Most hip hoppers would hear the name Rick Rubin and instantly think: Run DMC, Beastie Boys, LL Cool J, or even Public Enemy. True, all amazing artists produced by an amazing producer. But while he was producing for hip hop pioneers, he was also producing classic albums for the likes of Danzig, The Cult and -yes- Slayer.
Most hip hoppers would hear the name Rick Rubin and instantly think: Run DMC, Beastie Boys, LL Cool J or Public Enemy. True, all amazing artists produced by an amazing producer. But while he was producing for hip hop pioneers, he was also producing classic albums for the likes of Danzig, The Cult and -yes- Slayer.
It takes an incredibly talented producer to go from masterminding the classic Run DMC party joint ‘Mary, Mary‘, to the incredibly dark and moody debut album by Danzig. It’s not surprising he’s had such a staggering career. There’s one album in particular that really stands out to me though, Slayer’s opus ‘South Of Heaven‘.
Mr. Rubin and Slayer made a definitive classic with 1986’s ‘Reign In Blood’. It was fast and sinister, the way any metal album should be. It didn’t necessarily break new ground though. ‘Reign In Blood’ did not do for metal, what ‘It Takes A Nation Of Millions…’ did for hip hop. Fast forward 2 years (to 1988) when Rick is producing the afore mentioned Public Enemy album as well as ‘Tougher Than Leather‘ with Run DMC (how many hip hop producers nowadays have THAT kind of year? Haha). He also returns to the studio with Slayer.
Now I’m not going to sit here and break down every track and why it’s great. The album as a whole shouldn’t be broken down like that. Overall though, the band slowed down from their brutally fast and aggressive past work and exhibited much better writing. The album is very conceptual, very heavily leaning towards war as its theme.
Another major change in the sound of ‘South Of Heaven’ was the placement of drummer Dave Lombardo in the mix. Rick put a little more emphasis on the drummer due to the frequent time changes. With Lombardo being one of metal’s finest drummers (if not the finest drummer) this was a very smart move on his part. It showed that Slayer was a great deal more technically proficient than many fans and critics gave them credit for. (Seriously, search Dave Lombardo on YouTube and you’ll be blown away. He’s easily one of the best drummers playing today, regardless of genre. ?uestlove has nothing on him.)
‘South Of Heaven’ is just un-fuck-withable in the world of music. There’s a short list of albums that are timeless and will always be relevant in music. Albums like Pink Floyd’s ‘Dark Side Of The Moon’, The Beatles’ ‘Revolver’, Black Sabbath’s ‘Paranoid’, Miles Davis’ ‘Bitches Brew’, Stevie Wonder’s ‘Songs In The Key of Life’, and yes… Slayer’s ‘South Of Heaven’.
I’m not asking that everyone go out and buy this album, but I suggest you do give it a listen if you ever have the chance. It exemplifies what’s great about Rick Rubin. He is a producer in the classic sense. He doesn’t just make the artist or sound marketable, he takes artists that have raw talent and shows them what they’re capable of artistically and then captures it.
A few interesting hip hop related facts about Slayer…
– They were the last band to release an album on Def Jam before Rick Rubin and Russell Simmons parted ways.
– Kerry King (lead guitar) played on Beastie Boys tracks ‘Fight For Your Right To Party’ and ‘No Sleep Till Brooklyn’.
– Dave Lombardo (drummer) made an album with DJ Spooky called ‘Drums Of Death’
– Slayer’s ‘Reign In Blood’ was sampled on ‘She Watch Channel Zero‘ by Public Enemy
– ‘South Of Heaven’ was distributed by Geffen through Warner Bros, because the original Def Jam distributor, Columbia Records, refused to release anything by Slayer.
Words by: Marty
More info: Rick Rubin