Rick Rubin names his favorite albums of all time. Rick Rubin is a producer who makes famous lots of musicians and bands. Rubin co-founded Def Jam Recordings with Russell Simmons, founded American Recordings, and was a former co-president of Columbia Records. In this article, we will list the 10 albums Rick Rubin named as his favorite.
Rick Rubin, a famous producer and music industry icon, has left an everlasting imprint on the music world through his transforming work with a broad spectrum of musicians. Rubin’s influence may be felt through his chart-topping albums and unique music production approach.
Rubin’s influence extends far beyond his looks, as he is known for his unusual beard and minimalistic style. In the 1980s, he co-founded Def Jam Recordings, establishing hip-hop and rap environments. Collaborations with musicians such as Run-D.M.C., LL Cool J, and the Beastie Boys not only resulted in revolutionary albums but also aided in the mainstreaming of hip-hop.
Rubin’s production technique focuses on refining an artist’s vision. He is noted for fostering a climate where musicians may freely express themselves, frequently reducing songs to their essential ingredients to stress authenticity and emotional resonance. This strategy has resulted in critically lauded albums from artists ranging from Eminem to Johnny Cash, SOAD, Red Hot Chili Peppers, Adele, and Jay-Z.
Rubin’s participation in producing Johnny Cash’s “American Recordings” series was a watershed moment in both musicians’ careers. These albums saw Cash return to his acoustic beginnings, reinvigorating his style and exposing him to new admirers.
Rubin’s impact extends beyond his producing work, as he frequently works as a mentor, helping musicians find their unique voices and encouraging them to explore unexplored ground. In 2007, he got the Grammy Award for Producer of the Year, honoring his contribution to the music business.
Rick Rubin’s Favorite Albums of All Time
The famous music producer Rick Rubin has shared his respect for other legendary musicians. And Rubin picks his favorite albums of all time. Regardless, he loves to listen to different genres but also loves rock and roll and hip-hop musicians, specifically those who influence him.
Which music albums does Rick Rubin listen to?
- Black Sabbath – Black Sabbath
- Highway to Hell – AC/DC
- Run-D.M.C – Run-D.M.C
- Gang of Four – Entertainment!
- The Marshall Mathers LP 2 – Eminem
- Toxicity – System of a Down
- Ramones – The Ramones
- Q: Are We Not Men? A: We Are Devo! – Devo
- The Beatles (The White Album) – The Beatles
- After the Gold Rush – Neil Young
During an interview with Gibson and other magazines, Rick Rubin shared the top 10 albums of all time. Check out Rick Rubin‘s favorite albums of all time below!
1. Black Sabbath – Black Sabbath
The famous heavy metal band Black Sabbath‘s first album, “Black Sabbath,” is a pioneering and genre-defining masterpiece that permanently transformed the path of rock music. The record, released in 1970, brought the world to a new degree of sound intensity and horror.
“Black Sabbath” quickly evokes a feeling of gloom and darkness, from the mournful tolling bell that starts the album to the sinister guitar riff that follows. With its sluggish, sludgy tempo and Tony Iommi’s known guitar work, the album’s title track creates a terrifying and fascinating mood.
The album’s gloom, horror, and occult themes were groundbreaking then. Ozzy Osbourne’s mournful voice and thoughtful lyrics by Geezer Butler dig into issues virtually unexplored in mainstream music at the time.
“Black Sabbath” shows the band’s technical brilliance and inventive songwriting style. Tracks such as “N.I.B.,” “The Wizard,” and “Evil Woman” showcase a variety of musical influences ranging from blues to hard rock, all imbued with Black Sabbath’s distinctive heavy sound. Bill Ward’s drumming and Geezer Butler’s bass lines form a solid framework for Iommi’s renowned guitar riffs.
Rodger Bain’s production of the record adds to this album’s power. Also, “Black Sabbath” defined the band’s identity and cleared the path for the heavy metal genre. Its influence may be heard in innumerable metal bands that followed, and it can still be heard in various subgenres of heavy music today.
Rick Rubin says why he likes “Black Sabbath” by Black Sabbath as one of his favorite albums of all time:
“I think the hardest part was getting them comfortable playing together again and to go back to the recording techniques of their earliest work. Technology has changed the way music has been made since then, and as individual artists, they have changed the way they record to more a modern method. This album is really the beginning of riff-rock, which I really like. It sounds huge and scary, and slow and sludgy, and has a kind of otherworldly aspect to it that moves me.”
