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Hip Hop Site Interview

Friday, February 11, 2005

Mike Shinoda: From Major To Minor

October 2005

Why release your solo album now? What was your inspiration behind it?
I used to rap and produce beats before Linkin Park started.  Once Linkin Park took off, I shifted the focus to that, and it wasn't until a couple years ago that I decided to really try to get back to my roots.  I casually started making the songs that would become Fort Minor about two years ago, and it became more and more serious as I made more music.  I would play rough songs for people, and they kept telling me that I should put the album out.  After Jay-Z agreed to be the executive producer on the album, I knew it was something serious. 

Did the successes of Reanimation and, more recently, Collision Course play any part in your decision to do this album?
I grew up listening to hip hop, and I guess I keep coming back to it.  People who have heard those other two albums you mentioned usually tell me that this album is different from those-it has its own identity altogether.  There are pretty much no distorted guitars on it.  The song topics are different.

What exactly does the name Fort Minor refer to?
I think it relates a little bit to what I do in art; the first Linkin Park record had a soldier with dragonfly wings.  It was a similar idea.  It's about the dynamics of the music.  "Fort" represents the bigger side of the record, "Minor" represents the smaller or darker side. 

You've already worked with some of hip-hop's best, from Jay-Z to Pharoah Monch, X-Ecutioners to Kutmasta Kurt...how did you decide who to collaborate with on this album and who are some of the featured guests?
One great thing about being at this point in my career is that I can oversee a record on my own and do whatever I want on it.  I had an identity in mind for the album, and built around that.  Folks like Styles of Beyond, Common, and Black Thought fit in to that picture.

Did you have a particular goal for this album?
I wanted to try and write and play every note on the record.  I came pretty close to achieving that.  So much hip hop right now is based on keyboards, I wanted to try and do something different.  The challenge is that keyboards and samples can sound so big, so I had to make sure my engineering was tight. 

Is it harder to operate as a part of the whole or as the whole itself? Did you find helming a solo project to be challenging?
It's a lot of work to do a project on your own!  I don't know if I knew what I was in for.  Interviews alone…in Linkin Park, we get to split interviews up between the six of us!  But "The Rising Tied" came out really great, and I think the work is worth it.  I can't wait until you hear it.

How different is your creative process when working on straight-up hip-hop vs Linkin Park material?
There are things that you can do in certain types of music that you can't do in others.  I have a song on the record called "Cigarettes" that talks about the similarity between the tobacco industry and the rap music industry.  You get sold a product full of lies, but you don't really care, because it's more about playing a role, maybe a little escapism.  I could never write a song like that on a Linkin Park record, but an album like this is the ideal home for it.

Are you aiming for any particular group of listeners with this release? Do you think it'll appeal to your existing fanbase or more so to hip-hop heads?
I really don't know.  This is a hip hop record, but it's a little bit universal.  Whenever I make a song, I try to be myself, rather than trying to fit in and gain acceptance in a genre.  It's like, "real recognize real"- on this record, I'm just talking about what I know, and I hope that people can respect the authenticity of that, and the uniqueness of my story. 

I know you're a gifted producer in your own right, how many of the tracks on the album did you produce and who helped out with the others? Did Don Gilmore lend a helping hand?
Nah!  Don is a great producer, but I'm not linked to him or anything.  I produced and mixed every song on the Fort Minor record.  Like I said, I wrote and played nearly every note on the album.  I'm starting to do a lot of production on my own, so this is a good starting point.  I just helped score the MTV VMAs with Lil' Jon, and I'm doing songs for Lupe Fiasco and Kenna.  I'm actually looking to do more production, but I'm a little picky.  Lucky for me, I can afford to be at this point!

Did you do all the artwork for this release?
Yeah.  I had the overall concept for the art, so I did a series of ten paintings for it.  Then we took those paintings and made the artwork.  I worked with a friend of mine from that point on, laying things out and doing the design part.  The artwork is like the album: it's based in hip hop, but it's a little more universal.

Who are some of your hip-hop idols and which contemporary artists, if any, do you respect the most as far as their art is concerned?
I like Dre's records-any record he's involved with is a safe bet.  But I'm a fan of a lot of people...Dipset, Just Blaze, Ghostface, Kanye, and Common.  There are newer artists who are really dope too, like Styles Of Beyond, Lupe Fiasco, Trek Life, and Bishop Lamont.

Lastly, are we going to see you on the next Styles of Beyond album in any capacity?
I got involved with S.O.B. again as I was working on the Fort Minor record, and we kinda just came back together.  I've known them since like eight years ago-in fact, their producer Skully recommended my first sampler to me.  We signed them to our label, Machine Shop Recordings, this year.  I will be involved in their album in some way, for sure.  We'll be coming up with some good shit for the people, soon.

thanks to lptimes.com