Michael Kenji Shinoda (born February 11, 1977) is an American musician, record producer, and artist from Agoura Hills, California. His father is Japanese American, while his mother is of European and Native American descent. He is best known as the rapper, keyboardist, backing vocalist and rhythm guitarist of Linkin Park, and his side project, Fort Minor. He also provides artwork, production and mixing for both groups.
As per his mother's wishes, Shinoda began his classical piano training with lessons around the age of six, his enthusiasm eventually growing. At the age of thirteen, he expressed the desire to move towards playing jazz, blues, and maybe hip-hop. During his middle school and high school years, he added the guitar and, eventually, rap-style vocals to his repertoire.
After his teens, Mike Shinoda's rap interests found a source of encouragement in Brad Delson, with whom he started to write and record songs in a makeshift studio set up in his basement. Shinoda attended Agoura High School with Linkin Park bandmate Brad Delson, as well as with members of the band Hoobastank. By the end of high school, drummer Rob Bourdon had become involved in their musical ventures. The trio formed the band Xero, and began to make a more serious attempt to pursue a career in the music industry. Chester Bennington came along a few years later.
After high school, Shinoda enrolled in the Art Center College of Design to study graphic design and illustration. It was here that he made the acquaintance of DJ and turntablist Joseph Hahn, who, along with Delson's college-mate Dave "Phoenix" Farrell, was soon added to Xero's line-up. Shinoda eventually graduated from college with a degree in illustration, securing himself a job as a graphic designer right after graduation. With his background as a graphic artist, Shinoda has taken it upon himself in designing all of Linkin Park's artwork with Hahn, and has even designed the album cover for Styles of Beyond's debut album, 2000 Fold. In later years he would go on to showcase his art skills; he had his debut art showcase (Diamonds Spades Hearts & Clubs) at Gallery 1998 in Los Angeles in the time leading up to Linkin Park's album Minutes to Midnight.
Shinoda's band (at this point called Linkin Park; used to be called Hybrid Theory before a legal issue with another band) brought in second vocalist Chester Bennington, replacing Mark Wakefield. From the onset, Shinoda was closely involved in the technical aspects of the band's recordings, and over the subsequent releases that role continued to expand. The first song they sang was "Crawling". Shinoda, with guitarist Brad Delson, engineered and produced the band's Hybrid Theory EP, and performed similar roles in the recording of the Hybrid Theory album. Mike executively organized and oversaw the band's remix album Reanimation (2002), contributing his own production remixes that he made in his home studio for "Crawling" and "Pushing Me Away." In his spare time, he produced and performed on a song by The X-Ecutioners entitled "It's Goin' Down."
On the second Linkin Park Warner Bros. studio release Meteora (2003) Shinoda continued to expand upon his duties as a musician and studio technician/engineer. Additionally, for the backbone of the album artwork, Shinoda collaborated with graffiti artist DELTA, graphic designer Frank Maddocks, and band-mate Joe Hahn.
By the release of the Linkin Park and Jay-Z 'mash-up' album Collision Course in 2004, Shinoda's involvement in the creation of the albums continued to grow. He produced and mixed the album, which won a Grammy Award for "best rap / sung collaboration" later that year.
The band released their latest album, Minutes to Midnight, on May 15, 2007. On this album, Shinoda shared a production credit with producer Rick Rubin, overseeing the musical evolution of the band's sound. This album was also the first time that Shinoda, best known for his rapping, sang a featured vocal. Mike sang on the songs "In Between" and the b-side song, "No Roads Left". Despite of the uncommonness of Shinoda-fronted singing tracks, Hit Parader ranked Mike at number 72 of the Top 100 Metal Vocalists of All Time.
'Fort' represents the more aggressive side of the music. 'Minor' can mean a few things: if you're talking about music theory, the minor key is darker. I wanted to name the album rather than having my name on the cover, because I want people to focus on the music, not me.
The debut album from Fort Minor, titled The Rising Tied, was released on November 22, 2005, and includes guest appearances from Styles of Beyond, Lupe Fiasco, Common, Black Thought of The Roots, John Legend, Holly Brook, Jonah Matranga, Celph Titled, and features Jay-Z (Shawn Carter) as an executive producer.