2. Highway to Hell – AC/DC
“Highway to Hell,” the sixth studio album by Australian hard rock superstars AC/DC, is a timeless rock ‘n’ roll classic that established the band’s place as one of the genre’s most influential and lasting forces. The album, released in 1979, was a milestone in AC/DC’s career.
The album starts with a bang, with the opening chords of the title track, “Highway to Hell,” setting the tone for various high-octane rock songs. The album’s unique cover art, including the band’s logo and the famed devil’s horns, symbolized their rebellious spirit and strong attitude.
The lyrics on the album show a mixture of young rebellion, hedonism, and a rebellious exaltation of the rock ‘n’ roll lifestyle. Tracks such as “Girls Got Rhythm,” “Touch Too Much,” and “Shot Down in Flames” encapsulate AC/DC’s no-nonsense approach and unabashed rock ethos.
The album’s production, managed by Robert John “Mutt” Lange, combines raw intensity and refined workmanship. Lange’s production skills boosted the band’s dynamics, resulting in a collection of songs that sound as good on a stadium stage and via headphones.
“Highway to Hell,” the album’s title tune, became popular and a rock anthem for decades. Its anthemic chorus and addictive melody have made it a fan favorite at AC/DC performances and a well-known rock tune.
Unfortunately, “Highway to Hell” was Bon Scott’s final album before his terrible death in 1980. The record is an appropriate tribute to Scott’s legacy, keeping his larger-than-life personality and his contribution to defining AC/DC’s character.
Rick Rubin tells why he likes “Highway to Hell” by AC/DC as one of his favorite albums of all time:
“A timeless and natural-sounding rock album. That’s all it takes to make a classic record.”
3. Run-D.M.C – Run-D.M.C
Run-D.M.C‘s self-titled debut album, released in 1984, is considered a foundational effort that not only created the hip-hop genre but also had a significant influence in redefining the whole landscape of popular music.
The album’s first track, “Hard Times,” introduces listeners to Run-D.M.C‘s uncompromising attitude. The album captures the spirit of hip-hop’s early days while charting a daring new course, with stripped-down sounds, forceful lyrics, and a no-nonsense attitude. The ensemble’s dynamic energy and seamless flow, propelled by the abilities of Run (Joseph Simmons) and D.M.C (Darryl McDaniels), generated a new and exciting sound.
The album’s most revolutionary moment is unquestionably “Rock Box.” “Rock Box” broke through the borders between rap and rock by combining hip-hop rhythms with electric guitars, laying the groundwork for the rap-rock fusion that would later become a genre characteristic.
Run-D.M.C.’s collaboration with Aerosmith, a version of “Walk This Way,” cemented their significance in bridging the gap between rap and rock. This historic cooperation not only rejuvenated Aerosmith’s career. But they also launched Run-D.M.C into the mainstream, gaining a new generation of followers and breaking down musical barriers.
The genuineness and raw strength of the record extended to its lyrical substance. Songs like “It’s Like That” and “Sucker M.C.’s” addressed societal concerns and personal situations, offering a glimpse into their New York City neighborhood. Their audacious and confident poetry was a model for subsequent generations of hip-hop musicians.
Rick Rubin shares why he likes “Run-D.M.C” by Run-D.M.C as one of his favorite albums of all time:
“This album is very bare-bones. It probably influenced my hip-hop production more than anything else.”
4. Entertainment! – Gang of Four
Gang of Four‘s 1979 album “Entertainment!” is an essential record that serves as a defining moment in the post-punk movement and a forceful statement on the geopolitical scene of the day.
From the first notes of “Ether,” the album establishes its distinct sound palette, highlighted by Andy Gill’s jagged guitar work and Jon King’s peculiar vocal style. “Entertainment!” is a lesson in how to use space, rhythm, and dissonance to produce an appealing and aggressive sound that defies standard rock rules.
Songs like “Natural’s Not in It” and “Anthrax” provide sharp criticisms of materialism. At the same time “At Home He’s a Tourist” delves into the ambiguity of modern love in the face of cultural pressures.
“Damaged Goods,” one of the album’s finest tunes, demonstrates Gang of Four’s ability to merge captivating melodies with intelligent words.
The production of “Entertainment!” stresses a raw and unfiltered sound that complements the album’s ideas. Rob Warr, the band’s producer, effectively captured the band’s live energy and the intensity of their message. The album’s influence extends beyond its initial release, inspiring other musicians from various genres. The way musicians have pulled from its original sound and daring lyrical approach shows its influence on post-punk, alternative rock, and dance music.
Rick Rubin shares why he likes “Entertainment!” by Gang of Four as one of his favorite albums of all time:
“I like the sparseness of this one, and the emotion behind it. It sounds like something really important is happening on this album.”
