Rick Rubin
By: Douglas Wolk | Categories: Cuspers, HiLo Heroes, Hip Hop, Pop Music

The hallmark of the zillions of albums produced by RICK RUBIN (born 1963) is a deep respect for the natural sound of their artists, from Johnny Cash to Metallica. But my favorite Rubin production job is blatantly, overtly, hilariously disrespectful. When Hollywood Records reissued the Queen catalogue in 1991, their hip-hop subsidiary Hollywood BASIC released a new version of Queen’s 1977 “We Will Rock You”/”We Are the Champions” single, with a credit reading “Ruined by Rick Rubin.” It sure was. His remix of “We Will Rock You” threw in scratching by Afrika Islam and a sample of ESG’s “UFO,” looped a single bar of Brian May’s guitar solo for three minutes, and grafted the Red Hot Chili Peppers’ rhythm section onto it. Rubin gave “We Are the Champions” a much simpler and even stupider treatment: the quiet parts are augmented by Danny Krivit’s endlessly sampled edit of the break from James Brown’s “Funky Drummer,” which is formally, sonically and rhythmically inappropriate, and was pretty much played out even then. Rubin knew that, of course (hence the “ruined”) — he was just demonstrating that the originals were tough enough to take whatever kind of mistreatment he could throw at them.


HIP HOP ON HILOBROW: HERC YOUR ENTHUSIASM series (25 posts about old-school hip hop) | DJ Kool Herc | Gil Scott-Heron | Slick Rick | Darryl “D.M.C.” McDaniels | Afrika Bambaataa | Biz Markie | U-God | Slug | Adam Yauch | Ghostface Killah | DJ Run | Flavor Flav | Scott La Rock | GZA | Schoolly D | Aesop Rock | Terminator X | Notorious B.I.G. | Melle Mel | Doug E. Fresh | Kool Keith | Rick Rubin | Rakim | Ol’ Dirty Bastard | Madlib | Talib Kweli | Danger Mouse | Kool Moe Dee | Chuck D | Dizzee Rascal | RZA | Cee-Lo Green | Best Ever Clean Hip Hop

READ MORE about those born on the cusp between two generations. Rick Rubin was born between the Original Generation X (1954-63) and the Reconstructionist Generation (1964-73).

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Douglas Wolk, author of Reading Comics and Live at the Apollo, is an arts critic and comics writer in Portland, Oregon. His new book is Judge Dredd: Mega-City Two, with artist Ulises Farinas. Twitter: @douglaswolk