Linkin Park is a name familiar to fans of rap, even though enthusiasts may not admit to it. The metal quintet is more Hip-Hop than one would suppose. The group mixes old-school Hip-Hop traits with classic rock-n-roll and electronica. The band has sold several millions with a metal/rap hybrid that is pleasantly reminiscent of early Run DMC/Aerosmith and Public Enemy/Anthrax team-ups. The only thing, they sold their millions to MTV’s TRL crowd, not hardcore hip-hoppers. That may change now.
As their predecessors created classics, Linkin Park has joined with Roc-A-Fella chief Jay-Z for a unique collaboration called Collision Course. Rapper/singer Mike Shinoda took some of his time to explain how such an unlikely alliance came to be and how it was working with the self-proclaimed god emcee.
AllHipHop.com: How was working with Jay-Z on Collision Course, a dream for most hip-hoppers?
Mike Shinoda: I have been a fan of Jay’s work from day one. one of my favorite songs is "Brooklyn’s Finest"–I even quoted it on our song "Nobody’s Listening" from Meteora. as far as working with someone for the first time: it can be a disaster, if the person you look forward to working with isn’t what you thought they’d be. Many times, fans will meet their favorite artist and that person is just a jerk. Fortunately, Jay is the epitome of what most people hope their favorite artist is like: down to Earth and easy to work with. Not to mention indescribably talented and completely at home in the studio
AllHipHop.com: Were you a fan before meeting him?
MS: There are six guys in our band who all grew up listening to different things. There are very few artists I can say that we all like. Jay is one of them.
AllHipHop.com: These mash-up collabs are hot. Are their any other plans to work with any other rap artists in a mash-up capacity?
MS: At this point, no. A mash-up is best, in my opinion, when it two songs that fans know. That was there. We also have to get along. that was there. i just think that the whole thing was such a positive experience that we’d be hard pressed to do better.
AllHipHop.com: The word is, you all had a straight Hip-Hop album. Can you talk about it and why wasn’t it promoted to the rap crowd?
MS: I assume you’re talking about Reanimation. I wished more of the Hip-Hop "gatekeepers" were down with it, but I’m happy with the fact that it has become more of a cult-favorite. It never got any radio play, but it did pretty well. We tried to feature less mainstream artists we believe are really dope, like Planet Asia and Rasco, Chali 2na, Pharaoh Monche, Black Thought, and many others.
The thing is, in a lot of cases, Hip-hop radio people are looking for songs that will readily fit into their programming, and I don’t think Reanimation fit at the time. I oversaw it, so whatever good or bad things people say about it will fall on me. But I can say that we made the album the way we wanted to do it. That’s how we work; we just do what sounds good to us.
AllHipHop.com: Were there any musical adjustments made for Jay-Z – soften the beats, make them harder, slower, faster?
MS: In every case, I adjusted the music to make the parts work together as one song. Every song is different, but here’s an example: with “Numb /Encore,” I started with the "Encore" accapella. I decided that the song of ours that best fit the tone of Jay’s lyrics was "Numb" I also just wanted to hear [Linkin Park’s] Chester singing the "What the hell are you waiting for" line! (Laughs) I then took the "Numb" instrumental and cut up some parts of it, and arranged them as a repeating pattern. I basically treated our instrumental as if it were a sample from a record, that I would cut up and replay in a different way, the way DJ Premier does. I built the rest of the track around that skeleton, adding the "Numb" keyboard hook, and new bass, piano, clean guitar, and drums. I did almost all of this work on my laptop in our bus, while we were on tour outside the U.S. seems like a lot of work for a mash-up, but I don’t do anything half-assed.
And, since this is a project that had never been done before original artists getting together to make a mash-up using their own masters and playing them live, I had to put everything into it.
AllHipHop.com: How many fans will you convert? Word is Jay-Z’s buddy Ty-Ty is already a Linkin Park fan.
MS: At this point, it’s not so much about converting people as it is sharing fans. Believe it or not, a lot of rock fans don’t really know who Jay is, or haven’t given him a chance. I think the same may be true for us and Hip-Hop fans. I was raised on Hip-Hop, and I’ve always injected it into what I do as part of Linkin Park; maybe this will make it a little more obvious to people. Maybe after this, they will listen to an LP record and hear the Hip-Hop that’s always been there that they hadn’t recognized before.
AllHipHop.com: Ever talk to Ty-Ty about his newfound love of Linkin Park’s music?
MS: I just got a text message from him five minutes ago. He’s a good guy, a standup guy. only thing is, he has the kind of nickname that some people, like some of our team, sound like idiots saying. picture Donald Trump saying "Tah-Tah." Anyway, funny story: we put a thank-you to him in the Collision Course album credits under "Tyran Smith," his real name. I emailed him saying "thanks for letting us thank you as ‘Tyran’–that way all my White friends can say your name without sounding like complete assholes." not only are we trying to bridge the gap between musical genres, we’re trying to find ways for White people to say ghetto nicknames without sounding stupid.