Rick Rubin

rick rubin

Rick Rubin (b. 1963) is an American record producer and the co-president of Columbia Records. Rubin was the original DJ of the Beastie Boys, and co-founder of Def Jam Records with Russell Simmons. He helped popularize a fusion of hip hop and heavy metal music, and he has worked extensively with hard rock groups, notably Linkin Park, Red Hot Chili Peppers, Metallica, Slipknot, System of a Down, and Rage Against the Machine, but has produced for artists of all different genres including Shakira, Run-D.M.C., The Dixie Chicks, U2, and Green Day.

Rubin’s biggest trademark as a producer has been a ‘stripped-down’ sound, which involves eliminating production elements such as string sections, backup vocals, and reverb, and instead having naked vocals and bare instrumentation.

Rubin grew up in Long Island, New York, in a Jewish family. During his senior year of high school he founded Def Jam Records using the school’s four track recorder. Moving on to New York University he played guitar in an art-punk band called ‘Hose,’ which in 1982 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 California, and played with seminal hardcore bands like the Meat Puppets, Hüsker Dü, the Circle Jerks and the Butthole Surfers.

Having befriended Zulu Nation’s DJ Jazzy Jay, Rubin began to learn about hip hop production. Jazzy Jay introduced Rubin to concert promoter/artist manager Russell Simmons in a club. Simmons and Rubin edged out Jazzy Jay and the modern Def Jam record label was founded while Rubin was still attending New York University in 1984. Its first released was LL Cool J’s ‘I Need a Beat.’ Rubin went on to find more hip-hop acts outside The Bronx, Brooklyn and Harlem including rappers from Queens, Staten Island and Long Island, which eventually led to Def Jam’s signing Public Enemy.

In 1988 Rubin left Def Jam and relocated to Los Angeles where he created Def American Records. He signed a number of heavy rock acts, including Slayer, Danzig, The Four Horsemen, Masters of Reality, and Wolfsbane, as well as alternative rock group The Jesus and Mary Chain and 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.

In 1993, after finding it in a dictionary, Rubin held a funeral, complete with a casket and a grave, for the word ‘def,’ and subsequently shortened his label to just American Recordings. 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 success, and helped revive Cash’s career following a fallow period.

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, Lords of Acid’s 1994 Voodoo-U album, Tom Petty’s 1994 Wildflowers, AC/DC’s 1995 Ballbreaker, Donovan’s 1996 Sutras, and Metallica’s 2008 Death Magnetic. In 2007, he was named co-head of Columbia Records where he co-produced Linkin Park’s 2007 album, Minutes to Midnight, with Linkin Park’s Mike Shinoda.

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