Rakim And Linkin Park’s Mike Shinoda Think Rap-Rock Still Matters
The cross-genre trend isn’t entirely new; it dates back to the 1980s, when Run-DMC remade Aerosmith’s original of "Walk This Way,” which became one of the greatest songs of all time. Several decades later, more dope hip-hop/rock collaborations such as Public Enemy/Anthrax’s “Bring The Noise” and KRS-One/R.E.M.’s “Radio Song” were praised as undisputable classics. Here’s a closer look at the latest cross-genre effort done told by the artists themselves. Linkin Park frontman Mike Shinoda and The God MC speak on collaborating for the first time, bridging the gap between both genres, and explaining the state of rap/rock songs now. Class is now in session. —Eric Diep
On Collaborating For The First TimeMike Shinoda: "If somebody tells me their top ten rappers of all time and they don’t mention [Rakim] in the first two or three, then I pretty much disregard them entirely. You basically don’t know what the fuck you are talking about. I’m not being extreme. I’m being real.
"What ended up taking [the collaboration] a step further [towards] making it, and I knew it was going to work, is when we got on the phone and I was telling him about the place where we are at in rock music. 'Cause rock music right now has gone real pop. I listen to rock radio right now and it sounds like I'm listening to Nick Jr. or the Disney channel. It sounds like commercial jingles.
"So that’s where its gone and we couldn’t see ourselves going there. We couldn’t do it. It felt like, that’s not the moment for us right now. We want to make a heavy record, an aggressive record that’s true to where we come from."
Rakim: "I got a lot of respect for Linkin Park. I’ve been a fan since they came out. I remember a long time ago sitting down and flipping through the channels, and this animated video came on and I was sitting there with the kids. I immediately started watching it. It was a Linkin Park video. Me and the kids were sitting there rocking to it and the animation was crazy. Naw mean? We figured out the name of the group and we started listening for ‘em.
"Like I said, I’ve been a fan throughout their music. “Pushing Me Away” to “Don’t Stay” to “Be Myself.” I like all they music. I get a vibe off of it and I know exactly what they speaking on and the feeling they bringing across and I respect them for that.
"And when they called to see if I was interested in doing a joint. It was perfect. It’s a band that picks up the integrity and I felt I was going through the same things they was going through when he told me how he was listening to certain music and he didn’t want to do that route. I deal with the same thing in hip-hop. Majority rules, and if everybody is going this way, artists are almost handcuffed to do the same thing. I felt it was a good statement to make and a good chance to try and rebuild what we trying to do. As far as them trying to rebuild the rock sound and me trying to make that statement and let people will know what’s going on. Again, I felt it was a perfect opportunity."
On The Studio Sessions For “Guilty All The Same”Rakim: "It was dope. Like I said, everybody’s attitude was down to Earth. The vibe was cool and I’m kind of like a picky person when it comes to my studio sessions. I usually work by myself and I got my own studio in the house. Now, I am really used to working by myself, but I feel no way about going in there and trying something that I never did before. I write in front of them. It was one of them things where the vibe was right and the song was definitely right. It was a matter of me putting that Rakim thing on."
Mike Shinoda: "People like Rakim are fine artists. There are people who make pop music. They are more illustrative, but they are losing sight of the art in their art. When I see him come in, he’s got it written out on paper with a pencil. It’s not on his phone, it’s not on his laptop. Whatever. It’s on paper with a pencil. He got down at the dinner table in the studio and he’s like, “Give me a minute, I am still working this out. I want to make sure it's right.” And that’s called craftsmen. You know, attention to detail and making sure the piece is everything you can make it.
"When he performed it, it really showed me the veteran status and attitude. Like, the authority too. This dude goes in there and he does the thing. He’s working it out in his head and working it out as he spits the verse. When he got to the last part, he’d always stop short of the last few bars. And he get everything worked out and then there was this moment where he just went for it. He went all the way through the verse and gave us—if you know the verse—the last four bars is just punchline. It’s such a big climax."
rakim mike shinoda
On Why Hip-Hop Is Attracted To RockRakim: "There was a lot of rock songs coming up. Like, it took me a while to realize a lot of the break beats we was using was rock 'n' roll records until I got the record myself. I always been a big listener of rock 'n' roll. Being a rapper, I kind of always let the music always take me there where it needs to be. I try to go into the music and try to complement that. What I do like about rock is how it gets dramatic, how it gets live. How it excerises certain things. It kind of helps me take the pen there. It’s one of them things I always wanted to do, but didn’t have the right avenue to do it. And this right here is the perfect opportunity. I got to take advantage of it."
