Mike Shinoda has enjoyed massive success with his band, Linkin Park. But long before he was churning out verses and choruses for the rock group, he was producing and doing hip-hop records — mostly far below the radar.
Now years later and after millions of units sold, LP’s rapper is venturing out on his own, taking a stab at hip-hop once again. Under the alias, Fort Minor, Shinoda is releasing a strictly hip-hop album entitled The Rising Tied. But one thing about Mike…when he does something, he does it right. So when he decided to embark on this new project, Shinoda called in a few favors and got one of the biggest men in the business involved — Jay-Z.
With Jay Hova executive producing the project, it only helps solidify Mike’s seriousness in the project even further. Why would Jay-Z put his stamp of approval on something not worth listening to, right? Well, not only Jay, but many emcees across the board have chipped in to help including Black Thought, Styles Of Beyond and even Common…not to mention DJ Green Lantern, who is working on Shinoda’s new mixtape.
BallerStatus.net decided to get a little background on the Linkin Park emcee, and he was happy to oblige. Taking his transition into the hip-hop world seriously, Mike explains how Jay-Z’s influence help the project take shape, how he decided to do a hip-hop record, the recording process, and much more.
BallerStatus.net: With Jay-Z executive producing your project, what kind of input or say did he have as far as the final project goes?
Mike Shinoda: I tend to be able to do a wide variety of music, which can be a great thing. But as this record was starting to take shape, I had to have someone looking over my shoulder to keep me on track, to make things consistent. Jay told me which songs were done, which ones I should keep working on, and which ones to save for another day.
BallerStatus.net: Was Jay-Z involved as far as the creative process is concerned? How often did he come into the studio to put in his input if any?
Mike Shinoda: On about three-quarters of the album, he said “mix and master those tracks, they’re done.” On the other songs, he gave me creative input like, “That verse could be deeper, you might want to rewrite some of it.” There were a few verses, like the songs “In Stereo” and “Cigarettes,” that Jay gave me compliments on. If Jay says a verse was hot, then that song better go on the record.
BallerStatus.net: I know with Jay’s stamp of approval, it kind of helps push the project that much farther into being accepted by the hip-hop community. Was that your intentions with getting him involved?
Mike Shinoda: I’m not going to lie and say that Jay vouching for this project isn’t important to me. It should be important. How many non-Roc-A-Fella or non-Def Jam artists does Jay vouch for? But besides that point, people need to know that since I didn’t put a verse from him on the record, he must be pretty valuable in the other capacities.
BallerStatus.net: You are a big name artist yourself; why not just release it on your own? Instead of getting another party involved either creatively or any other way.
Mike Shinoda: Like I said, one of my biggest assets in the studio is being able to do many different types of music — variety. But this record had to have a unique identity. It had to be consistent. I brought on Brad Delson, our guitarist for Linkin Park, and Jay as creative people to tell me when I was getting off course. But if you’re wondering if I’m confident about my creative choices, remember that at the end of every discussion, I had creative control and veto power!
Speaking of releasing it, I should also say that it’s coming out on our label, called Machine Shop Records. This will be the first major release on Machine Shop.
BallerStatus.net: Talk about the album’s feel and vibe. Your group, Linkin Park, obviously fuses hip-hop and rock together successfully. How will your Fort Minor project differ as far as your music with Linkin Park goes?
Mike Shinoda: Linkin Park is always described as “rap/-rock,” but everyone knows there’s really more to it than just those two styles. So since we know there are a lot of styles that go into it, I can safely say that people who listen to the Fort Minor record will see similarities. I have a style, and people who know me will recognize it. But there are a lot of ways it is different, too. From a production standpoint, I tried to make it a more organic hip-hop record by not sequencing everything on it to make things sound perfect. I played some things by hand, so there is a “feel” to a lot of the sounds, like the bass or a tambourine; sometimes the drums, too.
BallerStatus.net: From what I know, The Rising Tied (the album’s title) features guest appearances by Black Thought of the Roots, Styles Of Beyond and Common. But, in our past interview with you, you touched on the Fort Minor project before anyone really knew about it and you mentioned possibly working with Chali 2na and even Ice Cube. Did any of those collabos go down?
Mike Shinoda: I’m friends with Chali, and never really met Cube. Actually, I saw him at a gas station once and said “hi,” but that’s about it. He was just putting gas in his Bentley [laughing]. But Black Thought, Styles of Beyond, Common, John Legend, and Kenna are all on The Rising Tied. In fact, the reason I named the record The Rising Tied is because it’s a play on words — this “tied” group of people are coming up together in the context of this record.
