Linkin Park emcee/producer Mike Shinoda will become the first member of the multi-platinum act to release a solo album when he unveils his debut, as Fort Minor, on November 22nd. Shinoda says the album, The Rising Tied, is an opportunity for him to get back to his roots of making hip-hop beats in his room.
Rising features diverse guest appearances from Common, on the stylish “Back Home,” the Roots’ Black Thought, John Legend and Linkin DJ Joe Hahn, as well as Ethiopian-born alt-funk rocker Kenna and two acts signed to Linkin’s Machine Shop Records, hip-hop duo Styles of Beyond and singer Holly Brooke. The album runs a gamut of topics and styles — from the poignant “Kenji,” about the internment of Japanese-Americans in World War II (with vocal samples by Shinoda’s father and aunt), to the possible lead single, “Believe Me,” whose beat pays homage to New York hip-hoppers Boogie Down Productions and the Wu-Tang Clan.
Rolling Stone speaks via phone with the rapper from Paris while he wraps up a brief European tour and prepares to head to Miami for the MTV Video Music Awards, which he helped score.
As a producer and a musician, how exciting was it for you to have this opportunity to collaborate with different artists?
This record was really about having fun and doing things that were kind of just for me. I wanted to work with friends, people that I saw eye to eye with, and I wanted to write and play every note if I could. I wrote every note, produced and mixed every song — but I did bring in a choir and a string group at one point.
The album is a product of this anxiousness that I’ve had: I wanted to hear something different in hip-hop. If you read any hip-hop magazine, you’ll see a letter from a kid that says, “Why do we have the same people on the cover every month? Why do we have the exact same song style on every album?” The kids are saying, “I want something new.” And if I wasn’t making music, I’d be the kid writing into the magazine saying the exact same thing. I like what’s out there, but I like variety as well. I’ve been waiting for somebody to make an organic hip-hop album that doesn’t rely so much on keyboards and sequencing and that has some songwriting in it, some musicianship. And I figured, “I know how to do that. I should just make it myself.”
What was the timeline for working on the record?
I started out two years ago, just toying with the songs, just experimenting. I started with the idea that I wanted to get back to my roots and what I do in hip-hop. I hadn’t made a strictly hip-hop song for probably about seven years just for myself — because that’s what I did before Linkin Park, I just made rap music. I made beats for my friends; I swapped beats with guys like Styles of Beyond, who lived in the neighborhood near me. [Styles emcee] Ryu and I actually did a couple of tracks back in, like, ’95, and I wanted to get back to that. And funny enough, I ran into those guys at about that time and started just throwing around ideas about doing songs with them. The more I wrote and played songs for people, the more serious the album got. And eventually I went from playing it for friends to playing it for people like [the Roots emcee] Black Thought and Kenna, who then got on songs.
How excited are you to have the record finally coming out?
Everything is great, man. I’ve had this record in my hands just about finished for about three months now — I’ve had to sit on it, waiting to play it for people. I can’t tell you how excited I am to finally get it out there.
How are the live shows over in Europe going?
It’s really interesting being with a new group of guys. The Fort Minor band is me, three members of Styles of Beyond and a drummer named Beat Down. We’re still getting used to the material and being together on stage. And most of these are festival dates, which means we’re playing in front of crowds that are anywhere from 3,000 to 8,000 people — that’s a lot for these guys. They’ve never really consistently played in front of this many people. They’re loving it.
On one of the new tracks, “Get Me Gone,” there are some pointed messages to Linkin’s critics. I have to ask, is it true you usually don’t do interviews other than via email?
I do my best to try and just do interviews via email because I’ve had so many experiences where people have kind of minced my words. I just want an accountability on the other person’s end for taking down what I’m saying accurately. I’m careful with my words and to kind of assume that I meant something similar to what I said isn’t really fair.
What’s been the overall response to the record thus far?
I’ve been actually surprised the response has been as positive as it has been –particularly on the Internet — because people have a preconception about what I would do on my own, being a member of Linkin Park. You gotta step outside of the box. There’s cursing on the record; there are different kinds of topics, entirely different vibes; there’s no distorted guitar. But I obviously wouldn’t have done the album unless the other guys gave their blessing.