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 56)
Long Beach, New York, U.S.
Origin Lido Beach, New York, U.S.
Occupation(s)Record producer
Years active1982–present
Associated acts

Frederick Jay Rubin ( /ˈrbɪn/ ; born March 10, 1963) is an American record producer and former co-president of Columbia Records. Along with Russell Simmons, he is the co-founder 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.

Record producer Individual who oversees and manages the recording of an artists music

A record producer or music producer oversees and manages the sound recording and production of a band or performer's music, which may range from recording one song to recording a lengthy concept album. A producer has many, varying roles during the recording process. They may gather musical ideas for the project, collaborate with the artists to select cover tunes or original songs by the artist/group, work with artists and help them to improve their songs, lyrics or arrangements.

Columbia Records American record label; currently owned by Sony Music Entertainment

Columbia Records is an American record label owned by Sony Music Entertainment, a subsidiary of Sony Corporation of America, the North American division of Japanese conglomerate Sony. It was founded in 1887, evolving from the American Graphophone Company, the successor to the Volta Graphophone Company. Columbia is the oldest surviving brand name in the recorded sound business, and the second major company to produce records. From 1961 to 1990, Columbia recordings were released outside North America under the name CBS Records to avoid confusion with EMI's Columbia Graphophone Company. Columbia is one of Sony Music's four flagship record labels, alongside former longtime rival RCA Records, as well as Arista Records and Epic Records.

Russell Simmons American entrepreneur, producer and author

Russell Wendell Simmons is an American entrepreneur, record executive, writer, and film producer. He is chairman and CEO of Rush Communications, co-founded the hip-hop music label Def Jam Recordings, and created the clothing fashion lines Phat Farm, Argyleculture, and Tantris. Simmons' net worth was estimated at $340 million in 2011.


Rubin has also worked with artists such as AC/DC, Adele, Aerosmith, At The Drive-In, Audioslave, Black Sabbath, Coheed And Cambria, Damien Rice, Danzig, Dixie Chicks, Ed Sheeran, Eminem, Frank Ocean, Gogol Bordello, Jakob Dylan, Jay-Z, Jake Bugg, James Blake, Joe Strummer, Johnny Cash, Jovanotti, Justin Timberlake, Kanye West, Kid Rock, Lady Gaga, Lana Del Rey, Linkin Park, Melanie C, Metallica, Mick Jagger, Neil Diamond, Rage Against the Machine, Red Hot Chili Peppers, Santana, Shakira, Sheryl Crow, Slayer, Slipknot, System of a Down, The Avett Brothers, The Black Crowes, The Cult, The Four Horsemen, The Mars Volta, The Smashing Pumpkins, Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers, Trouble, Type O Negative, Weezer, Dan Auerbach, The Black Keys and ZZ Top.

AC/DC Australian hard rock band formed in Sydney in 1973

AC/DC are an Australian rock band formed in Sydney in 1973 by Scottish-born brothers Malcolm and Angus Young. Their music has been variously described as hard rock, blues rock, and heavy metal; however, the band themselves describe their music as simply "rock and roll".

Adele British singer-songwriter

Adele Laurie Blue Adkins is an English singer-songwriter. After graduating from the BRIT School in 2006, Adele signed a recording contract with XL Recordings. In 2007, she received the Brit Awards Critics' Choice award and won the BBC Sound of 2008 poll. Her debut album, 19, was released in 2008 to commercial and critical success. It is certified eight times platinum in the UK, and three times platinum in the US. The album contains her first song, "Hometown Glory", written when she was 16, which is based on her home suburb of West Norwood in London. An appearance she made on Saturday Night Live in late 2008, boosted her career in the US. At the 51st Grammy Awards in 2009, Adele received the awards for Best New Artist and Best Female Pop Vocal Performance.

Aerosmith American rock band

Aerosmith is an American rock band formed in Boston, Massachusetts in 1970. The group consists of Steven Tyler, Joe Perry (guitar), Tom Hamilton (bass), Joey Kramer (drums), and Brad Whitford (guitar). Their style, which is rooted in blues-based hard rock, has come to also incorporate elements of pop rock, heavy metal, and rhythm and blues, and has inspired many subsequent rock artists. They are sometimes referred to as "the Bad Boys from Boston" and "America's Greatest Rock and Roll Band".

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.

