Rick Rubin Reflects On His Contributions To 10 Iconic Hip-Hop Albums
The Beastie Boys—Licensed To Ill (1986)
“That one was recorded over a long period of time, and I think one of the reasons it’s as good as it is is that each song really has its own life, which I don’t think would’ve been the case had we made the whole album in two or three months. It wouldn’t have had the breadth and depth that it does, especially musically. That was kind of two years of our lives. Not two years of our lives in the studio every day, but we’d work on a song for a couple of days, then we might not go back in the studio for another month or six weeks, then whatever was sort of speaking to us at that moment would be the next one. So it really came together over time, with all of the influences—both of the day and the influences we’d grown up with. I’d grown up with Led Zeppelin and AC/DC and more hard rock, and they’d grown up on punk rock, and you can feel all of those influences in that record.
“Again, we were making it for us and our friends, and if it would’ve sold 25,000 copies we would’ve been ecstatic. [Laughs] Really. The fact that so many people liked it was really a shock to us, because it’s such an inside album. There’s so many inside jokes and it’s such a personal album. And it’s ridiculous. The stuff they talk about is really ridiculous, and it entertained us, but we never imagined that it would entertain anyone else.
“I think in some ways [their sophomore album] Paul’s Boutique was a reaction to Licensed To Ill, because I think they wanted to do something different, and I think Paul’s Boutique, in their mind, was different. I remember hearing Paul’s Boutique and it blowing my mind. I really loved it. I thought it was the future. When it came out, it wasn’t very well-received, but it was really a brilliant album.”