Linkin Park’s resident rapper is building a multifaceted fort that’s anything but minor.
Mention the phrase “rap-metal” to most hip-hop heads, and you’ll likely get a look colder than Juneau in January. But ask anyone from Jay-Z to Young Buck to Lupe Fiasco about Linkin Park’s Mike Shinoda, and you’ll hear nothing but props. Since handling MC duties on his group’s first two multi-multi-plat albums, Shinoda ran the point on Linkin Park’s collabo with Jigga, dropped his own hip-hop side project (Fort Minor), and dabbled in beatmaking and art. With a new Linkin Park LP in the works, Shinoda sat down to talk about all of the above, including networking on Hova’s yacht.
Rick Rubin produced Linkin Park’s new album. How did you hook up with him?
We had sent word to his camp that we wanted to work with him, so we took a meeting in late ’05. We met in his library and it was so surreal because you kind of know about this guy ’cause he’s such a legend, but there’s also such a mystery about him because he doesn’t like being in the public eye. You walk in the room and there’s thousands of books everywhere and a really, really high-end stereo system for him to listen to things that he’s working on. And then there’s a stuffed polar bear in the corner. It’s just a weird scene; I sat right under the polar bear when we met him the first time.
What specific sound did you want?
Looking back on our first two records, we felt we had completely filled that sound out to the point where it was done. And looking at groups in the past that were career artists, you see it’s important to keep moving, to keep changing. One of the most important things Rick helped us realize is that we didn’t have any boundaries. It wasn’t about breaking other people’s perceptions of our band, it was about breaking the boundaries that we thought we had.
How’d you go about doing that?
Turning the recipe upside down. Pretty much every song on the first two records started with Brad [Delson, guitarist] and I working together. On this record we had all six guys come in with ideas, and those eventually got narrowed down to the album.
In between albums, Linkin Park did a lot of charity work. How did that start?
Music for Relief started after the tsunami in Southeast Asia. We decided we wanted to create an organization that would draw up fun events that could raise money to give to the people who were in need out there. We basically didn’t have any overhead, and we raised a few million dollars.
What about your visit to New Orleans?
We didn’t know what to do when Katrina hit—you saw the horrible images and you wanted to help, but then you’d hear about the corruption and you didn’t want to send a dollar that would get spent on something bad. So we teamed up with an organization in L.A. called Friends and Helpers and went down to New Orleans and did a back-to-school drive, figuring that if we were giving school materials directly to the students, that was a little bit safer.
You recently debuted a solo art show, “Diamonds Spades Hearts Clubs,” in L.A. How did that come about?
That show was basically all the Fort Minor artwork, some other work that I had done since, and five collaborations I did with Gary Basement, SEEN, Dalek, Craola, and [Linkin Park DJ] Mr. Hahn. Those three parts of the show sat together in a room, and I brought people in to see what I do in my spare time.
So painting is strictly a hobby?
Well, when I graduated from Art Center College of Design [in Pasadena, CA] I thought I was gonna be an illustrator. But then the band took off, and I’ve just been rolling with that. I do the art on the side as a release.
Last year you produced “The Instru-mental” on Lupe Fiasco’s Food & Liquor. Did Jay-Z introduce you?
It sounds so fuckin’ flashy, but I met Lupe at a VMA afterparty on Jay-Z’s yacht [laughs]. It’s not really my scene, but I came up to his VIP within the VIP within the VIP section and I knew everybody there, except for this one little short kid with glasses. He gave me his mixtape, and we kept talking from there and he did a track that ended up being a B-side for Fort Minor.
Was he familiar with Linkin Park?
He loves Linkin Park. Right after we met, he threw the Linkin Park reference into his mixtape as like a “Hey, nice to meet you.” I’ve never met anybody who would do something like that.
Photographs by Estevan Oriol
By Jack Erwin
Complex Magazine - April / May 2007
Complex Magazine - April / May 2007