Fort Minor, the hip-hop side project of Linkin Park vocalist Mike Shinoda, reappeared last June after a nine-year hiatus with surprise single “Welcome.” Shinoda’s creative rebirth has yielded a second piece of fruit thanks to this remix of “Get a Dog,” by fractal underground wordsmiths Aesop Rock and Homeboy Sandman.
The track originally appeared as the final track on last year’s Aesop/Sandman collaborative freebie EP, Lice. On the original, producer Charles Hamilton chopped up the harmonic-heavy guitar riff from Linkin Park’s iconic 2000 debut “One Step Closer.” Good sport and fan Shinoda was tickled by the homage and dragged their raps into his modern mindstate — a hard-swinging, quasi-industrial noisescape full of rattling percussion and barking pups.
Recalls Homeboy Sandman, “The first time I blasted that remix in my speakers has been the only time that my neighbors have had to ask me to turn the music down. What I love most about it is that the beat is still hard as hell but really hand-crafted around me and Aes’ verses so our lyrics resonate even more than in the original. … Suffice it to say that [he] completely laced this shit.”
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Shinoda took some time from working on the upcoming seventh Linkin Park album to talk about his dystopic boom-bap remix and the future of Fort Minor.
How did this remix happen?
I don’t know how long I’ve been talking to Sandman. We had talked about doing something together at some point. It was just kind of casual, and then he sent me the “Get a Dog” original track. He emailed and said “Copyright infringement.” I thought it was hilarious. … I thought the beat was cool, but I also thought it’d be nice to have my touch on it … to actually remove the Linkin Park sample and do what I would have done today, you know? So yeah, I asked him for the acapella.
The amount of quality work Sandman has done in the last four years is almost unparalleled.
He’s absurd. How does somebody write words that have every human emotion, and the actual content of the words he’s saying is so compelling, and so three dimensional, and from song to song there’s so much variety. It’s hard to do that and have a really great rhyme pattern and delivery. Like usually people lean on one or the other, and he just does it all like it’s nothing. They’re such a good pair, because Aes is like … The complexity of his flow is so unparalleled, too. He almost ends up going in a fine art direction with his words. His words are more abstract. You’ve got one guy whose words are rooted in total reality, and another guy whose words take you to another dimension. And that’s such a fun combo to me.
What was your intention with the beat itself?
I mean my vibe was I wanted to keep it grimy. I wanted it to feel like the lyrics of the song, you know? It was just on my laptop, and then I just checked the mix at the studio. Linkin Park’s in the studio right now, so I just brought it over to the studio to tweak the mix a little bit, to just tighten it up.
What hip-hop is inspiring your production right now? The last time Fort Minor was active, it was a different epoch for rap music.
The evolution from the first Fort Minor record to where I’m at now … I feel like a lot of doors have opened up, both in the landscape of music but also for me personally. Back then, all I was trying to do was make the rap record I would have wanted to make as a kid, with whatever tools I had in the mid 2000s. At that point, when I was a kid making beats and trying to rap and stuff, I had maybe $500 of gear and like a 12-bit Akai 900 sampler, and I was sequencing it with an Alesis drum machine. I was recording it on a Tascam cassette 4-track. So there’s a big difference between that and when I was making the Fort Minor record. I felt like I had so many tools at my disposal.
Between then and now, there’s an artistry and a subtlety to the songwriting and recording processes that you gain with time and experience. I take the songwriting, crafting the song and capturing the sound of it very seriously. I’m always trying to learn from people. It’s great, whether we’re talking about working with Rick Rubin, or working with Tom Morello from Rage and Daron [Malakian] from System [of a Down], or Sandman and Aesop Rock. … That’s my creative journey. I enjoy meeting new people and having new experiences and picking their brains and letting them pick mine.
What inspired you to dead Fort Minor in 2006?
I’ll be honest, it just ran its course. I made it because we were coming off the Jay Z Collision Course project. I was just making that format of music for fun and then eventually it became obvious that I needed to put it out. At the time, I thought the band would be averse to doing something that didn’t sound like the first two records. We all talked about what we wanted to do with the next album [2007’s Minutes to Midnight] and they said to me, “We want to make anything but a nu-metal record” [laughs.] Once all those other doors opened up, realistically I felt like focusing my attention on that. I just really knew at that point that I could really focus my attention on Linkin Park and do all that stuff I would have done for Fort Minor. … And then jumping forward to now, I realize there’s a few things I can do with Fort Minor that I can’t do with Linkin Park.
And what are those things?
Well … you know we’re talking about this remix and “Welcome,” there’s a certain type of underground rap that wouldn’t be best served by … what Linkin Park is. If I were to release “Welcome” as a Linkin Park song and have Chester strutting around on stage next to me? It changes the aesthetic of what that song is, right?
This is like, almost like, my musical bread and butter. I grew up in underground hip-hop. The Def Jux stuff back in the day, the Stones Throw stuff back in the day … I was a huge fan of that shit. There was a record store on Melrose that we used to go to. Me and Joe [Hahn, Linkin Park DJ] would go get singles and producer records that were basically like underground collections of breaks and sounds made by hip-hop producers. They were on the black market basically. They were on the D.L. and nobody knew. We used to buy all those records like Super Duck Breaks. What was that one called? [Utility Phonograph Record Vol. 1 by Ricci Rucker] I remember was an incredible one. Joe would be super into Quasimoto and Busdriver and People Under the Stairs. Joe was super into Latryx.
Is there going to be a Fort Minor record forthcoming?
I don’t have plans for a Fort Minor record. … I can predict that there will be a song here and there that will be a Fort Minor song that I can release in between projects. Not because I want to make a big record or big statement, not because it’s a big money maker. If those were the goals, which sometimes they are, then I’d probably just do that with Linkin Park, it makes more sense.