Producer Deep Focus: Rick Rubin

Story posted December 18, 2021 in CommRadio, Arts & Entertainment by Caelan Chevrier

Frederick Jay Rubin or professionally known as Rick Rubin was born in New York State in 1963. Rubin has had a beyond-impressive career spanning five decades working with a myriad of artists of all genres.

He was the former co-president of Columbia Records, and the co-founder of Def Jam Recordings. The label helped popularize hip hop in the late ‘80s with acts such as the Beastie Boys, LL Cool J and Run-D.M.C.

His catalog is so impressive that he is widely considered to be one of the best producers of all time, and one of the most influential people of the last 50 years.

As of now, he has nine Grammy wins and 18 nominations. He also produced an inestimable amount of Gold, Platinum and Diamond certified RIAA records that total hundreds of millions of records sold.

His best-selling album to date is Adele’s “21,” which has been estimated to sell 31 million copies worldwide. Excluding soundtracks and compilation albums, “21” is the 14th best-selling album of all time.

Needless to say, Rubin has changed the entire industry and the music scene forever. From starting in his dorm room at New York University, to creating one of the biggest record labels of all time, his importance is unmatched in secular music. 

5 Essential Rick Rubin Songs:

“Fight For Your Right” - Beastie Boys (1986)

The fourth single from the Beastie Boys debut album “Licensed to Ill” may possibly be their most iconic song of all time.

The track reached No. 7 on the Billboard Hot 100 and the single sold over 200,000 units alone. It helped their album reach 10x Platinum, and also featured a killer music video.

From the iconic guitar riff to memorable vocal performances from the trio, the track is truly a classic. The best part is, the song was released as a joke, poking fun at frat boys, yet somehow becoming an anthem for those who love to party everywhere.

“Under the Bridge” - Red Hot Chili Peppers (1991)

“Under the Bridge” is the track that arguably blew up the Chili Peppers to international stardom. It features an iconic chorus and an outro that can give one chills.

The song peaked at No. 2 on the Billboard Hot 100 and went 6x Platinum in the United States. The unique structure of the track is what makes it stand out the most out of their entire discography.

“Mary Jane’s Last Dance” - Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers (1993)

One of the more underrated Tom Petty songs has to be this 1993 classic. It features every element needed to create a great rock song and each performance is stellar.

It reached No. 14 on the Billboard Hot 100 and was Petty’s first top-20 record of the decade.

“Chop Suey!” - System of Down (2001)

“Chop Suey!” is perhaps one of the most controversial tracks that Rubin has produced.

It was No. 1 on the alternative charts when the attacks of Sept. 11 happened, and post-9/11, it was blacklisted on radio stations around the country.

Regardless, Rubin’s venture into alternative metal was a great success with the track being their most-streamed song of all time and establishing the band as one of the more important acts in the early 2000s.

“99 Problems” - Jay-Z (2003)

Similar to the Beastie Boys, combining elements of rock and rap made a masterclass track for the already well-established rapper.

The guitar hook is iconic, and even more so is the opening line.

“If you're havin' girl problems, I feel bad for you, son, I got 99 problems, but a b***h ain't one” will forever be embedded in people’s minds.

The single sold over two million copies, and is one of Jay-Z’s greatest hits to date.

Essential Rick Rubin Album:

“Califonication” - Red Hot Chili Peppers (1999)

The seventh studio album by the Red Hot Chili Peppers has easily their most consistent tracklist and is their most replayable.

Despite being over two decades old, it sounds like it has not aged a bit. “Califonication” is their best-selling album worldwide to date and features their most successful singles.

Rubin was able to revitalize the band after their previous album flop, and make them one of the biggest acts of alternative rock at the time. Fifteen million copies have been sold worldwide with 6 million of those in the United States.

Some of the album's singles include, “Californication,” “Scar Tissue,” “Otherside” and “Parallel Universe,” all beyond well known.

Most of the deep cuts also are incredible with some other standouts being “Easily” and “Emit Remmus.” The record was more melodic, and less abrasive than their previous work.

Each member of the band was finally utilized to their maximum potential, especially lead singer Anthony Kiedis, whose vocals exponentially improved.

Rubin has produced plenty of great albums, but this one especially stands out because of its hit-power, longevity and complete transformation of how the band wrote music. 


Caelan Chevrier is a second-year majoring in journalism. To contact him, email

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Caelan Chevrier

Third Year / Marketing & Journalism

Caelan Chevrier is a third-year student in the Smeal College of Business at Penn State University studying marketing and broadcast journalism with the goal of graduating with a bachelor’s degree in four years. His career goal is to spread informative, meaningful, and entertaining content across various platforms and to be a positive impact on the community. He has also spent time working at WWE in the communications department and writing for The Westport Local Press in his hometown of Westport, CT. If you’d like to contact him, email him at .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address) or .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address).