Watch CBS News

How LL Cool J's career was launched from a college dorm room at NYU

Launching LL Cool J’s career
Why a teenage LL Cool J sent his demo tape to an NYU dorm | 60 Minutes 02:08

Rick Rubin is one of the most influential producers in music. His nearly four-decade career has seen him work across genres and with the industry's top talent.

In the 1980s, Rubin launched Def Jam Recordings with music manager Russell Simmons. Rubin's dorm at New York University became the headquarters and they began to contribute to the annals of modern music history.

"You have to understand that in the in those days, people who weren't already listening to hip-hop and the people who were listening was a tiny fraction of the public," Rubin told 60 Minutes. "Everyone else thought of it not as music. Not even music, not even music they didn't like, not music."

Among the first releases to showcase a Def Jam logo was record by T La Rock and Jazzy Jay titled "It's Yours." It caught the attention of a teenager from New York who went by the stage name LL Cool J. 

"I made the first LL Cool J record…because of the 'It's Yours' record," Rubin said. "On the record, it had the [address of] Def Jam, 5 University Place, which was my dorm at NYU. And I started getting demo tapes."

In the video above, Rubin recalled Adam "Ad-Rock" Horovitz of the Beastie Boys listening to the tape first. The 59-year-old said he and Horovitz lived together in the dorm during the summer.

Rubin left Def Jam in 1988, and ventured west to California, where he founded a new label and in 2011 purchased the Shangri-La recording studio where 60 Minutes correspondent Anderson Cooper interviewed him for Sunday's broadcast.

Rick Rubin and Anderson Cooper at Shangri-La. 

Rubin's credits in the industry include collaborations with some of music's most popular names from Public Enemy, to The Red Hot Chili Peppers, to Johnny Cash.

How Rick Rubin helped revitalize Johnny Cash's career 02:36

"The first time I got to see him [Cash] was at a dinner theater in Orange County," Rubin told Cooper. "It just seemed like the world had passed him by. And he believed the world had passed him by."

Rubin soon arranged to spend time with the "Man in Black" where they listened to some of Cash's favorite music. The bond helped resuscitate Cash's career. The pair's 2002 rerecording of Nine Inch Nails' song "Hurt" remains Cash's most listened to piece on Spotify and has more than 183 million views on YouTube. Rubin and Cash recorded seven albums together before singer's death in 2003.

View CBS News In
CBS News App Open
Chrome Safari Continue
Be the first to know
Get browser notifications for breaking news, live events, and exclusive reporting.