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 News Archive: Rick Rubin

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 Forget Eminem — Rubin's the most important white boy in hip-hop ...

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 Slayer and hip-hop? Stinky old Aerosmith? Say what? ...

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Rubin also put his film studies to use that year when he produced the first hip-hop movie, "Krush Groove," which was loosely based on Simmons' life. Through Simmons and the movie, Rubin lined up his next project, Run-DMC's Raising Hell, which he followed with the Beastie Boys' debut full-length LP, Licensed to Ill. By the end of 1986, the two albums had made hip-hop an international phenomenon.

What Raising Hell really raised was the bar on hip-hop albums. Its innovative use of samples has influenced countless records, and the political bluntness on songs such as "Proud to Be Black" paved the way for Public Enemy and N.W.A.

The album also kick-started a new genre. When he suggested the group cover "Walk This Way," he not only revived a flagging Aerosmith, he gave birth to a rap-rock sound that would later dominate the late '90s.

featuring Aerosmith
"Walk This Way"
Raising Hell
If there were a quintessential Rick Rubin track, "Walk This Way" would be it. The production is exceptionally crisp and the song instantly infectious. It also marked the start of what would become one of Rubin's specialties, taking a classic song and making it someone else's. He eventually made entire albums following that formula with Johnny Cash, as well as with Rage Against the Machine for their Renegades album.

If Run-DMC's most popular album opened the proverbial hip-hop door to middle America, then the Beasties walked right in and trashed the place.

Licensed to Ill made it acceptable for white kids to worship hip-hop, and in doing so it became the first rap album to reach #1 on the Billboard albums chart. The Beasties had all the makings of a novelty act, but Rubin made sure the first white rappers had the songs to back up their bravado.

He encouraged the group's hard-partying message (for which the Beasties later apologized) and in the end produced one of the best smart-ass albums of all time. Almost 20 years before Eminem cleaned out his closest with verbal assaults on his mother, Mike D, MCA and King Ad-Rock complained that "mom threw away my best porno mag."

  From the Man in Black to The Black Album, Rick Rubin has produced a radically diverse roster of talent in the last 20 years. Here's just a small sampling of albums he's worked on:

  LL Cool J, Radio (1985)

  Slayer, Hell Awaits (1985)

  Beastie Boys, Licensed to Ill (1986)

  The Cult, Electric (1987)

  "Less Than Zero" soundtrack (1987)

  Run-DMC, Tougher Than Leather (1988)

  Danzig, Danzig (1988)

  Andrew Dice Clay, Andrew Dice Clay (1990)

  Geto Boys, Geto Boys (1990)

  Sir Mix-A-Lot, Mack Daddy (1992)

  Flipper, American Grafishy (1993)

  "Judgment Night" soundtrack (1993)

  Tom Petty, Wildflowers (1994)

  Johnny Cash, American Recordings (1994)

  AC/DC, Ballbreaker (1995)

  Sheryl Crow, Globe Sessions (1998)

  Melanie C, Northern Star (1999)

  The Red Hot Chili Peppers, Californication (1999)

  System of a Down, Toxicity (2001)

  Macy Gray, Id (2001)

  Audioslave, Audioslave (2002)

  Jay-Z, The Black Album (2003)
In many ways, Licensed to Ill was also the next step in the evolution of rap-rock, as the album samples legends like Led Zeppelin and Black Sabbath, and features a ripping solo from Slayer guitarist Kerry King on "Fight for Your Right."

Slayer and hip-hop? Only in Rubin's mind did the two live side by side. While he was busy helping to draw the blueprint for hip-hop with Def Jam, he was simultaneously recording with one of metal's brightest and most controversial young bands.

The first album he produced for Slayer, 1986's Reign in Blood, is widely considered the band's best, as well as both a benchmark for speed metal and launching pad for death metal. With Rubin again focusing on songcraft, the album clocks in at less than 30 minutes. And the production is just as to-the-point.

In 1987, Rubin went against Simmons' suggestion and oversaw another landmark hip-hop album in Public Enemy's debut, Yo! Bum Rush the Show. For the first time, he took an executive producer role on a project and let other producers, P.E.'s own Bomb Squad, do their thing. Still, his influence was obvious, as the album is heavily laced with rock samples (as opposed to disco beats, which were still prevalent at the time in hip-hop) and guitar work, including some riffs from a newcomer named Vernon Reid, who later achieved fame with the band Living Colour.

