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5 Times Rick Rubin Made Magic with Your Favorite Artists

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With over three decades of classic albums under his belt, Rick Rubin (the sage record producer whose intuition-based, hands-off approach has made him an icon in the music industry) recently popped back on the radar thanks to a sit-down interview he did with hip hop prodigy Kendrick Lamar for GQ at his Shangri La studios in Malibu. The end of the discussion also teased the idea of the two of them working on new music together. History shows us that when you want to make some of the best work of your career, you want this man in the room…

1) Johnny Cash

Johnny Cash had already established his legacy as one of the most acclaimed and best-selling artists of all-time long before he began working with Rubin. But the series of albums that he released – starting in the mid-90s – helped revitalize the country icon and introduce the music of a man in his 60’s to a whole new generation. Rick Rubin wisely had Cash put his own spin on a slew of more contemporary rock songs, including Nine Inch Nails’ “Hurt,” Depeche Mode’s “Personal Jesus,” and Soundgarden’s “Rusty Cage.”

2) Red Hot Chili Peppers

While the California funk-rockers had some marginal success with their first four albums released in the ’80s, linking up with Rubin for their seminal 1991 break-through record Blood Sugar Sex Magik is what really put them over the top. Writing, recording, and living in an allegedly haunted Laurel Canyon mansion under Rubin’s supervision helped them to channel their talents into some of the best songs of their career, including smash hits “Give It Away” and “Under the Bridge.”

3) The Mars Volta

Rising from the ashes of the phenomenal post-hardcore outfit At The Drive-In, singer Cedric Bixler-Zavala and guitarist Omar Rodriguez-Lopez certainly had all eyes on them when they quickly announced the debut of their new outfit, The Mars Volta. Their 2003 debut Deloused in the Comatorium quickly put to rest any doubts that this new band was some lesser side project, with sprawling sonic density under the careful hand of Rick Rubin as the album’s co-producer.

4) Jay Z

In 2003, the self-proclaimed Greatest Rapper Alive announced his early retirement and The Black Album was to be his swan song. And while Jay Z didn’t actually keep his word about walking away from the rap game, he certainly made a record that could rightfully stand as the punctuation to an incredible career. One of the album’s singles – and musical highlights – was “99 Problems,” a brash storytelling track that paired him with the loud, early Def Jam-era production from Rubin.

5) Kanye West

Fixated on continuing to push his sound to new territories from album to album, Kanye West tapped Rubin to executive produce his aggressive Yeezus in 2013. The producer took a reductionist approach to his role, removing elements of tracks, stripping songs down, and having Ye re-write/re-record parts mere days before the album’s release.

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