Rick Rubin

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Rick Rubin
Rubin at Abbey Road Studios in 2006
Background information
Birth nameFrederick Jay Rubin
Also known asDJ Double R
The Loudness King
Born (1963-03-10) March 10, 1963 (age 58)
Long Beach, New York, U.S.
Occupation(s)Record producer
Years active1981-present
Associated acts

Frederick Jay "Rick" Rubin ( /ˈrbɪn/ ; born March 10, 1963) is an American record producer and former copresident of Columbia Records. Along with Russell Simmons, he is the cofounder of Def Jam Recordings and also established American Recordings. With the Beastie Boys, LL Cool J, Public Enemy, Geto Boys, and Run-DMC, Rubin helped popularize hip hop music.


In 2007, MTV called him "the most important producer of the last 20 years," [3] and the same year, Rubin appeared on Time's "100 Most Influential People in the World".

Early life

Frederick Jay Rubin was born in Long Beach, New York and grew up in Lido Beach, New York. His father, Michael (Mickey), was a shoe wholesaler and his mother Linda a housewife. He is of Jewish descent. [4] While a student at Long Beach High School he befriended the school's audiovisual department director Steve Freeman who gave him a few lessons in guitar playing and songwriting.

He then played in a band with childhood friends Marc Greenhut, Carlos Ferreiro, and Joey Ferrante, performing at garage and school shows for town friends until a teacher helped him create a punk band called The Pricks. Their biggest claim to fame was being thrown off the stage at CBGB after two songs for brawling with the heckling audience, which friends of the band were instructed to instigate a confrontation so as to get the show shut down and create a buzz. [5] Although he had no authority in New York City, Rubin's father traveled from Nassau County, New York, to Manhattan wearing his Long Beach auxiliary police uniform as he attempted to "shut down" the show.


Def Jam years

During his senior year of high school, Rubin founded Def Jam Records using the school's four-track recorder. He moved on to form Hose, influenced by San Francisco's Flipper. In 1982, a Hose track became Def Jam's first release, a 45 rpm 7" vinyl single in a brown paper bag, and no label. [6] The band played in and around the NYC punk scene, toured the Midwest and California, and played with seminal hardcore bands like Meat Puppets, Hüsker Dü, Circle Jerks, Butthole Surfers, and Minor Threat, becoming friends with frontman and Dischord Records owner Ian MacKaye. The band broke up in 1984 as Rubin's passion moved towards the NYC hip hop scene. [6]

Having befriended Zulu Nation's DJ Jazzy Jay, Rubin began to learn about hip hop production. By 1983, the two had 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 the Negril 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 attending New York University 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 Bronx, Brooklyn, and Harlem including rappers from Queens, Staten Island, and Long Island, which eventually led to Def Jam's signing of Public Enemy. Rubin was instrumental in pointing the members of the Beastie Boys away from their punk roots and into rap, resulting in the exit of Kate Schellenbach from the group. [7] 1985's "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-DMC, of which previous recordings were produced by Russell Simmons and Orange Krush's musician Larry Smith. His productions were characterized by occasionally fusing rap with heavy rock. Rubin tapped Adam Dubin and Ric Menello to co-direct the music videos for the Beastie Boys' "(You Gotta) Fight for Your Right (To Party!)" and "No Sleep till Brooklyn", effectively launching the band's mainstream hip hop careers. [8] [9]

It was the idea of 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". This 1986 production is often credited with both introducing rap hard rock to mainstream ears and revitalizing Aerosmith's career. [10] 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 the same year, Rubin began his long musical partnership with Slayer, producing Reign in Blood , considered a classic of the heavy metal genre. This was his first work with a metal band.

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", in 1992. Rubin is credited as music supervisor in the movie Less Than Zero and is the producer of its soundtrack. Rubin portrayed a character based on himself in the 1985 hip-hop motion picture Krush Groove , which was inspired by the early days of Russell Simmons' career as an artist management and music producer. He then directed and co-wrote (with Ric Menello) a second Run–D.M.C. film, Tougher Than Leather in 1988.

