As far as track records go, the path for rockers-turned-rappers isn’t
quite paved in Gold plaques these days. But Linkin Park frontman, Mike Shinoda has the confidence to walk that lonely walk. Under his Rap alias, Fort Minor, he’s, for the moment, stepping away from the safety net of his multi-Platinum band and venturing into uncharted territory, a pursuit he believes he was always meant to followmaking Rap music.
Now, on the heels of his first soley Hip-Hop effort, The Rising Tied, Shinoda spoke candidly with AllHipHop.com about his on-going collaborations with Jay-Z, he and his bandmates’ record label, Machine Shop. There may not be any noteworthy footsteps for Shinoda to follow in his cross-genre exploration, but he’s used to it. And if the success of Hybrid Theory, Linkin Park’s introduction to “hybrid” music, is any comparison, Fort Minor’s future looks as good as gold.
AllHipHop.com: With the huge success of Linkin Park, why break off and take a risk with Hip-Hop? Why not stick with a sure thing?
Mike Shinoda: Well, I don’t mind taking risks, and to me this is not
so much about saying something to the Hip-Hop community, or an opinion about what is going on. I like music that is thoughtful, that you take time putting together, and I wanted to make an album that felt more organic than a lot of the stuff out there. A lot of stuff is
keyboard-based, and I wanted to make an album that I really wrote,
really played the instruments. And even though I have a million
tambourine sounds on my keyboard, I wanted a real tambourine sound. So I went down to the store and bought some tambourines, brought them back to the house and used tambourines on the record instead of just going with the keyboard.
AllHipHop.com: As the executive producer, how much of a role did Jay-Z play in The Rising Tied?
Mike Shinoda: He basically oversaw the project, and when I brought a song in he would tell me if it was a keeper, if it was something we
should throw out, or if it was something I needed to work on. And
that’s good for me, because, like I said, I listen to all different
types of music, so I can make all different types of music. I really
wanted this album to be consistent, so to have a guy like Jay
overseeing it, he helped to narrow it down.
AllHipHop.com: You have been rapping for a while, and more recently producing for some Hip-Hop acts, why did you drift towardRrock-based music in your earlier years?
Mike Shinoda: Mostly it was the fact that I knew what we [Linkin Park] were doing was innovative to a certain degree. We were waiting for a certain style of hybrid music, and we got tired of waiting for somebody else to make it, and decided to start making it our selves. I did grow up in Hip-Hop, and to just jump into that world seems weird, but if you know me, you know I don’t stick to one thing.
AllHipHop.com: You referred to your record, The Rising Tied, as “musician-based Hip-Hop” can you elaborate?
Mike Shinoda: When I say “musician-based” it’s the same thing as when I say organic. I’m not a your typical Hip-Hop producer, I don’t just loop a beat for three and a half minutes and have people rap over it. Although I respect people who do that, because that’s the traditional style of Hip-Hop, I came from a background that is rooted in song structure, writing melodies, and writing for different instruments. My goal with this record was to write and perform every instrument, and I pretty much did that.
AllHipHop.com: There are very few artists who have successfully been able to navigate between two genres; do you feel pressure?
Mike Shinoda: For people who get hung up on that, all I can say is I
hope they can get over it. To me, even though different types of music may be uncomfortable to get into at first, there is a lot to be said for listening to different things.
AllHipHop.com: With the new label, a buzz surrounding your Hip-Hop production skills, and an already successful rock music career, do you see yourself in Jay’s shoes someday?
Mike Shinoda: Jay’s been doing this a lot longer than me, so it would be very optimistic to say I see myself in his shoes at some point. I think that our interests are a little bit different, so I don’t know if I would end up choosing the same path as he has, but I’m in this for the career. I hope to be around a long time making music.
AllHipHop.com: What are your goals with your label, Machine Shop?
Mike Shinoda: The label is more of an artist-driven label. The owners are artists, so you don’t have a bunch of industry business guys running the label. You’ve got people who know the industry, but know the artistry as well. So, when you have an idea, I hope one of the upsides to being with Machine Shop is that you’ve got people who have gone through it, who can give you feed back, and maybe even help you take that idea to next level.
AllHipHop.com: You had full creative control with The Rising Tied, is this something you struggled with on other projects?
Mike Shinoda: When you get signed to a label and make your first
album, you’ve got people looking over your shoulder telling you what they think. We did end up prevailing [on Linkin Park’s debut, Hybrid Theory], but going through the process we heard so much bulls**t from people at the label that it drove us crazy. I think on this record the one thing I really enjoyed was being able to go around all that, and just make an album that I was confident about, with people I was comfortable with. It was less of a struggle and more of an enjoyable experience. I know on this next Linkin Park record we are going to strive to have that situation as well.
AllHipHop.com: You called this album, “A lot of people making a
statement in Hip-Hop together.” Is that something to be determined
from listening to the album?
Mike Shinoda: People on the record [Common, Black Thought, John
Legend] have a common attitude about making music. The reason I called the album The Rising Tied is because I think that these people, whether on this record or as a movement in general, are coming up together and making a statement in music.
AllHipHop.com: When branching out on a solo project, do you find it hard to be recognized outside of the umbrella of Linkin Park?
Mike Shinoda: I don’t get that excited about being recognized outside of Linkin Park. I want Fort Minor to be recognized as a separate entity, but the reason I didn’t call the record Mike Shinoda is because I want the focus to be on the music not on me. I’m confident in the fact that I wrote the record, I know that it represents me well, however I don’t need people focusing attention on my picture or my name. I want them focusing on the music.
AllHipHop.com: Linkin Park heads up “Music for Relief”, which has
rounded up an impressive following within the music industry; how did that come about?
Mike Shinoda: We toured in South East Asia, and we saw some really
great places and people. When the Tsunami happened, it really hit
home. People were seeing the images on the news, and we couldn’t
believe that was the place we had been to. We literally recognized
things that we had seen, and they were demolished. We decided to get
together this organization, which is basically is almost like a portal
organization at this point. We do our best to go out and collect money
for the causes and channel that money through reputable charity
organizations such as The Red Cross and United Way. When it came time
for the hurricanes here in the U.S., the money that we were collecting
at that point was being channeled through The Red Cross towards
AllHipHop.com: What does the future look like for Linkin Park, Fort
Minor, and Mike Shinoda as a Hip-Hop producer?
Mike Shinoda: For Linkin Park, we are writing a new record right now,
and hopefully that will be out next year. Fort Minor the album comes
out on November 22nd, and I’m really excited about that. I am going to
be doing some tours up until then all over the world. My attitude
about touring is quality over quantity, so if I’m playing in your
town, get out there and see it, cause I don’t know if I’ll be doing it
again. And that kind of leads me to the last thing: I love to be in
the studio, and between Linkin Park and my other production ideas and
commitments I want to be home doing those things. So hopefully I’ll be
able to make music with other great artists in the future.