Rick Rubin Talks 1st Hip-Hop Record, Meeting Russell Simmons & Creating “99 Problems”
Run-DMC recently celebrated a milestone 30-year anniversary for their self-titled debut album and another key centerpiece to Hip-Hop’s foundation is opening up to remember the good ‘ol days all the same. The illusive Rick Rubin recently granted New York Magazine the pleasure of discussing the legendary producer’s first entry into the Hip-Hop culture, which has been influential in solidifying his legacy.
Although Rubin gets credited for taking rap’s commercial status to another level for his work on Beastie Boys and Run-DMC’s classic albums License to Ill and Raising Hell respectively, none of the hits that emerged from the LP’s were Rubin’s first time working on Hip-Hop records. The bearded maestro recalled to NYM about the time he created “It’s Yours,” a song by T La Rock and Jazzy Jay that would eventually spark his friendship with Russell Simmons.
Hip-Hop was still a largely grassroots movement in the early 1980s and having a white denizen within the culture was unprecedented at the time. Upon meeting his future Def Jam partner at a party, the two had already a singular degree of separation so the partnership was imminent after the introduction. Rubin had dabbled in punk rock music but as his love for Hip-Hop grew, so did his connections. Def Jam was able to combine their business savvy and street credibility to recruit a couple of guys by the name of LL Cool J and Chuck D. Rubin’s ties to the underground rock scene also led him to be introduced to Adam “Ad-Rock” Horovitz as the Beastie Boys were birthed.
Following his exit from Def Jam in 1988, Rubin trekked back to his rock roots before Jay Z familiarized him to a new generation with the hit song “99 Problems.” Eminem recently recruited him for his double platinum album The Marshall Mathers LP 2.
“He was incredibly inspiring as a lyricist,” says Rubin of the Jay Z’s approach towards the rock/rap mashup. “Actually Chris Rock had the idea for the chorus. He said, ‘Ice-T has this song, ‘99 Problems,’ and maybe there’s a way to flip it around, and do a new version of that.’”
Read the rest of the interview over at Vulture. Rubin’s words convey a sense of purity which many believe is severly lacking in the industry today.