In 1988, Rubin and Simmons went their separate ways after Rubin had a falling out with the then Def Jam president Lyor Cohen. Rubin left for Los Angeles to start Def American Records, while Simmons remained at Def Jam in New York. In Los Angeles, Rubin signed a number of rock and heavy metal acts, including Danzig, Masters of Reality, The Four Horsemen, and Wolfsbane, as well as alternative rock group The Jesus and Mary Chain and stand-up comedian Andrew Dice Clay. Though Rubin's work at this time focused mainly on rock and metal, he still 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 had originally given his new label the name "Def American Recordings". In 1993 Rubin found that the word "def" had been accepted into the standardized dictionary and held an actual funeral for the word, complete with a casket, a grave, celebrity mourners and a eulogy from The Reverend Al Sharpton. [4] [11] Def American became American Recordings. In regard to this he stated: "When advertisers and the fashion world co-opted the image of hippies, a group of the original hippies in San Francisco literally buried the image of the hippie. When 'def' went from street lingo to mainstream, it defeated its purpose." [12]

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. The formula was repeated for five more Cash albums: Unchained (on which Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers served as the backing band), Solitary Man , The Man Comes Around (the last album released before Cash's death), A Hundred Highways , and Ain't No Grave . 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 a defining song of Cash's later years. Rubin also produced two of Joe Strummer's final songs, "Long Shadow", a song Strummer wrote for Cash to record although he never did, and a cover of Bob Marley's "Redemption Song". Both songs were released on Strummer's final album, Streetcore , which was released after his death. Rubin also produced a version of "Redemption Song" with Strummer and Cash together, which was featured in Cash's posthumous box set, Unearthed .

Rubin has also produced a number of records with other artists, which were released on labels other than American. Arguably his biggest success as producer came from working with the Red Hot Chili Peppers with whom Rubin produced six studio albums from 1991 to 2011, starting with the band's fifth release, Blood Sugar Sex Magik , which launched the band to mainstream success thanks to the hit singles "Give It Away" and "Under the Bridge". The six albums with the Chili Peppers also spawned twelve number one singles on the Billboard Alternative Songs chart, a record the band as of 2015 still holds, and various awards including sixteen Grammy Nominations (with six wins) with a Producer of the Year Grammy award for 2006's Stadium Arcadium , which was also nominated for Album of the Year. The band has sold over 80 million albums worldwide, most of which have been through sales of the Rubin produced albums. Various members of the Chili Peppers have also been used on other projects by Rubin. After 24 years of working with Rubin, the band announced in late 2014 that they would be working with another producer on their eleventh studio album.

He also produced 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 2005, Rubin executive-produced Shakira's two-album project Fijacion Oral Vol. 1 and Oral Fixation Vol. 2 . He was to appear on the Talib Kweli's album Eardrum , [13] Clipse's album Til the Casket Drops [14] and Lil Jon's album Crunk Rock . [15] Rubin also produced the Jay-Z track "99 Problems", and was featured in the song's music video. He also worked with Eminem on the song and music video "Berzerk".

Rick Rubin produced Black Sabbath's 2013 album 13 [16] and Billy Corgan's comeback solo album Ogilala .

Columbia years

In May 2007, Rubin was named co-head of Columbia Records. Rubin co-produced Linkin Park's 2007 album Minutes to Midnight with Mike Shinoda. Rubin and Shinoda have since co-produced the band's 2010 album, A Thousand Suns , and their June 2012 release, Living Things .

In 2007, Rubin won the Grammy Award for Producer of the Year, Non-Classical for his work with the Dixie Chicks, Michael Kranz, Red Hot Chili Peppers, U2, Green Day, and Johnny Cash released in 2006. [17] Rubin won the award again in 2009, for production work for Metallica, Neil Diamond, Ours, Jakob Dylan, and Weezer in 2008.

In 2007 and 2012, Rubin won the Grammy Award for Album of the Year. The former was for his work on the Dixie Chicks's album, Taking the Long Way , and the latter came for his contribution to Adele's album, 21 .


Rubin left Columbia in 2012, and revived the American Recordings imprint through a deal with Republic Records. The first albums released under this new deal were ZZ Top's La Futura and The Avett Brothers' The Carpenter . [18]

Rubin attempted to record a cover album with Crosby, Stills & Nash in 2012, but the brief sessions were ultimately unsuccessful. Graham Nash went on to describe the sessions as "irritable" and "not a great experience". [19]

More recently, he signed an overall deal with Endeavor Content. [20]

Other ventures

Rubin is a fan of professional wrestling and had lifetime subscription tickets to the World Wrestling Federation's monthly events at Madison Square Garden throughout the 1970s and 80s. Rubin has cited Roddy Piper and Ric Flair as influences in his work and promotion. Rubin has said that professional wrestling heels were hugely influential in the development of The Beastie Boys. "The idea of being bad-guy rappers, saying really outlandish things in interviews, that all came from a love of pro wrestling," said Rubin. Rubin financially backed Jim Cornette's Smoky Mountain Wrestling for most of its run from 1991 to 1995. [21]

Rubin has a chapter giving advice in Tim Ferriss' book Tools of Titans . In addition, he gives advice on creativity on his Instagram account. [22]