Rubin is an adamant free-speech proponent and encouraged Public Enemy to be vocal, certainly paving the way for the grittier hip-hop to come, but also inspiring rock musicians to take stronger stances.

The next year Rubin signed on to produce the "Less Than Zero" soundtrack and approached it as an opportunity to push his belief that old songs could be made new again. The first single, the Bangles' rocking cover of Simon & Garfunkel's "Hazy Shade of Winter," was a smash. Rubin also had fun on the soundtrack blending his loves — Anthrax and Public Enemy collaborated on "Bring the Noise," Slayer recorded Iron Butterfly's "In-A-Gadda-Da-Vida" and Roy Orbison covered Glenn Danzig's "Life Fades Away."

Around that time, Rubin and Simmons amicably split and Rubin launched his own label, Def American. The company got off to a slow start compared to Def Jam, but did score an early hit with the debut from the Black Crowes, who stormed the charts with their blues-rock take on Otis Redding's "Hard to Handle."

Rubin executive produced many albums while he worked to launch the label, and continued to make time for his friends, continuing to produce Slayer, Danzig, Run-DMC and LL Cool J albums, even though their stars were fading.

In 1991, Rubin produced his first major album for another record label, the Red Hot Chili Peppers' Blood Sugar Sex Magik, arguably his most important work of the '90s.

Before the collaboration, the Chili Peppers were known as a funk-rap hybrid, but Rubin believed there was more there and that their recording sessions had become routine. So he moved the bandmembers into a mansion where they lived and recorded for several months. Bizarre at the time, it's now become common practice.

Rubin also spent weeks going over lyrics with Anthony Kiedis, and discovered a page in one of the vocalist's notebooks about overcoming his heroin addiction. Keidis said it wasn't a Chili Peppers song, but Rubin convinced him otherwise and pushed him to explore singing more. "Under the Bridge" became the band's biggest hit.

With some members still struggling with addiction, the Chili Peppers were in constant turmoil, but Rubin kept the peace, a talent he would use later with Audioslave and, most recently, Slipknot.

  Johnny Cash
American IV: The Man Comes Around
(American Recordings/Lost Highway)
Soon after producing Blood Sugar Sex Magik, Rubin hooked up with one of his heroes, Mick Jagger, to record Wandering Spirit. Critics called it Jagger's best solo effort and praised the Rolling Stones frontman's take on the Bill Withers soul classic "Use Me." With that triumph, Rubin realized his name brought a certain modern validity to an album, so he decided to see if he could resurrect a legend who was not getting the attention he deserved. With the first in what would become the American Recordings series, Johnny Cash was suddenly a college-radio favorite and even had a video in MTV's rotation.

The producer continued through the mid-'90s working with heroes like AC/DC, Tom Petty, Donovan (whose resurrection was not as successful as Cash's) and Lucinda Williams. By 1998, however, he was hungry for something different and discovered that in System of a Down. Rubin produced the band's debut as well as their breakthrough follow-up, 2001's acclaimed Toxicity, and continues to be the fifth member of the band.

"Like A Stone"
Rage Against the Machine recruited Rubin for the follow-up to The Battle of Los Angeles, but the producer was unable to keep Zack de la Rocha from quitting before Renegades was released in 2000. Rubin maintained his friendship with the band, though, and suggested they try recording with former Soundgarden frontman Chris Cornell. Rubin went on to produce Audioslave's debut and will work again on their follow-up.

In recent years, Rubin has broadened his scope even further, working with everyone from Spice Girl Mel C to Qawwali legend Nusrat Fateh Ali Khan. He also continues to hunt for new talent and seek out veterans who deserve a career boost. And still he makes time to produce his friends.

Rubin was nominated for the Producer of the Year Grammy three times — in 1994, 1995 and 1999. He's never won.

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Photo: Roc-A-Fella/Def Jam

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 Beastie Boys
"(You Gotta) Fight For Your Right (To Party)" (live)
Licensed To Ill
(Columbia/Def Jam)

 Run-DMC featuring Aerosmith
"Walk This Way"
Raising Hell

"It's Tricky"
Raising Hell

 Red Hot Chili Peppers
"Under The Bridge"
Blood Sugar Sex Magik
(Warner Bros.)

 Red Hot Chili Peppers
"Give It Away"
Blood Sugar Sex Magik
(Warner Bros.)

 Rage Against the Machine
"Renegades Of Funk"

 Johnny Cash
American IV: The Man Comes Around
(American Recordings/Lost Highway)

 System Of A Down