Breakdown FM: Mike Shinoda & Fort Minor Step Into the Hip Hop Arena

Mike Shinoda and his group Fort Minor did a song paying tribute to those Japanese -Americans interned at War Re-Location CampsWe caught up with Mike Shinoda who many of you know as the lead rapper for the group Linkin Park. He has embarked on a new project which allows him to completely focus on Hip Hop called Fort Minor and their new album called ‘Rising Tides‘.

Shinoda deliberately downplays his name in connection to this project even though this is his idea and concept. He says this is being done so that fans will focus on and judge the project strictly on the merits of its music. In fact, he went so far as to scratch out his face on much of the artwork. He also noted that he wanted not dilute what they he does as a member of Linkin Park. Ideally people needed to see Fort Minor as a separate project even though Mike is the lead rapper and he works with the group’s deejay Mr. Hahn.

Shinoda starts off the interview by reminding us of his long connection to Hip Hop. He notes that he was doing Hip Hop long before he became a member of Linkin Park. In fact he was kicking up dust with the members of the underground rap group Styles of Beyond who he recently signed to his label and are prominently featured in the Fort Minor project.

Shinoda also talks about growing up and being taught how to play piano. He says he later went on to transfer that skill set to sampling and producing. He notes that over the years he and fellow band member Mr. Hahn have developed a technique for producing Hip Hop songs which includes the pair making their own samples which they press onto vinyl and now CD and replay back. He notes this approach gives them the sound and style they want while at the same time saves them lots of money on sample clearances.

Shinoda talks about the reason he decided to do this Hip Hop album minus Linkin Park. For many, this seemed a bit strange considering that the group did a Hip Hop oriented remix album for their landmark album ‘Animation’.

Shinoda explained that the group is not in anyway broken up; however he felt that there were a number of ideas that he had related to Hip Hop that simply would not be appropriate for Linkin Park. He said he would never want to do songs that would not include input from all the members and some of the songs on the ‘Rising Tide’ album are just too personal. It would be unfair to ask everyone to comment or pitch in.

Shinoda cites the song ‘Kenji‘ which brings to light his Japanese heritage and his family’s history. Many of us were not aware that Shinoda’s grandparents were forced to spend several years in California internment camps during World War II. They way he breaks things down in this track is absolutely incredible and it is easily one of the most political oriented songs I have heard in a long time.

Shinoda talks about other songs on the album including ‘Cigarettes‘ which he describes as a long metaphor for the way Hip Hop music and culture is mass marketed. He also notes that ‘Cigarettes’ is the favorite song of Jay-Z who is the executive producer.

In our interview Shinoda talks about his close relationship with Jay-Z. They became super tight during the ‘Collision Course‘ mash up album in which they mixed rock and rap. He says that he gave Jay-Z the option to come on the ‘Rising Tides’ album, but the role he really needed him to play was to give him a ‘yeah’ or ‘nay’ on song selections.

Shinoda wrote and produced all of the songs and used live instruments on many of them. He’s a perfectionist and hence needed the fresh ears and honest opinion of someone like a Jay-Z who could tell him what was ready to go and what needed more work.

During our interview we went into depth about the importance of having socially relevant messages in the music. This is what you will hear on Fort Minor’s album. He says that he has noticed that people really want something different. They are seeking music with meaning that does not sound like the run of the mill cookie cut projects that are currently flooding the market. He calls what Fort Minor does ‘Organic Hip Hop’, because of the subject matter and live instrumentation. He also includes groups like The Roots and Kanye West as examples of rap groups that have moved in that direction.

Shinoda concludes this interview by talking about the diversity of fans that the group has and basically how far Hip Hop has reached. He also talks about his approach toward emceeing and what it was like being in the studio with Jay-Z who he confirms does go into the booth with a pen or pad.

You can listen or download this interview by going here:


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