Complex Music Interview: Mike Shinoda Talks New Linkin Park Album And Ranks His Top 5 Rappers

Photo: James Minchin

No kidding, this is one of the best interviews ever! Great questions and Shinoda namedrops so many artists that it will keep my Spotify busy for the next 6 months.


When the Cali-based “rock meets rap” outfit Linkin Park released their first album, Hybrid Theory, it beat out Britney Spears to become the best selling record of 2001. That level of success freaked them out. After releasing their second album, Meteora in 2003, they regrouped and re-emerged four years later with a completely new sound that caused an uproar amongst loyal stans.

The albums Minutes to Midnight and A Thousand Suns bore the sonic signature of legendary producer Rick Rubin. Rubin was also behind the boards for the band’s latest studio effort, Living Things, which is set to drop June 26th.

Last Friday Complex got a chance to hear a few tracks and chat with Linkin Park co-founder and resident MC, Mike Shinoda. He’s a smart dude with an interesting take on the band’s place in music history.

The new songs have a big, modern polished sound, but with that warm, fuzzy, hard-hitting Rick Rubin feel to them. Linkin Park has evolved from MTV frat-house faves into a class act and MC Mike Shinoda makes that clear in the rap-heavy joint “Until It Breaks” off Living Things. Over a bed of big healthy drums, he confidently spits, “I’m a Banksy / You’re a Brainwash / Get the picture like that?” Yes, we get the picture.

Interview by Jeff Sanico

Do you keep abreast of rap current affairs?

I think I do. These days everything moves really fast. There’s all kinds of sub-genres so it all depends on what you’re talking about. For instance, just this morning I heard about this track. It’s a Foster The People remix for “Blue Jeans” (by Lana Del Rey) that Azealia Banks raps on. She’s dope. The guy that mixed our record was doing her record right after ours and I was like, “Dude, can I sneak in?” I’m excited to hear Azealia Banks’s stuff.

What excites you about the new Linkin Park album?

It doesn’t lose any of the creativity of the newer stuff and it brings in the energy of the older stuff. It’s kind of a comprehensive sound. I feel like we’ve been able to take all the stuff we’ve learned on the way and put it all together in each song and still keep it fresh and forward-thinking.

Whenever we get in the studio we react really badly to anything feeling like it’s a throwback or a repeat of what we’ve done—as long as it feels like we’re taking a step forward it feels good. This record echoes a lot of different random things from what we’ve learned along the way. I think every artist’s “new album” is their favorite one.

We’ve been immersed in this one for a year. It’s like we are currently in the eye of the storm. All of my focus is on getting this record perfect and presenting it to the fans in the way that I think is the perfect way. It’ll never be perfect, but we just do our best to make it the best it can be. I’m thrilled about the record, I couldn’t be more excited about people hearing it.

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