March 10th - Producer Rick Rubin was born Frederick Jay Rubin in Long Beach, New York, on this day in 1963.
Rubin co-founded Def Jam Records with Russell Simmons and then later his own American Records imprint.
Rubin was responsible for signing hip-hop legends The Beastie Boys, Public Enemy and LL Cool J, amongst others.
After playing guitar in a few local punks bands out of Lido Beach, New York in the late 1970’s and early 1980’s, Rubin hooked up with a hardcore group named Hose, who had minor success releasing a 7 inch single. On the strength of the local success of the 45 rpm, Hose toured briefly with Husker Du, The Circle Jerks and The Butthole Surfers.
In 1982, Rubin met legendary DJ Jazzy Jay who taught Rubin the rudiments of production for hip-hop records.
The two then co-produced the classic single “It’s Yours” by T La Rock.
Rubin and Jay released the 12 inch single on a label Rubin had started in his dorm at New York University called Def Jam. Famed hip-hop and dance music producer Arthur Baker helped Rubin and Jay by distributing the single on his own Streetwise Records, making “It’s Yours” a Def Jam/Streetwise collaboration release.
Jay then introduced Rubin to New York party/concert promoter and artist manager Russell Simmons who in turn partnered up with Rubin and launched the label, full blown, with the release of another 12 inch single by a 16 year old LL Cool J called “I Need A Beat.”
Rubin then went in search of other artists to sign and in the process discovered and then began releasing records by a punk/funk hip-hop rap trio called The Beastie Boys, whose debut album on Def Jam called “Licensed To Ill” sold over nine million copies. The rock/hip-hop oriented “Licensed To Ill” spawned the smash hits “(You Gotta) Fight For Your Right (To Party)” and “No Sleep Till Brooklyn.” “Licensed To Ill” was produced by Rick Rubin.
Rubin also produced LL Cool J’s debut album called “Radio” along with Jazzy Jay, which also contained several hits and hip-hop classics like “I Can’t Live Without My Radio” and “Dear Yvette.” The album’s stripped down production approach, reminiscent of early hip-hop block parties had liner notes that read “Reduced by Rick Rubin.”
During this time Rubin appeared as himself in the 1985 Warner Bros. film “Krush Groove”, which was loosely based on the founding of Def Jam Records by Rubin and Simmons.
While in search of other talent for Def Jam Rubin, after much hounding, finally convinced Yours Truly to sign with the label after I had decided that at age 26, I was too old to enter the music industry as an artist. I conceded after Rubin agreed to sign Flavor Flav as well, as hip-hop’s first hype man.
In 1986, Public Enemy signed to Def Jam Records and we released our debut album “Yo! Bum Rush The Show” in 1987.
Also during this time, Rubin produced the classic Run-DMC/Aerosmith hit “Walk This Way” from the former’s 1986 hit album “Raising Hell.”
The original version of “Walk This Way”, from Aerosmith’s 1975 album “Toys In The Attic”, had been a hip-hop break beat staple ever since its release.
Aerosmith’s career, which had been placed on hold amid drug problems, was rejuvenated by the smash hit and MTV favorite, which most credit with bringing rap music to the mainstream.
In 1988, Rubin wrote and directed the New Line Cinema Run-DMC movie “Tougher Than Leather”, which also featured the music of Slick Rick and Public Enemy.
After the release of “Tougher Than Leather”, Rubin decided to leave Def Jam and relocate to Los Angeles and start Def American Records, whose roster would eventually include The Black Crowes, Slayer (who had previously been on Def Jam), Danzig, The Jesus And Mary Chain and comedian Andrew “Dice” Clay.
In 1993, Rubin shortened the name of the label to just simply American Records, even holding a public funeral for the word Def, claiming that the once hip and fringe word relegated to hip-hop culture and become too mainstream and cliché. Outside of producing records for his American label, Rubin would become one of the most sought after producers in the industry working with Tom Petty, Black Sabbath, Slipknot, Linkin Park, Jay-Z, Rage Against The Machine, Audioslave, Weezer, AC/DC, Mettalica, Green Day and the late Johnny Cash , whom Rubin had signed to American.
In 2006, Rubin won the Grammy Award for Producer Of The Year for his work with Cash, The Dixie Chicks, Michael Krunz, Red Hot Chili Peppers, Green Day and U2 in the previous year.
In 2007, Rick Rubin was named Vice-President of Columbia Records.
In 2012, Rubin won a Grammy Award for his work with superstar Adele on her album “21.”
Rubin has also appeared in the films “Men Don’t Leave”, “Funky Monks” and “Fade To Black.”
Rick Rubin is one of the most pioneering and respected producers in hip-hop history, responsible for some of rap’s all-time greatest recordings. Rubin’s foray into rock, alternative, metal, punk and pop has been equally as successful.