Rick Rubin has remained in the public eye for nearly 30 years now, a rare producer/executive/music enthusiast whose ubiquity hasn’t diminished either his consistency or his image.
Already in 2013, the co-founder of Def Jam Records, former president of Columbia Records, producer of as many flat-out classics as anyone, has been as present as ever due to his work with both Kanye West and Black Sabbath, and his appearance with Jay-Z in a recent ad campaign for a smartphone company.
The sheer volume of contributions is overwhelming, and the evidence is on the mixtape “King of Rock: (Some of) The Best of Rick Rubin (Ruined by Trackstar the DJ),” an unauthorized-but-who-cares 41-minute jam that features key moments from throughout Rubin’s decades helping to steer the musical conversation.
Rubin has helped jump-start the music of, among others, the Beastie Boys, Slayer, the Cult, Run DMC and Public Enemy, acted in "Krush Groove," resurrected the careers of artists ranging from San Francisco punks Flipper to country genius Johnny Cash, pushed the Red Hot Chili Peppers and Weezer in new directions.
The self-described ruiner of Rubin’s work as mentioned above is Atlanta-based Trackstar the DJ, best known for his work backing rap expert Killer Mike. Trackstar’s been crafting these kinds of mixes for years (race to hear his Big Boi/Killer Mike mix “Shoes for Running”), which is obvious by the skill on display.
The genesis of the project is explained on Trackstar's Soundcloud page:
"When Rubin showed up in Jay-Z’s series of Samsung commercials, social media was abuzz wondering who the old white guy was and, to our surprise, a lot of people didn’t have the slightest clue who the legendary figure was.
"Not only was he hanging out on the couch during Jay’s TV spots, Rubin also showed up in the 25th hour to executive produce on Kanye’s "Yeezus." So that’s two of the largest names in rap calling on one bearded old guy to have a hand in their work. Yet, so many people remained unaware of him?"
Trackstar and the website the Smoking Section decided to change that, and the result is "King of Rock."
In addition to masterfully mixing in such a variety of genres, Trackstar occasionally glides into between-track interludes that cram in tiny snippets of Rubin ephemera. He moves from LL Cool J’s “My Radio” to a scanning-the-dial burst of variety: a riff from Slayer, another from the opening to the Beastie Boys’ “Fight for Your Right to Party,” an Andrew Dice Clay joke (Rubin’s Def American imprint released Clay’s early work) and for some reason, a sample of Steve Carell’s character on "Anchorman," Brick, screaming, “Loud noises!”
Much of the first half of the collection is devoted to hip-hop, but Trackstar descends into madness when he hits System of a Down’s “Chop Suey!” and “Aerials,” and then moves through Queen (a 1991 Rubin remix), Rage Against the Machine, the Red Hot Chili Peppers, Cash and Kula Shaker, among others.
The Rubin on display is both heavy and funky, and through Trackstar's blending you can hear this mastery in ways that aren't apparent in less confined settings.
Because the mix opens with some random cussing (within a sampled Jay-Z remark on Rubin), we can’t embed it, but it’s a click away and certainly worth a spin.