MTV American pay television channel

MTV is an American pay television channel that serves as the flagship property of owner Viacom Media Networks and is headquartered in New York City. The channel was launched on August 1, 1981, and originally aired music videos as guided by television personalities known as "video jockeys" (VJs). At first, MTV's main target demographic was young adults, but today it is primarily teenagers, particularly high school and college students.

Time is an American weekly news magazine and news website published in New York City. It was founded in 1923 and originally run by Henry Luce. A European edition is published in London and also covers the Middle East, Africa, and, since 2003, Latin America. An Asian edition is based in Hong Kong. The South Pacific edition, which covers Australia, New Zealand, and the Pacific Islands, is based in Sydney. In December 2008, Time discontinued publishing a Canadian advertiser edition.

Time 100 is an annual listicle of the 100 most influential people in the world assembled by the American news magazine Time. First published in 1999 as the result of a debate among American academics, politicians, and journalists, the list is now a highly publicized annual event. Although appearing on the list is often seen as an honor, Time makes it clear that entrants are recognized for changing the world, regardless of the consequences of their actions. The final list of influential individuals is exclusively chosen by Time editors with nominations coming from the TIME 100 alumni and the magazine's international writing staff. Only the winner of the Reader's Poll, conducted days before the official list is revealed, is chosen by the general public. The corresponding commemorative gala is held annually in Manhattan.

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 doing garage and school shows for town friends until Steve, an AV 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 who were in fact friends of the band instructed to instigate a confrontation so as to get the show shut down and create a buzz. Somewhat anecdotally, this story was confirmed in an interview with music journalist Zane Lowe. [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.

Long Beach, New York City in New York, United States

Long Beach is a city in Nassau County, New York. Just south of Long Island, it is on Long Beach Barrier Island, which is the westernmost of the outer barrier islands off Long Island's South Shore. As of the 2010 United States Census, the city population was 33,275. It was incorporated in 1922, and is nicknamed The City By the Sea. The city of Long Beach is surrounded by Reynolds Channel to the north, east and west, and the Atlantic Ocean to the south.

New York (state) State of the United States of America

New York is a state in the Northeastern United States. New York was one of the original thirteen colonies that formed the United States. With an estimated 19.54 million residents in 2018, it is the fourth most populous state. In order to distinguish the state from the city with the same name, it is sometimes referred to as New York State.

Lido Beach, New York Hamlet and census-designated place in New York, United States

Lido Beach is a hamlet and census-designated place (CDP) in Nassau County, New York, United States. The population was 2,897 at the 2010 census.


Def Jam years

During his senior year, 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]

Multitrack recording process of mixing individual sound sources to a single recording

Multitrack recording (MTR)—also known as multitracking, double tracking, or tracking—is a method of sound recording developed in 1955 that allows for the separate recording of multiple sound sources or of sound sources recorded at different times to create a cohesive whole. Multitracking became possible in the mid-1950s when the idea of simultaneously recording different audio channels to separate discrete "tracks" on the same reel-to-reel tape was developed. A "track" was simply a different channel recorded to its own discrete area on the tape whereby their relative sequence of recorded events would be preserved, and playback would be simultaneous or synchronized.

Hose is an "artcore" and garage punk band from the 1980s founded by producer and Def Jam creator Rick Rubin. Hose's 12-inch EP was the first recording released with the Def Jam logo.

Flipper (band) American band

Flipper is an American rock band formed in San Francisco, California in 1979, continuing in often erratic fashion until the mid-1990s, then reuniting in 2005. The band influenced a number of grunge, punk rock and noise rock bands. Their slowed-down, bass-driven and heavily distorted style of punk is also considered a key forerunner to sludge, and influenced bands such as the Melvins and Nirvana, whose bass player Krist Novoselic played with the band in the 2000s.

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 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 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]

Universal Zulu Nation international hip hop awareness group formed by Afrika Bambaataa

The Universal Zulu Nation is an international hip hop awareness group formed and formerly headed by hip hop artist Afrika Bambaataa.

Jazzy Jay American record producer

Jazzy Jay, born on November 18, 1961), also known as The Original Jazzy Jay or DJ Jazzy Jay, is an American hip hop DJ and producer.

Hip hop production

Hip hop production is the creation of hip hop music in a recording studio. While the term encompasses all aspects of hip hop music creation, including recording the rapping of an MC, a turntablist or DJ providing a beat, playing samples and "scratching" using record players and the creation of a rhythmic backing track, using a drum machine or sequencer, it is most commonly used to refer to recording the instrumental, non-lyrical and non-vocal aspects of hip hop.