BallerStatus.net: How involved is the other members of Linkin Park if at all? I was reading that Brad Delson is A&Ring the project, are any of the other members involved?
Mike Shinoda: Joe Hahn is on the last track, “Slip Out The Back.” No offense to the other guys, but it was fun to make a record on my own, and I have to say that it just makes me more fresh and excited to get ready to make another album with the group.
BallerStatus.net: You’ve always been the hip-hop voice outta Linkin Park. Before you guys started the band, did you ever feel you wanted to be a straight solo rapper, instead of joining a rock band?
Mike Shinoda: I was a rapper and producer long before LP got started. Once LP took off, I shifted the focus to that, and it wasn’t until a couple years ago that I decided to really try to do just straight hip-hop again. Once I started making songs and playing them for people, they told me to keep it up. Common, for example, listened to a few tracks and after each one, he says, “I wanna be on that one!” I thought that was a good sign. And after Jay agreed to be the executive producer on the album, I knew it was something serious.
BallerStatus.net: Now, is his album a straight hip-hop project, or does it have elements of rock included as well?
Mike Shinoda: You could say “yes” or “no” and be right. I listen to all types of music, so there are influences of everything in there. Just the simple fact that I played almost all the instruments on the record gives it a quality that is unique in hip-hop. But I consider it a hip-hop record, first and foremost. The sound is big, and the song topics are diverse, but don’t let it fool you. This is a hip-hop record.
BallerStatus.net: If it does well, will you start venturing more into hip-hop, as opposed to doing Linkin Park type records?
Mike Shinoda: I have been trying to get my production out there a lot more. Lil’ Jon and I just scored the MTV VMAs. That was a good project — they gave me full creative control of my songs. A lot of those tracks were pretty much just rap beats. On that note, I’m trying to get some production placed on some other records this year, just to have the experience. I don’t care if it’s rap records or what. As long as I’m feeling the song, I’m not closed to any type of music.
BallerStatus.net: As a rapper, do you feel you get the proper respect from hip-hop heads for your lyrical skills?
Mike Shinoda: I feel like the stuff I have done lyrically on the LP records is genre-specific. I had to do it a certain way, in order for it to fit in well with all the stuff that the other five guys do. That said, when you put me on a hip-hop beat, a different side of me comes out and you get different types of lyrics. Still, just like with anything, I know there are people who question it. So I’ll say this…we’re about to drop a Fort Minor mixtape with Green Lantern, and if you had any questions about my skills on the mic, cop the mixtape. Album verses are for the masses, and mixtape verses are different.
BallerStatus.net: The album drops in November, are there any surprises or secrets people can expect from it?
Mike Shinoda: Well first off, there’s cursing, so there’s that. But there’s also a lot of song topics that I can’t do on a Linkin Park record that I could do on Fort Minor. One song, called “Kenji,” is about my family’s internment during World War II. During that time, the U.S. government racially profiled the Japanese Americans on the West Coast and the F.B.I. put ALL OF THEM in “internment camps.” I had to talk about that. And that’s just one example of how different this record is from a Linkin Park album.
BallerStatus.net: As far as the music and production, I know you played every instrument on the album. But did you get any outside production done from anyone? Or did you wanna try to make your own sound with this record?
Mike Shinoda: No, I didn’t get any outside production. I produced and mixed the whole thing. I wrote a couple of things that I had to get a string group and choir group to do, because the keyboards I wrote them on sounded too synthetic. But other than that, my intention was to write and perform everything on the record. By doing that, this record has its own unique sound — my sound. Some music execs, who will remain nameless, have already started talking to me about doing some production with their artists, because they like the production on the Fort Minor record. We’ll see where that goes. I like producing, so hope I’ll be doing it in the future.
BallerStatus.net: One of our writers attended your listening session in New York and was quite impressed with the music. Do you feel you will get the same reaction from the fans?
Mike Shinoda: You never know — when you’re working on an album — what people will think when you’re done. You hope they like it, but it’s always a relief when you play it for the first few groups of new ears and they start nodding. I have gotten a ton of positive feedback. While I was working with Green Lantern, he says, “Yo Mike, I been asking around about who wants to get on the mixtape, and everyone wants to! Everybody f—s with you!” I like positive feedback [laughs].
BallerStatus.net: Anything you want to say in closing?
Mike Shinoda: I have been working on this record for two years, and it’s finally got a name and a release date. I can’t wait for people to hear it. It’s called The Rising Tied, and it comes out on November 22.