Production style


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. However, by the 2000s, Rubin's style [23] had been known to include such elements, as noted in The Washington Post : "As the track reaches a crescendo and [Neil] Diamond's portentous baritone soars over a swelling string arrangement, Rubin leans back, as though floored by the emotional power of the song." [24]

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." [24] Natalie Maines of The Chicks has praised his production methods, saying, "He has the ability and the patience to let music be discovered, not manufactured. Come to think of it, maybe he is a guru." [25] Producer Dr. Dre has stated that Rubin is, "hands down, the dopest producer ever that anyone would ever want to be, ever." [26]


In 2010 at the Music Producers Guild (MPG) awards, Matt Bellamy of Muse criticized Rubin while accepting the award for UK single of the year, stating that the band would "like to thank Rick Rubin for teaching us how not to produce." [27]

Although he and his bandmates had some positive things to say about Rubin, Slipknot's lead singer Corey Taylor said that he met Rubin only four times during the entire recording process of Vol. 3: (The Subliminal Verses) [28] and that Rubin barely came to the studio: "... we were being charged horrendous amounts of money. And for me, if you're going to produce something, you're fucking there. I don't care who you are!" He also added: "The Rick Rubin of today is a ... shadow of the Rick Rubin that he was. He is overrated, he is overpaid, and I will never work with him again". [29] Taylor subsequently expressed regret for the manner of his criticisms of Rubin, and a desire to make amends; Taylor stated "I think it was more on my end than it was on his", attributing the friction to Taylor being "freshly sober" and "unsure of (himself), needing the guidance" during the recording process, and to never having previously worked with anyone whose methods were like Rubin's. [30] In 2019, comparing Rubin to Greg Fidelman, who produced Slipknot's album We Are Not Your Kind (2019), Taylor criticised Rubin's absences from the studio due to other work commitments, observing that although he was a "nice guy, absolutely nice guy", "when it came time to work with Rick, he just wasn’t fucking there... it wasn’t until we finished the vocals at his house that I saw him more than once a week." [31]

"Loudness war"

Since at least 1999, Rubin has been criticized by listeners for contributing to a phenomenon in music known as the loudness war, in which the dynamic range of recorded music is compressed and sometimes clipped in order to increase the general loudness. Albums produced by Rubin that have been criticized for such treatment include:



1985 Krush Groove Himself
1986 (You Gotta) Fight for Your Right (To Party!) (Beastie Boys music video) Cameo
1988 Tougher Than Leather Vic FerranteActor, director, writer
1990 Men Don't Leave Craig
1991 Funky Monks Himself
2004 Fade to Black Himself
99 Problems (Jay-Z music video)Cameo
2005 Twisted Transistor (Korn music video)Cameo
2006 Dixie Chicks: Shut Up and Sing Himself
iTunes Originals – Red Hot Chili Peppers Himself
2007 Runnin' Down a Dream Himself
The Making of Minutes to Midnight Himself
2010 The Meeting of a Thousand Suns Himself
2012 Inside Living Things Himself
2013 Sound City Himself
Berzerk (Eminem music video)Cameo
Making 13 Himself
2014Foo Fighters Sonic Highways (TV mini series)Himself
2016I Am Johnny Cash (documentary)Himself
2017Oh, Vita! Making an AlbumHimself
May It Last: A Portrait of the Avett BrothersHimself
2018 My Next Guest Needs No Introduction with David Letterman HimselfEpisode 4
2019 Shangri-La Himself4 episodes
2021McCartney 3,2,1Himself6 episodes

Awards and nominations

Grammy Awards

YearNominee / workAwardResult
1996 Wildflowers Best Rock Album Nominated
Himself Producer of the Year, Non-Classical Nominated
1998 Unchained Best Country Album Won
2000 Californication Best Rock AlbumNominated
Echo Nominated
HimselfProducer of the Year, Non-ClassicalNominated
2003 Nominated
American IV: The Man Comes Around Best Contemporary Folk Album Nominated
2005 Unearthed Best Historical Album Nominated
"99 Problems" Best Rap Song Nominated
2007 "Not Ready to Make Nice" Record of the Year Won
Taking the Long Way Best Country AlbumWon
Album of the Year Won
FutureSex/LoveSounds Nominated
Stadium Arcadium Nominated
Best Rock AlbumWon
HimselfProducer of the Year, Non-ClassicalWon
2009 Won
2011 "Ain't No Grave / The Johnny Cash Project" Best Short Form Music Video Nominated
2012 21 Album of the YearWon
2015 x Nominated
2021 The New Abnormal Best Rock AlbumWon

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