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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Run-DMC and Aerosmith, "Walk This Way" (1986)

The rest of the Run-DMC album [Raising Hell] had already been finished. I just had a feeling that there was something more that we could do that would help it. It was a funny time in rap music in that the majority of people didn't understand what it was at all. People didn't think it was music. And I thought that if there was a reference point that could both feel honest as hip-hop and be familiar outside of hip-hop, it would help bridge that gap of explaining that this was actual music.

I was just listening through my record collection, and the fact that the breakbeat of "Walk This Way" was already a familiar staple in the live hip-hop world just added to that message. We could take something that was familiar and not change it so much, just through the rappers' delivery, reframe the song. And unbelievably, it happened. It's amazing.

Getting Steven Tyler and Joe Perry to participate was easy. It was a funny time for them. They had just reformed, and they put out their reunion record [Done With Mirrors], and it was a flop. So they were kind of at a low point, and it just worked out. Also, they have always have loved urban music. So they were really excited to participate in real, urban street music.

I remember when we discussed the idea of having Aerosmith come in with the Run-DMC guys, and they were really against it. They didn't want to say words that they didn't write. They thought they were kind of like, country. It didn't relate to their mentality. And I remember Russell [Simmons] called them and said, "Just do what Rick says."

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