Rick Rubin

Rick Rubin

Rubin, September 14, 2006, Abbey Road Studios, London, working with U2
Background information
Birth name Frederick Jay Rubin
Also known as DJ Double R
Born (1963-03-10) March 10, 1963
Long Beach, New York, U.S.
Origin Lido Beach, New York, U.S.
Genres Rock, hip hop,[1][2] heavy metal, country
Occupation(s) Record producer
Years active 1982–present
Labels Def Jam, American, Columbia, Warner Bros., Epic, Blackened Recordings
Associated acts The Avett Brothers, Red Hot Chili Peppers, Johnny Cash, Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers, The Black Crowes, Jazzy Jay, Dixie Chicks, Slayer, Beastie Boys, Weezer, Jay Z, Adele, Kanye West, Metallica, AC/DC, Joe Strummer, Aerosmith, Linkin Park, Nine Inch Nails, Lana Del Rey, Lady Gaga, Josh Groban, Danzig, The Cult, Slipknot, System of a Down, Black Sabbath, Jakob Dylan, ZZ Top, Eminem, Kid Rock, Ed Sheeran, Justin Bieber, Wesley Willis, James Blake

Frederick Jay "Rick" Rubin (born March 10, 1963) is an American record producer and former co-president of Columbia Records. Along with Russell Simmons, Rubin is the co-founder of Def Jam Records and also established American Recordings. With the Beastie Boys, LL Cool J, Public Enemy, and Run–D.M.C., Rubin helped popularize hip hop music.

Rubin has also worked with artists such as Red Hot Chili Peppers, Kanye West, Johnny Cash, The Black Crowes, Slayer, Jay Z, Jake Bugg, James Blake, Danzig, Dixie Chicks, Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers, Black Sabbath, Slipknot, Metallica, AC/DC, Aerosmith, Weezer, Linkin Park, The Cult, At The Drive-In, Neil Diamond, The Avett Brothers, Adele, Joe Strummer, Mick Jagger, System of a Down, The Mars Volta, Rage Against the Machine, Melanie C, Audioslave, Sheryl Crow, ZZ Top, Jakob Dylan, Lana Del Rey, Lady Gaga, Shakira, Ed Sheeran, Damien Rice, Eminem, Frank Ocean, and Gogol Bordello. 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.[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. These hecklers were 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 Lido Beach auxiliary police uniform as he attempted to "shut down" the show.


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. 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 1986 as Rubin's passion moved towards the NYC hip hop scene.

Having befriended Zulu Nation's DJ Jazzy Jay, Rubin began to learn about hip hop production. By 1983, the two men 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.[6] 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–D.M.C. 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.[7][8]

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. 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". 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 a 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][9] 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."[10]

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 major label debut on 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 world-wide, most of which have been through sales of the Rubin produced albums. Three of the band's albums; Blood Sugar Sex Magik, Californication and By the Way were featured on Rolling Stone's 500 Greatest Albums of All Time list and the band were 2012 inductees into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame. 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,[11] Clipse's album Til the Casket Drops[12] and Lil Jon's album Crunk Rock.[13] 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.

Rubin recently finished producing Black Sabbath's 2013 album 13.[14]

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.[15] 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.[16]

Rubin also attempted to record a cover album with Crosby, Stills & Nash in 2012, but the sessions were short-lived and ultimately unsuccessful. Graham Nash said the sessions were "irritable" and "not a great experience".[17] He also supports and is the manager of rock band Sunday Mornin'.

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 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."[18] Producer Dr. Dre has stated that Rubin is, "hands down, the dopest producer ever that anyone would ever want to be, ever."[19]

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."[18] 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."[20]

In 2010 at the Music Producers Guild (MPG) awards, Muse aimed a potshot at Rick 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."[21]

One trademark of Rubin's production is that he encourages artists to genre-bend: rap stars Run–D.M.C. covered hard rock band Aerosmith's "Walk This Way", country music star Johnny Cash covered "Hurt" by industrial band Nine Inch Nails and "Personal Jesus" by synthpop band Depeche Mode, and Southern rock band ZZ Top covered "25 Lighters" by DJ DMD.

