Birth and Early Life of Rick Rubin:
Frederick Jay Rubin was born March 10, 1963 in Long Island, New York. He learned to play guitar and performed in his first bands while in high school. While a student at New York University in 1981, Rick Rubin was a co-founder of the art-punk band Hose. The group played blues-influenced originals along with slowed down covers of pop-soul hits like "Super Freak" and "You Sexy Thing."
Founding Def Jam:
In 1982 Hose released its first single on Def Jam, a new record label created by Rick Rubin. The single was produced by Rubin and marketed in a brown paper bag. Hose received positive reviews from British music magazine NME and legendary music critic Robert Christgau, but Rick Rubin soon began concentrating more on his new label and producing records. After becoming friends with DJ Jazzy Jay of the Zulu Nation, Rubin began to organize Def Jam as a pioneer hip hop label.
Rick Rubin on Censorship:
Rick Rubin has been criticized for recording and releasing music that many find offensive. A part of his response is contained in this comment from an interview with Mix magazine:
"If you’re for freedom of speech, you’re against censorship. The same thing that will protect somebody fighting out against injustice protects the person saying something radically negative and terrible. You can’t limit censorship to the things that you think are okay. You’re either for it or you’re against it. And if you’re against it, everything goes."
Rick Rubin as Hip Hop Pioneer:
Rubin and Jay released the single "It's Yours" by rapper T La Rock in 1983 on the fledgling Def Jam label. Jay introduced Rick Rubin to music promoter/manager Russell Simmons in 1984 in a club and soon the Rubin-Simmons partnership began to map the direction for Def Jam and, consequently, much of hip hop. Def Jam released the first recordings by LL Cool J and the Beastie Boys. In 1986 Rick Rubin produced the landmark albums Licensed to Ill by the Beastie Boys and Raising Hell by Run DMC. Yo! Bum Rush the Show by Public Enemy, another Rubin production project, appeared the following year.
The Exit From Def Jam:
By 1988, power struggles between Rick Rubin and Russell Simmons resulted in Rubin exiting the label. Leaving New York for Los Angeles, Rick Rubin put together his own label, Def American. He signed and recorded music by such controversial acts as Slayer, comedian Andrew Dice Clay, rappers the Geto Boys, and the young Red Hot Chili Peppers. Rick Rubin gained significant acclaim in the music industry when he produced the Red Hot Chili Peppers' 1991 breakthrough album Blood Sugar Sex Magik.
Top Rick Rubin Productions:
- 1985 - LL Cool J - Radio
- 1986 - Beastie Boys - Licensed to Ill
- 1986 - Run DMC - Raising Hell
- 1987 - The Cult - Electric
- 1990 - Slayer - Seasons in the Abyss
- 1991 - Red Hot Chili Peppers - Blood Sugar Sex Magik
- 1994 - Johnny Cash - American Recordings
- 1994 - Tom Petty - Wildflowers
- 1998 - System of a Down - System of a Down
- 2002 - Audioslave - Audioslave
- 2005 - Weezer - Make Believe
- 2005 - Neil Diamond - 12 Songs
- 2006 - Red Hot Chili Peppers - Stadium Arcadium
- 2006 - Dixie Chicks - Taking the Long Way
- 2006 - Johnny Cash - American V
Rick Rubin's Style and Approach:
Rick Rubin is given credit for being a master at helping artists and bands strip down their sound to the essence of what makes them sound good. He also encourages artists to record songs from outside of their typical musical genre to stretch their range and create something unique by making the song their own. An outstanding example of this is Johnny Cash's spare reading of the Nine Inch Nails' song "Hurt." With Rubin's guidance, Neil Diamond's guitar and vocals were brought forward without strings and massive layers of sound resulting in 12 Songs, an album hailed as one of the best of his career.
Producer of the Year and Popular Music Living Legend:
In 1993, after the word "def," meaning great, had entered standard dictionaries, Rick Rubin declared the term dead and conducted a funeral for it. Consequently, Def American became simply American Recordings. The first release on the newly named label was Johnny Cash's landmark 1994 album American Recordings. It began a series of albums that revitalized Cash's career and gained kudos for Rick Rubin and his intimate connection with artists in the studio.
For the next 10 years Rick Rubin continued to work with the Red Hot Chili Peppers and hard rock acts like Slayer and System of a Down. He was also called upon to record high profile albums like Tom Petty's Wildflowers. In 2005, Rick Rubin produced Make Believe, the 5th album by the band Weezer, which resulted in the band's biggest hit single yet, "Beverly Hills." This was the beginning of a string of high profile, high selling albums produced by Rubin.
For his first album of new material in 4 years, Neil Diamond entered the studio with Rubin and emerged with a spare, stripped down collection of recordings titled 12 Songs. The album debuted at #4 on the charts and became one of the most critically acclaimed albums of Diamond's career. At the 2007 Grammy Awards, 2 albums nominated for Album of the Year, the Dixie Chicks' Taking the Long Way and Red Hot Chili Peppers' Stadium Arcadium, were Rick Rubin productions. He also produced a song on a 3rd Album of the Year nominee, Justin Timberlake's FutureSex / LoveSounds. Rubin took home a much deserved award for Non-Classical Producer of the Year.