vol. 2.

Columbia Years

In May, 2007, Rubin was named co-head of Columbia Records.

In 2007, Rubin won the Grammy Award for Producer of the Year, Non-Classical for his work with The Dixie Chicks, Justin Timberlake, Red Hot Chili Peppers, U2, Green Day, and Johnny Cash released in 2006.

Production trademarks

Rubin's biggest trademark as a producer has been a "stripped-down" sound, that involves eliminating production elements such as string sections, backup vocals, and reverb, and instead having naked vocals and bare instrumentation. However, by the 2000s, Rubin's style had been known to include such elements, as noted in the Washington Post: "As the track reaches a crescendo and Diamond's portentous baritone soars over a swelling string arrangement, Rubin leans back, as though floored by the emotional power of the song".

His previous style began with his very first production effort, LL Cool J's Radio, which consisted of little more than rapping and percussive beats (the liner notes credit for the album read "Reduced by Rick Rubin" rather than the usual "Produced by Rick Rubin"). He later gained a reputation for being able to restore the careers of veteran singers and bands, as somebody who could help them break out of the commercial rut they were currently in. He did this most notably with Johnny Cash, achieving this with Tom Petty and Neil Diamond (on 12 Songs) as well as on Metallica's Death Magnetic.

On the subject of his production methods; Dan Charnas, a music journalist who worked as vice president of A&R and marketing at Rubin's American Recordings label in the 1990s, said "He's fantastic with sound and arrangements, and he's tremendous with artists. They love him. He shows them how to make it better, and he gets more honest and exciting performances out of people than anyone."

Rubin pioneered the fusion of rap and rock in his work with Run-D.M.C., the Beastie Boys, and Red Hot Chili Peppers. Later examples of his rap-rock fusion were Jay-Z's 2003 song "99 Problems" and Lil' Jon's 2004 song "Stop Fuckin Wit Me". The latter sampled Slayer's "Mandatory Suicide" and "Raining Blood", both originally produced by Rubin. He also co-produced Linkin Park's album Minutes to Midnight.

Another trademark has been having artists cover songs where the covering band's style is different from the original version of the song. Rubin produced Slayer's cover of Iron Butterfly's "In-A-Gadda-Da-Vida", and produced Rage Against the Machine's 2000 covers album, Renegades. He presented the song "Hurt" to Johnny Cash, originally recorded by Nine Inch Nails.

List of albums produced


  1. What's Up With That Bearded Guy From The '99 Problems' Video? –
  2. Lynn Hirschberg, "The Music Man", The New York Times Magazine, September 2, 2007.
  3. The 'Song Doctor' Is In – Washington Post

External links

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