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Rap Music Interview

Friday, February 11, 2005

An Interview with Mike Shinoda

October 2005

How do you thrive in the shadow, substantial and arena-sized, of a group that has sold over 35 million albums? If you’re Mike Shinoda of Linkin Park, the answer is: shine your own light. Shinoda is half the vocal firepower of the multi-platinum, Grammy-winning band Linkin Park, trading diaphragmatic diatribes with singer Chester Bennington and infusing the searing alternative rock with equally intense hip-hop. From album to album, Shinoda and his bandmates have garnered a reputation based on their appetite for striking new ground. On his first outing alone, Shinoda is ready to show people that he is still hungry.

What is it like being an emcee in a predominately rock group, and what do you think you bring to the group?
I was a producer and rapper before Linkin Park. Once the band took off, it was the center of my focus. A couple of years ago, I started missing doing straight-up hip hop, and that's when Fort Minor began. I started messing around with a couple of songs, and one by one, other rappers started getting on the songs. First it was Styles of Beyond, then Black Thought, then Common…all of a sudden, Jay-Z was the executive producer and I had a record I had to take seriously!

The new project you're working on is called FORT MINOR The Rising Tied, tell us what inspired you to come out with a solo effort and is any of your band members on this album?
Mr. Hahn, our DJ, is on a track called "Slip Out The Back." And since we're putting this out on our label, Machine Shop Records, I got to choose our guitarist, Brad Delson, as my A&R. The name "The Rising Tied," is basically a play on words: this "tied" group of people is coming up together on this album.

The project is executive produced by Jay Z. Did he get a chance to listen to some of the album and if so what did he think about it?
I wouldn't have let Jay be executive producer unless he got some real input on the record! I mean, him vouching for it is worth something, but what I really wanted was for him to give me advice on the music. I'm pretty versatile when I make music, I can make a lot of different types of stuff, any genre. But I wanted this album to have a consistency and identity. That's where I wanted Jay's input. So I sent Jay all my finished and unfinished songs as I made them, and he would tell me whether the songs were done, needed work, or not worth pursuing. He gave me guidance in the big picture.

Who are some of the artist you worked with on the album and how was that?
Black Thought was funny; he came in, smoked back-to-back blunts for three or four hours, and laid down his verse in a couple of takes. No problem. I think it's one of my favorite verses from him ever, and I'm really happy to have it on my record. Common and I ended up sitting around and talking a lot, we probably spent half the studio time not even working on the record. I met John Legend when he and Alicia Keyes were playing here in L.A. John's part was something I originally sang myself, and I sent it to him to see if he liked it and wanted to sing it instead of me, because I thought his voice would sound better than mine. He liked it and sent the song back with his vocals right away. I've known Styles of Beyond since about eight years ago. I even designed their original logo back in '97. I ran into them a few times when this project got started, and more and more I realized how dope they are. We ended up signing them to our label, and here we are.

One track that some people want to know about is one called "Kenji". What inspired you to do this song and what the song is about?
I'm half-Japanese. During World War II, when the Japanese bombed Pearl Harbor, the U.S. government put all the Japanese from the west coast into "internment camps." It was a horrible case of racial profiling. The F.B.I. came to their houses and told them to pack up and get out. They were then stuck in holding camps for the duration of the war. My dad was three years old. My aunt was in her twenties, with four kids. Her youngest was born in the camp. The song "Kenji" is a story about that time. I wanted to make a song in the spirit of old Public Enemy or something like that, but with a topic that is close to me-it came out really unique.

Since we on the subject of hiphop. What are your top 5 favorite hiphop albums of all time?
B.D.P. "By All Means Necessary,"
Wu-Tang Clan "Enter The Wu-Tang"
Notorious B.I.G. "Ready To Die,"
N.W.A. "Straight Outta Compton," and
Run-DMC "Raising Hell"

When can we expect for the release of this project?
The Rising Tied comes out on November 22nd. We have a standard version, and a special edition that has three extra songs plus a DVD. I'm also a painter, so both versions have extended booklets with a lot of art in there.

Anything else you would like to say?
If I weren't making music, I'd be the kid who writes into the magazines and says, "why don't you guys ever cover anything that's different? Hip hop is so much of the same thing over and over again." I love hip hop, so I wanted to make an album from that standpoint, 'cause that's who I am. The Fort Minor project is just as much about getting back to hip hop as it is moving forward. I just wanted to do something that's innovative and memorable at the same time, that challenges you but makes you wanna sing along. I can't wait for you to hear it.

thanks to lptimes.com