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As co-vocalist of rap-metal outfit Linkin Park -- owning the rapping skills to balance out Chester Bennington's tortured, emotional wail -- Mike Shinoda became one of the more recognizable faces of the nu metal scene in the early 2000s. Shinoda was born on February 11, 1977, as Michael Kenji Shinoda, and raised with his younger brother Jason in the Los Angeles suburb of Agoura Hills, CA. He loved to paint and studied classical piano as a kid, eventually branching out into jazz and hip-hop, and picking up the guitar. He became friends with guitarist Brad Delson in junior high, and started the band Xero with him and another schoolmate, drummer Rob Bourdon, while in high school (the same school attended by members of Hoobastank). Following graduation, and still performing with Xero, Shinoda enrolled at Pasadena's Art Center College of Design to study graphic design and illustration. While there, he met fellow aspiring artist and musician DJ Joseph Hahn and the two struck up a friendship; Hahn eventually joined Xero on the turntables, as did Delson's college roommate, bassist Dave "Phoenix" Farrell. Shinoda graduated from art school and took a job as a graphic designer, while Xero continued to gig around the Los Angeles area; the band eventually became known as Linkin Park with the final addition of co-vocalist and Arizona transplant Chester Bennington in 1999.

The group signed to Warner Bros. soon after, and released its multi-platinum-selling debut album, Hybrid Theory, the following year. Shinoda managed to integrate his artistic background into his main gig with Linkin Park by designing the band's album artwork with Hahn and actively having a hand in much of the group's mixing, production, and other technical aspects. In addition to his work with Linkin Park, Shinoda also has production and remix credits for acts like the X-Ecutioners, Handsome Boy Modeling School, Lupe Fiasco, and Depeche Mode. He also started up a side project in 2004 dubbed Fort Minor, which allowed Shinoda to concentrate more on the hip-hop side of things, though he still blended rap with his love of rock and electronics. Fort Minor's debut album, The Rising Tied, was released in November 2005, and featured executive production by Jay-Z, who had previously worked with Shinoda and Linkin Park on the 2004 mash-up album Collision Course. The Rising Tied being a true labor of love, Shinoda played almost every instrument on the album, in addition to doing all of its programming and sequencing. ~ Corey Apar, Rovi