Rick Rubin: My Life in 21 Songs

From LL Cool J to Kanye West, Slayer to Tom Petty, Johnny Cash to Dixie Chicks, producer reflects on more than three decades of challenging music's status quo

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LL Cool J, "Going Back to Cali" (1989)

LL sometimes likes to say, "Give me concepts," because he can write about anything. "Going Back to Cali" was more of a personal story for me, because I had been spending time in California and going back and forth. I think that was the last record we made together. He's still super solid and has a super work ethic.

I like that song because it was a different kind of funk. There's a slower beat and a faster beat working together to create a counter beat. It created a new feel. I played kalimba on it, too.

I don't know what the inspiration for the horns was, but that was the first time we used them. Maybe it's because we would scratch in horn stabs often and thought it would be interesting to do them ourselves. That part was all improvised. I would just say what to play and the musicians would play them. We had a horn solo in it, too, which is an odd choice because it's typically not something I like. But for some reason we did it.

I can't think of the song without thinking about the video. It's was such a quintessential moment in time in our lives. And it was directed by a man named Ric Menello, who was the guy who ran the front desk at the dorm. He was a film-buff friend of ours. The video is one of his great pieces of art.

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