Things were not particularly rosy when the Red Hot Chili Peppers retreated to a Los Angeles mansion in 1990 to record BloodSugarSexMagik. The funk rockers had weathered the 1988 heroin-overdose death of founding guitarist Hillel Slovak, and singer Anthony Kiedis and new guitarist John Frusciante had struggled in the drug’s grip. Meanwhile, their music had devolved into a tiresome formula of sex-obsessed camp and gratuitous riffage.
Enter Rick Rubin. Insisting on airborne melodies, filtering the rhythmic rumble down to a brutal essence, the acclaimed Beastie Boys producer changed the Chilis’ dynamic. The pummeling “Give It Away” and the incendiary “Suck My Kiss” established a template for rock punctuated by the beatcentric relentlessness of hip-hop that would be appropriated by everyone from Limp Bizkit to Dr. Dre. But it was the more introverted material — the lashing, triple-meter “Breaking the Girl” and Kiedis’ drug confessional “Under the Bridge” — that revealed new dimensions. The rhythm section displayed a growing curiosity about studio texture and nuance — interests it would explore on the expansive ballads of the subsequent multiplatinum Californication (1999) and By the Way (2002).