Five jewels in the Rubin crown

Five Rubin classics
By TED DROZDOWSKI  |  June 27, 2006


Beastie Boys
Since launching the pioneering rap label Def Jam out of his NYU dorm room, Rubin has threaded his fingers through almost every genre, from the dirty boogie of the Black Crowes to the metal of Danzig and Slayer to the pop ephemera of God Lives Underwater to Jay Z’s state-of-rap to, well, Neil Diamond and Johnny Cash. Here are five Rubin classics.

Beastie Boys | Licensed to Ill | Def Jam, 1986 | The Beasties were just scrappy New York punk-rock brats with a crappy EP and single (“Cookie Puss”) before Rubin helped them refine a budding hip-hop jones — first as their turntabulist, then as their producer — into a rap-rock masterpiece.

Run-D.M.C. | Raising Hell | Def Jam, 1986 | Teaming these Queens rappers with Aerosmith for “Walk This Way” kicked open the doors of the mainstream for hip-hop, but Rubin also shook up the nascent rap world with this production: a blend of hammering drum-machine beats, slice-and-dice record stabs, and blustering rhymes that made the gentler era of the Sugar Hill Gang dust.

The Cult | Electric | Beggars Banquet | 1987 | Rubin’s transformative power took hold here, too, as he stripped away the Cult’s distinctly British Goth and psychedelic trappings to find the black-leather-clad skeleton of Sunset Strip riff-rock and created a new generation of Led-zapped AC/DC hard-rockers.

Red Hot Chili Peppers | Blood Sugar Sex Magick | Warner Bros; 1991 | There’s no better testament to Rubin’s genius than this album, on which he taught four dumb-ass SoCal funk-punk jokesters about melody, lyricism, structure, and songwriting, prompting their breakthrough “Under the Bridge.”

Neil Diamond | 12 Songs | Sony, 2005 | Much as he did with Cash, Rubin stripped Diamond of every superfluous element of his craft, building these songs around the Vegas icon’s acoustic guitar and heart-on-his-sleeve writing to create a work of unforced maturity and depth.

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