Whether you’re talking about rock or rap music, Rick Rubin is historically one of the most important people to impact either genre in the United States.
The 59-year-old producer and executive co-founded Def Jam Recordings. He also founded American Recordings and is a former co-president of Columbia Records.
But on top of working in the business, Rubin has helped produce major bands and helped to create some of the most memorable songs in American music history, working closely with the Beastie Boys, Run-DMC, Public Enemy, LL Cool J, Danzig, Metallica, Slayer, Jay Z, Sir Mix A Lot, Red Hot Chili Peppers, The Strokes, Weezer and more.
He’s even worked with country acts like Johnny Cash and The Chicks. Put it this way, in 2007, Rubin was on Time‘s list of the 100 Most Influential People in the World.
We wanted to dive into some of the most important quotes from Rubin, what he has to say about his craft, his industry, life, and love. Let’s dive into the 21 best Rick Rubin quotes.
1. “Everything happens kind of the way it’s supposed to happen, and we just watch it unfold. And you can’t control it. Looking back, you can’t say, ‘I should’ve… ‘ You didn’t, and had you, the outcome would have been different.”
2. “I like things that are unique and extreme.”
3. “I’m just trying to make my favorite music. That’s how I work; I just do things based on the way they feel to me. I want to be touched by the music I’m making. Luckily, other people have shared that response to my work over the years.”
4. “I guess edgy things tend to get my attention.”
5. “I’ve gotten to work with amazing people. I would say usually we get to a point before we get into the studio where there isn’t that sense of anxiety or nervousness of who they are because I don’t think it would be as productive in the studio if that was the case. But maybe meeting someone like Neil Young for the first time made me anxious.”
6. “My taste changes radically all the time, and I listen to whatever feels good. Another thing is that I’m in the studio so much of the time, and I listen to so much loud, aggressive music for work, that for pleasure, I’ll listen to something else.”
7. “I think with certain artists you want to hear their album… and then there are other artists who I like where maybe it’s more about the single. I don’t think there is going to be one way that everything works.”
8. “I was the only punk rocker at my high school. And there were at least a handful of black kids who liked hip-hop. Both were kind of the new music of the day, and it was lonely being the only punk.”
9. “From the time I was 9 years old, I loved magic. I was an only child, and I think that had a big impact on me. I always had grown-up friends even though I was a little kid. I would take the train from Lido Beach into Manhattan, and I’d hang out in magic shops.”
10. “It’s a big theme in my life, learning about myself and being a better person. I’m a work in progress; I have revelations every day.”
11. “There’s just a natural human element to a great song that feels immediately satisfying. I like the song to create a mood.”
12. “I don’t even know what a traditional producer is or does. I feel like the job is like being a coach, building good work habits, and building trust. You want to get to a point where you can say anything and talk about anything. There needs to be a real connection.”
13. “I always feel like there’s something magic in recording studios. There’s a reason good music continues to be made in them. It’s just some mojo element.”
14. “I never made beats to make beats; I only made them when there was a record to make them for. That’s one of the things that has changed in hip-hop that’s made me like it less. It feels much more like it’s a producer-driven medium, where there are all these tracks that are completely interchangeable.”
15. “Usually when I start a new project there’s a fear of the unknown; maybe it’s a band I’ve never been in the studio with before. People are so different. It’s almost like you need to go through the process, discover and unlock what it is that makes that band that band. And a lot of times they don’t know it.”
16. “I don’t know what makes someone hip. The goal is artist achievement and the best work we can do with no limitation.”
17. “Everything I do, whether it’s producing or signing an artist, always starts with the songs. When I’m listening, I’m looking for a balance that you could see in anything. Whether it’s a great painting or a building or a sunset.”
18. “I played more of an advisory role with Public Enemy. I really trusted them to make the music that they wanted to make, and the way The Bomb Squad worked with the… they created their whole own world of music.”
19. “I’ve always been an outsider. When I did magic, I was the only kid. When I worked with Johnny Cash, I was completely out of place in Nashville. And when I started Def Jam, I was the only white guy in the hip-hop world.”
20. “I never really think so much about commercial success; I usually just think about records that move me, and ‘Baby Got Back’ was one that moved me.”
21. “For me, the Beatles are proof of the existence of God.”
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