5. The Marshall Mathers LP 2 – Eminem
“The Marshall Mathers LP 2,” released in 2013, showcases Eminem‘s dramatic comeback, diving into his personal and artistic progress while addressing the topics that marked his previous work. Following his highly acclaimed 2000 album “The Marshall Mathers LP,” this project exhibits Eminem’s introspection, lyrical skills, and ability to capture listeners with his sophisticated narrative.
The album begins with “Bad Guy,” which continues the plot from the original “Stan” single, in which Stan’s spiteful younger brother faces Eminem. This sets the tone for the album, which explores issues of celebrity, identity, and Eminem’s complicated connections with his legacy and followers.
“Rap God” is a remarkable single demonstrating Eminem’s unrivaled grasp of wordplay and rhyme schemes. The album’s production flawlessly merges current hip-hop sounds with nods to Eminem’s older style, producing a musical landscape that bridges the gap between his past and present. Collaborations with musicians like Rihanna on “The Monster” and Kendrick Lamar on “Love Game” expand the album’s style.
“The Marshall Mathers LP 2” is also a commentary on hip-hop’s current situation and cultural effect. Songs like “Berzerk” mean back to the golden age of rap “So Far…” and “Evil Twin” deal with Eminem’s character and the expectations placed on him as an artist.
Rick Rubin reveals why he likes “The Marshall Mathers LP 2” by Eminem as one of his favorite albums of all time:
“I just think he’s a one-of-a-kind MC. And he’s first and foremost an MC. That’s it. I’ve had other great rappers ask me how he does what he does. You know, how does he do that? And I mean really great rappers. It really is him, and it’s natural. And a lot of his greatness come from his work ethic. It’s just on. It’s really an obsession.”
6. Toxicity – System of a Down
“Toxicity,” System of a Down‘s second studio album, released in 2001, is a visceral and genre-defying masterwork that defies simple categorization.
From the first chords of the title track, “Toxicity,” the album quickly grabs listeners. The vocal interaction between Serj Tankian and Daron Malakian provides a different element to the band’s sound, allowing for various moods and dynamics within each song.
Political and social criticism are woven throughout the album’s tunes. “Prison Song” is about the prison-industrial complex, whereas “Chop Suey!” is about existential issues and inner struggle. Tracks like “Deer Dance” and “Jet Pilot” approach societal concerns with urgency and satire, demonstrating the band’s ability to deliver powerful messages while injecting a dash of dark humor.
“Toxicity” showcases System of a Down’s dynamic songwriting, which ranges from the melodic contemplation of “Aerials” to the wild frenzy of “Bounce.” Rick Rubin guided the album’s production, which captures the raw intensity of System of a Down’s live performances while preserving a refined audio quality.
Rick Rubin shares why he likes “Toxicity” by System of a Down as one of his favorite albums of all time:
“Originally, the chorus was ‘Pull the tapeworm out of my ass.’ Daron and Shavo didn’t like ‘my ass.’ And all we had to do was change it to ‘your.’ ‘Pull the tapeworm out of your ass.’ ‘My’ became ‘your’ and then in the middle part where I’m singing nicely, ‘Pull the tapeworm out of me,’ they were okay with that. You probably thought, ‘These guys are f***ing nuts.'”
7. Ramones – The Ramones
The Ramones‘ self-titled first album, released in 1976, is regarded as a seminal effort that sparked the punk rock movement and reshaped the course of rock music. “Ramones” is a high-energy manifesto that launched a new age of rebelliousness and authenticity to the music landscape, with its stripped-down sound, lightning-fast tempos, and simple lyrics. In addition to this album, The Ramones began recording in January 1976, which took only seven days and $6,400 to finish.
From the first chords of “Blitzkrieg Bop,” the album creates a furious tempo that never slows. The album is a furious assault of songs that scarcely pause for air, clocking in at over 29 minutes. The band’s “1-2-3-4” count-ins and fundamental, catchy melodies established a unique sound that influenced other punk and rock performers for decades.
Lyrically, “Ramones” stands out for its directness and simplicity. Tracks such as “Now I Wanna Sniff Some Glue” and “I Don’t Wanna Go Down to the Basement” are spoken bluntly, representing a disenchanted teenage culture and a rejection of traditional standards.
Rick Rubin shares why he likes “Ramones” by The Ramones as one of his favorite albums of all time:
“To me, [hip-hop] was punk rock. You didn’t have to be a virtuoso to be a great rapper. You had to have a point of view, something to say. I had an experience that’s hard to describe. I stopped breathing. I would say it was a feeling somehow related to dying. Everything stopped in my body.