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". 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 upon 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 different ways after Rubin had a falling out with the then Def Jam president Lyor Cohen. It was then that Rubin left for Los Angeles, California to start Def American Records, while Simmons remained at Def Jam in NY. 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 originally had given his label the name "Def Jam". The word "def" 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". [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 , 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 for from 1991–2011 including their debut for Warner Bros., 1991's Blood Sugar Sex Magik , which launched the band to mainstream success thanks to the hit singles "Give it Away" and "Under the Bridge" and is highly regarded as one of the most influential albums of the 90s. 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 as well including recording by Johnny Cash. After 24 years working with the band, they announced in late 2014 that they would be working with another producer on their eleventh studio album, bringing an end to their long and successful tenure with Rubin.

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, Rick 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] Rick 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". During this period, he also produced "Breath of the Heart" in 2001 for kirtan singer Krishna Das (Singer) on Karuna, LLC.

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 2012 Rubin won the Grammy for Album of the Year for his role as a producer on 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 are ZZ Top's La Futura and The Avett Brothers' The Carpenter . [18]

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

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 1991–95. [20]

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 [21] 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." [22]

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." [22] Natalie Maines of the Dixie 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." [23] Producer Dr. Dre has stated that Rubin is, "hands down, the dopest producer ever that anyone would ever want to be, ever." [24]

One trademark of Rubin's production is that he encourages artists to genre-bend:


Not all artists who have worked with Rubin have enjoyed his production style.

In 2010 at the Music Producers Guild (MPG) awards, Muse aimed a potshot at Rubin as the band accepted the award for UK single of the year. Arriving onstage, Matt Bellamy thanked a number of people for teaching them how to produce, finishing off with: "And we'd like to thank Rick Rubin for teaching us how not to produce." The audience roared, as Bellamy smiled, concluding: "I thought you'd like that one." [25]

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) 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!" [26] 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". [27]

"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
2004 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
2013 Berzerk (Eminem music video) Cameo
2013Making 13 Himself
2014Foo Fighters Sonic Highways (TV Mini Series)Himself
2016I Am Johnny Cash (Documentary)Himself
2017Oh, vita! Making an albumHimself
2017May It Last: A Portrait Of The Avett BrothersHimself
2018My Next Guest Needs No Introduction with David LettermanHimselfEpisode 4

Awards and nominations

Grammy Awards

YearNominee / workAwardResult
1996 Himself Producer of the Year, Non-Classical Nominated
1998 Unchained Best Country Album Won
2000 HimselfProducer of the Year, Non-ClassicalNominated
Echo Best Rock Album Nominated
Californication Nominated
2003 HimselfProducer of the Year, Non-ClassicalNominated
American IV: The Man Comes Around Best Contemporary Folk Album Nominated
2005 "99 Problems" Best Rap Song Nominated
Unearthed Best Historical Album 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 Album Won
HimselfProducer of the Year, Non-ClassicalWon
2009 Won
Death Magnetic Best Rock AlbumNominated
2011 "Ain't No Grave / The Johnny Cash Project" Best Short Form Music Video Nominated
2012 21 Album of the YearWon
I'm with You Best Rock AlbumNominated
2014 13 Best Rock AlbumNominated
2015 x Album of the YearNominated

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Richard "Ric" Menello was an American filmmaker and screenwriter. Menello co-directed the landmark music video for the Beastie Boys' 1987 single, "(You Gotta) Fight for Your Right ". His contributions to music during the era led MTV to call him, "one of the most influential visionaries behind the emergence of commercial hip-hop in the 1980s."

Run-DMC American hip hop group

Run-DMC was an American hip hop group from Hollis, Queens, New York, founded in 1981 by Joseph Simmons, Darryl McDaniels, and Jason Mizell. Run-DMC is widely acknowledged as one of the most influential acts in the history of hip hop culture and one of the most famous hip hop acts of the 1980s. Along with LL Cool J, the Beastie Boys, and Public Enemy, the group pioneered new school hip hop music. Run-DMC was the first group in the genre to have an album certified gold and to be nominated for a Grammy Award. They were the first to earn a platinum record, the first to earn a multi-platinum certification, the first to have their music videos broadcast on MTV, and the first to appear on American Bandstand and the cover of Rolling Stone magazine. Run-DMC was the only hip hop act to perform at the U.S. Live Aid concert in 1985.


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