In between performing for tsunami victims and mashing it up with Jay-Z, Linkin Park's Mike Shinoda has corralled some of hip-hop's finest for his new solo project, Fort Minor.
"There's a lot of dynamics in the record, and that's why the name Fort Minor works so well," Shinoda explained. " 'Fort' [is] something that's heavy and militant. 'Minor' [is] taken one of two ways: either meaning small or meaning ... between the two basic chords in music theory, you've got major or minor, and minor is described as the darker, sadder chord. The album is about the dynamic when you put all those things together. You've got that spectrum."
Common, Black Thought of the Roots, Kenna, John Legend and L.A. underground hip-hop act Styles of Beyond are featured on the album, called Rising Tied and produced by Shinoda. The Linkin Park lyricist has been friends with Styles of Beyond for nearly eight years and said he feels blessed to provide the group with mainstream attention.
"Their producer helped me buy my first sampler," a smiling Shinoda recalled. "I've known these guys forever, and for me to be able to come back and put them on [Linkin Park's] label, Machine Shop Records, it's a good feeling. You can tell on the song 'Remember the Name' [that] we were having fun with it and being able to brag on it."
Other tracks include "Petrified," "Where'd You Go," "Believe in Me" and the concept song "Right Now," for which Shinoda was joined by another MC, Black Thought.
" 'Right Now' is a cross section of everyday life as each person sees it," Shinoda said. "And Black Thought's verse is one of the best I've ever heard him do. It's beautiful. And it made the song just perfect to me."
After making friendly with Jay-Z on Linkin Park's collaborative mash-up album, Shinoda was able to land Jay as Rising Tied's executive producer. Shinoda insisted on working with trusted people, he said, including Linkin Park bandmate Brad Delson, who, along with Jay, kept him in line creatively.
"Remember the Name" will be the first single the project releases.
"It's a song that sums up where we're coming from with the album and the project," Shinoda explained. "So if you were to look for the record out there on the Internet, look for that [song] first."
Does that mean Shinoda is supportive enough of Internet downloading to say where tracks might appear?
"You're gonna have to be creative," he smiled. "I'm not going to tell people where to look."
Fort Minor's Rising Tied is slated for a late-summer release.