Even saying “I believe in you” now, I can tear up. The power of belief is so strong, it’s so important in my life and it’s so important when going to a studio; where you have nothing, believing something is going to happen, and that we have this thing in front of us. It’s always a miracle.”
8. Q: Are We Not Men? A: We Are Devo! – Devo
“Q: Are We Not Men? A: We Are Devo!” is the debut studio album by the American new wave band Devo. It was first released in August 1978 by Warner Bros. in North America and Virgin Records in Europe. Brian Eno produced the album, recorded mainly in Cologne, West Germany, between October 1977 and February 1978.
The album peaked at No. 78 on the Billboard 200 and No. 12 on the UK Albums Chart. In retrospect, the album has been on multiple “best of” lists from publications such as Rolling Stone, Pitchfork, and Spin.
The album peaked at 78 on the Billboard 200 and 12 on the UK Albums Chart. In retrospect, the album has appeared on “best of” magazine lists. From the first song, a cover of The Rolling Stones’ “Satisfaction,” Devo’s irreverent and humorous style is apparent.
The songs “Uncontrollable Urge” and “Jocko Homo” highlight Devo’s robotic and minimalist style, defined by mechanical rhythms, angular guitar riffs, and Mark Mothersbaugh’s peculiar vocals. Brian Eno oversaw the album’s experimental approach to sound and production.
Devo’s humorous accusation of uniformity and the loss of individuality is reflected in the album’s cover art, which features the band members in identical uniforms against a solid red background. “Are We Not Men?” A: We Are Devo!” is a musical and a cultural statement. Devo’s blend of art and music and critique of commercial society and conformity positioned them as new-wave pioneers.
9. The Beatles (The White Album) – The Beatles
In 1968, “The Beatles,” also known as “The White Album,” was released. From the minute the needle drops on “Back in the U.S.S.R.,” the album takes listeners on a musical trip spanning rock ‘n’ roll, folk, blues, experimental soundscapes, and everything in between. Each tune reveals a different aspect of The Beatles‘ individuality, from the joyful and lighthearted “Ob-La-Di, Ob-La-Da” to the introspective and heartbreaking “While My Guitar Gently Weeps.”
Songs such as “Blackbird,” “Julia,” and “Dear Prudence” highlight Paul McCartney and John Lennon’s introspective lyrics. In contrast, George Harrison’s contributions, such as “While My Guitar Gently Weeps,” show his rising artistic maturity. The album contains 30 songs, 19 written during a Transcendental Meditation course in Rishikesh, India, between March and April 1968. The only western instrument accessible to the band was an acoustic guitar; several songs stayed acoustic on The Beatles and were recorded solo or by a portion of the band.
George Martin managed the album’s production, which is noted for its elaborate arrangements and innovative studio techniques.
“The White Album” also reflects the band’s evolving dynamics and the emergence of internal tensions that would eventually lead to the band’s dissolution. While songs like “Helter Skelter” and “Revolution 1” display The Beatles’ raw energy, songs like “I’m So Tired” and “Yer Blues” hint at the band members’ emotional and psychological issues.
Rick Rubin shares why he likes “The White Album” by The Beatles as one of his favorite albums of all time:
“I like the natural mood of this one. Like The Beatles’ White Album, it has almost a documentary feel. It feels like it’s capturing a moment in time, and not trying to be perfect. It’s not trying to be glossy, or pretty. It has a real, soulful truth in it.”
10. After the Gold Rush – Neil Young
Neil Young‘s 1970 album “After the Gold Rush” describes the essence of the folk-rock genre while highlighting Neil Young’s introspective songwriting and unique voice.
It is one of four high-profile solo albums recorded by members of the folk music band Crosby, Stills, Nash & Young following their chart-topping 1970 album Déjà Vu. Young’s album is mostly country folk music with a few rock pieces, like “Southern Man.” The material was inspired by the unproduced script After the Gold Rush by Dean Stockwell and Herb Bermann.
After the Gold Rush debuted at number eight on the Billboard Top Pop Albums list on September 19. The album’s two singles, “Only Love Can Break Your Heart” and “When You Dance I Can Really Love,” charted at number 33 and 93 on the Billboard Hot 100, respectively.
The album begins with the hauntingly beautiful “Tell Me Why,” which sets the tone for the following songs: a compilation of songs that merge personal observations with more significant themes of love, environmental issues, and the search for meaning. Young’s emotional voice and sparse instrumentation create an intimate ambiance that puts fans in Neil Young’s world.
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