Rick Rubin: Three Classic Video Moments

Submitted by notoriousclassics on Wed, 03/10/2021 - 15:51
Rick Rubin at the BET Awards, 2003

Born Frederick Jay Rubin on March 10, 1963, producer and former label executive Rick Rubin grew up to be a formidable presence in both hip-hop and rock, and one of the most recognizable figures in the music industry.

Rubin’s early musical endeavors grew out of a love of punk rock - his first real band, The Pricks, even played famed punk nightclub CBGB’s in the early ‘80s. Not long after, though, Rubin was introduced to the New York City hip-hop scene, and became immersed in its sound and culture.

Rubin started Def Jam Recordings with budding impresario Russell Simmons in 1984, eventually signing such artists as LL Cool J, Public Enemy, Run-DMC and the Beastie Boys. He later turned his ear toward producing rock acts like the Red Hot Chili Peppers, the Cult, Metallica and Black Sabbath. He also engineered the comeback of country legend Johnny Cash, with a series of records under the banner American Recordings, which also happened to be the name of the record label Rubin created after leaving Def Jam in the late ‘80s.

Rubin has a distinctive look, as well - his hair and beard are of about equal length and when he’s not wearing shades, his eyes reveal his intensity, piercing through whatever screen he happens to be on at the time. It’s almost like a super power. He’s been a presence in music video for decades, popping up here and there in videos for songs he produced or helped produce. Here are Rick Rubin’s top three video moments.

Eminem, “Berzerk” (2013)

The song is primo Rubin: a rap lyric built atop samples from a hard rock classic (this time, Billy Squier’s “The Stroke”), just like deejays used to do it in the early days of rap. In the video, he plays sidekick to Eminem as the Detroit MC slays critics, Britney Spears’ ex-husband and the Kardashians, as only he can.

“(You Gotta) Fight for Your Right (to Party)” (1986)

Rubin is one of the party-goers, enjoying “soda and pie” and other more illicit pleasures, as the hosts’ apartment gets torn down to rubble. He also gets a pie in the face, changes direction, gets another pie to the chest, and then gets still another pie to the face when Ad-Rock enters the scene. If you watched MTV in 1986, you saw this every 20 or so minutes.

Jay-Z, “99 Problems” (2003)

Jay-Z is a badass - about this fact there is no doubt. In this black-and-white clip, though, Rubin matches him in badassery. One minute, he’s decked out in a full-length fur coat, cowboy hat and shades, walking through a record store like he owns the whole block - that’s cool. Even cooler is when he rides shotgun with Hova during the song’s second verse, getting pulled over by a cop for “doing 55 in a 54.” His is a menacing presence, and it’s perfectly calibrated for the story in the song.