For the NBA 2006-2007 season, "Remember the Name", the second single from The Rising Tied, became the soundtrack for NBA Overtime on TNT. It was an NBA remix version, and remains the staple song for NBA on TNT to this day. Furthermore the Big East used "Remember the Name" as its theme song for the Big East Basketball Tournament in 2006.
Fort Minor won an MTV VMA for "Best Ringtone" in 2006, and was featured in the following films and TV programs (2005-2006): Entourage, Boston Legal, Gridiron Gang, Freedom Writers, Friday Night Lights (TV), and Numbers.
Shinoda has also continued his Fort Minor musical style in an executive producer role on the upcoming Styles Of Beyond album, "Reseda Beach" He is contributing music and vocals to the album, which is slated for release in late 2008.
Shinoda's band Linkin Park along with hip-hop artist Busta Rhymes came up with a song called 'We Made It'....This song was selected as the soundtrack for the Western Conference Finals of the 2008 NBA season
During time off in 2003, he did a collaborative "remix" shoe for DC Shoes, remixing the "Clientele." He reworked the colors and materials for the shoe, and additionally designed all the packaging and print advertisements. The following year, he also designed a customizable Kid Robot "Munny" doll for a charity auction.
In 2004, Shinoda created a series of ten paintings which became the basis of the Fort Minor album The Rising Tied. That series became the backbone for the packaging of the album, and was featured in Shinoda's first public art show "Diamonds Spades Hearts & Clubs." In addition to the ten Fort Minor pieces, the show also featured thirteen more original works and five collaborative pieces. “Diamonds Spades Hearts & Clubs” opened at Gallery 1988 on Sunday, November 19, 2006.
Additionally in 2004, Shinoda started a college scholarship at Art Center College of Design to benefit future illustration and graphic design students. Named the Michael K. Shinoda Endowed Scholarship, it is awarded based on financial need and merit. The scholarship was awarded for the first time in 2006. The scholarship fund is made possible through the sale of his original artwork on his website (mikeshinoda.com), art shows and his DC Shoes projects.
2008 has proved to be a busy year thus far artistically for Mike. On July 11, Shinoda’s second public art show “Glorious Excess (BORN)” premiered at the Japanese American National Museum in Los Angeles. The show included nine new pieces, with an exclusive signing on opening night. The show served as part one of the “Glorious Excess” two-part series, with the second installment “Glorious Excess (DIES)” due at JANM in January 2009.
Concerning the inspiration behind the Glorious Excess series, Mike stated that it:
"Got to a point where the pervasiveness of “celebrity news” concerned me. It seemed like it has jumped out of its niche into places where it doesn’t belong. I would be watching the news, and thinking, “of all the things going on in the world right now, why are they covering so-and-so’s breakup?” It didn’t make sense to me. Add to that the fact that I’m supposed to somehow “belong” to that celebrity group—and I really don’t feel like I do in a lot of ways—and you can see how the topic started to become really interesting to me. The Glorious Excess (BORN) show was my way of diving into those topics, trying to find answers. It follows a central “celebrity” character, who is filthy rich, slightly violent, and famous without any particular skill or talent."
Also in 2008, Mike partnered up with DC Shoes again on a second DC Remix Series project. The project would feature a "great juxtaposition of Mike's unique influences: accomplished artist versus recording-breaking musician, American upbringing versus Japanese heritage." The MS/DC limited edition remix has two different versions - Xander and Pride. Roughly 2000 pairs of the limited edition shoes were made available for purchase when the sneaker dropped on August 1, 2008.
In an interview with Sneaker Freaker Magazine, Shinoda had this to say about the latest DC Shoe project:
"This remix is a little slimmer than most of DC’s skate shoes; the Xander feels almost like the skate shoes I grew up wearing in the late 80s. But the art brings it up to date—my work is laser-etched into the panels on the side of the shoe, and the sole is a clear gum sole with a koi fish pattern, and four-color artwork beneath. That way, when you’re walking, and your foot lifts up, it’s a little surprise under there. We also took the time to add extra padding and a satin inner lining to make it as comfortable as possible. They come with three pairs of lightly waxed laces instead of two, because I like to flip up the look sometimes. Each pair also comes with a booklet of my art."