On Bridging The Gap Between Cross-GenresRakim: "Try to bridge the gap; it makes sense. Rock-n-roll with hip-hop goes hand and hand. Especially when it’s the best of two genres, I feel it's shooting for the same thing. The rock-n-roll world always been heavy in going for the underground and the streets. Hip-hop started underground for the streets. Things change on both courses, but again, the two genres is starting to make the statement and stand for the same thing. They go hand and hand like a no-brainer."
Mike Shinoda: "In the history of the band, we always approached the hip-hop aspect of what we do from the place of passion and experience. Like, that was one of the things when we first came out—we didn’t fit in that well with the other groups that were out at the time. Inside our band, we had a name for it. We called it “frat rock.” Because a lot of those artists, it wasn’t rap rock, it was frat rock. 'Cause those guys were writing music that were just like testosterone, and 'I am going to fuck you up.' 'Let’s party and I am going to fuck you up.'
"Okay, that was them. And there was another, more introspective side to our band, and we had these electronic elements that were quieter and there were these elements [where] the emotions kind of turned inward instead of outward. Towards somebody else. That’s just how it was made. But we grew up on all of those things. It wasn’t forced. I always felt like when I always listened to the other records made at that time, they were visiting hip-hop. They were foreigners. They didn’t grow up there.
"I grew up there. I grew up listening to Rakim. When I was a kid, the first hip-hop records that I ever got, the first vinyl that I ever got was the Beastie Boys’ first record. I got Run-DMC’s first and second records. Those were on vinyl. Those were the things that I got when I was a little, little kid. I was actually surprised looking back at that my parents were even supportative of that. It didn’t make any sense to them. They were like, 'Okay.' I don’t know why. I also don’t know why they let a little kid listen to an album called Raising Hell. That happened eventually. Luck for me they did.
"My point is, to me, it's the best when it comes to the place of mutual respect. And some common thread of understanding. The rock artist doesn’t have to know how to make rap. And the rap artist doesn’t know how to make rock, but they have to—"
Rakim: "Have a love and understanding."
On The State Of Rap-Rock CollaborationsMike Shinoda: "A lot of that stuff, it’s more ingrained at this point. It’s more fused together. We always talk about when we make a hybrid of something, there are different ways to do it. Like, you can blend it together, meaning if you put something in a blender, you blend it and the two things become inseparable. It’s like you make a smoothie, you can’t see all the things that are in there. It’s just one thing. But, there’s another approach that’s called making a salad. Okay, you put all those things in there, and you can see every individual thing.
"You can approach all your songs any of those ways, but I feel like right now a lot of the stuff is out there is more like that first thing. It’s really blended together and you can’t tell when you listen to like a Lana Del Rey song. You know that hip-hop is in there, but you can’t pull it out. It's engrained in the beats and in the production approach. Similarly, you like listen to some rap stuff, like some of Kanye’s stuff. It’s very musical. It’s very rock. It’s jammed in there so effortlessly that you can’t discern one thing from another."
Rakim: "It’s been going on since hip-hop. I was one of the rappers that wished I had one of the Run-DMC beats. It’s really nothing new. We’ve been showing the similarities between rock and rap for the longest. I just felt it was my turn. Nah, mean?
Mike Shinoda: "This is a landmark in a certain category for us. We’ve never put out a new song on a new record with another artist this way. We’ve done collaborations with other people. But, like, the Jay Z record was based on music that was already put out. We did a song with Busta Rhymes that was a single, it was a one-off. That wasn’t our music either. That was his producer’s music. So, this is the first time we’ve had a track and we invited someone into our house. We don’t do that. It takes somebody that we have to have a special situation in connection and whatever to feel conformable to do that."
Rakim: "I appreciate that, man. Thanks for the welcome mat. I hope I didn’t burn it out, man. Leave it at the door and I’ll be back."