Criticisms by artists and listeners

Not all artists who have worked with Rubin have enjoyed his production style. Although he and his band mates 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."[22] 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".[23]

"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:


Year Film Role Notes
1985 Krush Groove Himself
1986 (You Gotta) Fight For Your Right (To Party) (Beastie Boys music video) Cameo
1988 Tougher Than Leather Vic Ferrante actor, 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
2013 Making 13 Himself
2014 Foo Fighters Sonic Highways (TV Mini Series) Himself
2016 I Am Johnny Cash (Documentary) Himself

Awards and nominations

Grammy Awards

Year Nominee/work Award Result
1996 Himself Producer of the Year, Non-Classical Nominated
1998 Unchained Best Country Album Won
2000 Himself Producer of the Year, Non-Classical Nominated
2003 Himself Producer of the Year, Non-Classical Nominated
2006 "Not Ready to Make Nice" Record of the Year Won
Taking the Long Way Best Country Album Won
Album of the Year Won
FutureSex/LoveSounds Nominated
Stadium Arcadium Nominated
Best Rock Album Won
Himself Producer of the Year, Non-Classical Won
2009 Won
Death Magnetic Best Rock Album Nominated
2012 21 Album of the Year Won
I'm with You Best Rock Album Nominated
2014 13 Best Rock Album Nominated
2015 x Album of the Year Nominated


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  2. "Rick Rubin - Top 11 Hip-Hop Producers of All-Time". UGO.com. 2008-10-23. Retrieved 2014-02-18.
  3. What's Up With That Bearded Guy From The '99 Problems' Video? – MTV.com
  4. 1 2 Hirschberg, Lynn. "The Music Man", The New York Times Magazine, 2 September 2007.
  5. "Rick Rubin Meets Zane Lowe". BBC. 16 June 2014.
  6. Rude Boys, Amos Barshad, New York magazine 2011 5, retr 2012 Oct
  7. Kaufman, Gil (2013-03-04). "Beastie Boys Video Director Ric Menello Dead At 60". MTV.com. Retrieved 2013-03-17.
  8. Hogan, Marc (2013-03-05). "Ric Menello, Beastie Boys Video Director, Dies at 60". Spin Magazine. Retrieved 2013-03-17.
  9. Seidenberg, Rob (1993-09-10). "The Death of Def". EW.com. Retrieved 2014-02-18.
  10. Hirchberg, Lynn. The Music Man. The New York Times Magazine, September 2, 2007.
  11. "Talib Kweli's New Single: 'Listen'". 2006-06-07. Retrieved 2010-07-29.
  12. Pitchfork: Clipse/Rick Rubin Collaboration Actually Happening
  13. "Lil Jon Merging Crunk And Rock On Next Album". Billboard. Retrieved 13 August 2012.
  14. "Reunited Black Sabbath to headline". NME. 11 November 2011. Retrieved 13 August 2012.
  15. TYRANGIEL, Josh (2007-02-08). "Rick Rubin: Hit Man". Time Magazine. Retrieved 2007-02-25.
  16. Jem Aswad (22 August 2012). "Exclusive: Rick Rubin Brings American Recordings to Universal Republic". Billboard.biz. Billboard. Retrieved 11 October 2012.
  17. "Graham Nash Says CSN Sessions With Rick Rubin Were Contentious". Rolling Stone. Retrieved 19 August 2014.
  18. 1 2 The 'Song Doctor' Is In – Washington Post
  19. Why A Music Producer Holds The Key To Unlocking Growth At Your Startup - Forbes
  20. Maines, Natalie (2007-05-03). "The Time 100". Time.
  21. Helienne Lindvall (2010-02-12). "Muse slate producer Rick Rubin at awards ceremony | Music". London: theguardian.com. Archived from the original on June 29, 2013. Retrieved 2014-02-18.
  22. SLIPKNOT Members On Working With Producer RICK RUBIN - Sep. 21, 2008
  23. "Corey Taylor On Rick Rubin: 'He Is Overrated, Overpaid, And I Will Never Work With Him Again'". Blabbermouth.net. 2011-11-22. Retrieved 2014-02-18.
  24. Anderson, Tim (January 17, 2007). "How CDs are remastering the art of noise". London: The Guardian. Retrieved April 20, 2007.
  25. "Californication Sound Quality". Stylus Magazine. Archived from the original on June 12, 2006. Retrieved June 25, 2007.
  26. Daniel Kreps (2008-09-18). "Fans Complain After Death Magnetic Sounds Better On Guitar Hero Than CD | Music News". Rolling Stone. Retrieved 2014-02-18.
  27. "The WIRED Guide to Music in the Modern World | Underwire". Wired.com. 2013-03-28. Archived from the original on February 12, 2014. Retrieved 2014-02-18.
  28. Sean Michaels (2008-09-17). "Metallica album sounds better on Guitar Hero videogame | Music". London: theguardian.com. Retrieved 2014-02-18.
  29. Ratliff, Ben (7 June 2013). "Black Sabbath's New Album, '13'". The New York Times. Retrieved 13 June 2013.
  30. Hadusek, Jon (11 June 2013). "Album Review: Black Sabbath – 13". Consequence of Sound. Archived from the original on 19 June 2013. Retrieved 13 June 2013.
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