Since their inception, Linkin Park have made it clear that they are neither rap nor rock but an evolved hybrid of both.
Their debut album contained elements of the once-opposing genres, though it retained decidedly rock roots. But on Reanimation, a "reinterpretation" of their Hybrid Theory tracks due July 30 (see "Linkin Park Master Reanimation But Kant Spell"), the group trades most of its rock riffs for meaty beats, effectively proving that the line dividing the two genres was barely noticeable to begin with.
"We all started in L.A.," explained MC Mike Shinoda, "from a musical background where you've got a lot of things going on at once. It's really easy to get into different kinds of music, so that's basically where we come from.
"Our idea was to create something that was as seamless as possible," he said of Reanimation. "It took elements and made music from different styles, but it made one sound rather than a patchwork of different things. Like you get a rap part, then you get a rock part, then whatever. ... We just wanted to make one thing that embraced all those different sounds."
While remixing tracks off a 2-year-old album that has sold more than 7 million copies may come off like a cop-out (fear not, LP fans, a new album is expected to drop early next year), the group members are hardly ones to back off from a challenge. It would have been a no-brainer to recruit remix-friendly mega-rappers for the project, but Linkin Park instead opted for the harder sell: MCs they respected and actually listened to themselves.
"We really wanted to reach out to the people we actually listen to, instead of reaching out to the obvious flavors of the month," DJ Joseph Hahn said.
"I do appreciate the fact that cats like Linkin Park are able to reach out to cats like us," said Jurassic 5 MC Chali 2Na, who appears on "FRGT/10," "and put us on a listening plateau to where people who don't normally listen to rap or who only listen to the pop aspect of it will get to see other things. They're exposing them to other things. They didn't take the easy way out. They wasn't calling the P. Diddys no disrespect to them cats. ... They was calling cats they respect, and I appreciate that and I respect them more for that."
A particularly prized score for Linkin Park was the Roots' MC Black Thought, who provides rhymes to "X-ecutioner Style," the only song on the album that doesn't appear in its original form somewhere else (original mixes of "H! VLTG3" and "MY <DSMBR" surfaced on a European single).
"I don't think he knows how nervous I was when I called him up," admitted Shinoda. "A friend of mine told me that he wanted to link us up 'cause he knows one of my favorite groups is the Roots. We're all big fans, and that was something that was kind of a goal of ours as far as the album, to get groups that we really admire to participate."
To Linkin Park drummer Rob Bourdon, admiration, as it pertains to the truly organic Roots, is an understatement.
"I grew up playing to funk and R&B, and then I got into rock," he explained. "But I had friends who listened to hip-hop and I never really got into it that much because I was always trying to expand my horizons to become a better drummer. One of my friends told me to check out their CD because they do this sh-- live. And I just opened my eyes up to that, so they totally opened the door for me to listen to more hip-hop."
Kut Masta Kurt didn't have to think very long after he was asked to remix "In the End," the result of which was retitled "ENTH E ND." All he had to do was take a listen to a Linkin Park song and he immediately knew where the band was coming from.
"I just decided, 'OK, I don't know a lot about rock, but let me turn on KROQ while driving around L.A., where you spend a lot of time in your car. I kept hearing the song 'In the End,' and I was like, 'OK, that's the song I want to do. Hands down, that's the one I want to do.' "
Although the process of crossbreeding songs isn't entirely new, with pioneers like the Run-D.M.C./Aerosmith "Walk This Way" and the 1993 soundtrack to the film "Judgement Night" paving the way, it may still seem out of place to mulish fans of either genre. But Linkin Park aren't concerned.
"Kids just like good music," Bourdon surmised. "They don't really look for a category of music they just either like it or not. And most of the time when I ask a lot of the kids what kind of music are they into, it's such a wide spectrum right there. It's not that segregation of metal and this and that. All the lines are blended, which is really cool, and that's what we're stoked to be a part of."