Rick Rubin says the mainstream music industry considered hip-hop "evil" and didn't want it to exist

Rick Rubin with Public Enemy
Rick Rubin with Public Enemy (Image credit: Lester Cohen/WireImage)

Rick Rubin says that the mainstream music industry considered hip-hop "evil" in the 1980s, and tried to censor the genre, believing it to be "un-music".

Producer and music industry mogul Rubin, who co-founded Def Jam, and has worked with Slayer, Public Enemy, AC/DC, Johnny Cash, Beastie Boys and more, was talking to comedian/actor Russell Brand on Brand's Stay Free podcast, and raised the subject when Brand asked him for his own experiences of censorship and "culture wars".

Rubin replies: "The first time that I came into contact with this, was in the '80s, living in New York, and starting to make music, the mainstream forces were trying to censor the type of music I was working in, and wanted it not to exist, they did not understand what it was, and that was hip-hop. Hip-hop was originally verboten, it was not played on any radio stations, and people who did it were 'unpeopled', and it was "unmusic"... it was bad and it was evil... and now it's the most popular form of music in the world."

"The people who were making hip-hop were doing it out of love for this art-form," Rubin continues. "And maybe these were people who never went to a musical academy, or were great virtuoso musicians, but they had something to say. And they had an experience of life, that was different from others, and they wanted to express it. And they expressed it in a very elegant, beautiful way that if you weren't part of it, you didn't understand. Now, over time, people have come to understand it, and now it has taken over the world. 

"In the early days, I could have never predicted that rap music would be what it is today, or that it would ever even have been popular, because it was such an underground form of music, and reviled, that to see it live where it lives today is reassuring that something good, it comes around. The forces that are trying to hold down goodness are not strong enough to do it."

Watch the conversation unfold below. Trigger warning: contains Russell Brand.

Paul Brannigan
Contributing Editor, Louder

A music writer since 1993, formerly Editor of Kerrang! and Planet Rock magazine (RIP), Paul Brannigan is a Contributing Editor to Louder. Having previously written books on Lemmy, Dave Grohl (the Sunday Times best-seller This Is A Call) and Metallica (Birth School Metallica Death, co-authored with Ian Winwood), his Eddie Van Halen biography (Eruption in the UK, Unchained in the US) emerged in 2021. He has written for Rolling Stone, Mojo and Q, hung out with Fugazi at Dischord House, flown on Ozzy Osbourne's private jet, played Angus Young's Gibson SG, and interviewed everyone from Aerosmith and Beastie Boys to Young Gods and ZZ Top. Brannigan lives in North London and supports The Arsenal.