*written by M.S. & J-23*

“The richness of the music and everything, I know it was gonna be something serious” – Jay-Z

Those are big words coming from an even larger man. You can curtail and devaluate Mike Shinoda’s flow as much as you want. But the fact of the matter is, the man doesn’t care. Reason being? He has Def Jam’s President and “Hip Hop’s Man In Charge” co-signing the Linkin Park member’s rap debut. Not to mention slated guest spots from Common, Black Thought (of The Roots) and John Legend.

Solely responsible for all the production on Rising Tied, Shinoda shows the listener that he has a highly admirable ear for music. “Remember The Name,” the album’s lead single is one of many examples of Shinoda’s production skills. Racing strings backed hard-hitting drums, a foretelling beat on “Rising Tide as Mike consistently brings it hard. The track also features underground artists Styles of Beyond (who make up Fort Minor with Shinoda). Shinoda let’s people know what this album is all about with lines like:

“Forget Mike, nobody really knows how or why/he works so hard, it seems like he’s never got time/Because he, writes every note, he writes every line/And I’ve seen him at work, when that light goes on in his mind/It’s like a design is written in his head every time/Before he even touches a key or speaks in a rhyme”

Keeping with the fresh boom-bap sound, Shinoda delivers the goods with “In Stereo,” full of earth-quaking drums and eerie synth keys. Tag that with a very catchy chorus you’ve got a song that SCREAMS single. When sharing the mic with the likes of Black Thought (“Right Now”), or Common (“Back Home”), it is clear that Shinoda is by no means a premier emcee. But that does not mean he can’t get the job done. “Cigarettes” marks on of years most clever joints, and one of the finer hip-hop metaphors I’ve heard. The chorus says more about the attitude towards hip-hop these days than most entire albums do:

“Its just like a cigarette, its something that I do/once in a while, but between me and you/its just like a cigarette, nobody’s really fooled/I don’t want the truth, I wanna feel fucking cool”

Just as impressive is the fuck-the-naysayers anthem “Get Me Gone”. Both for how well he silences his critics and rides the ill beat. Showing some diversity, “Kenji” details a graphic story of his family’s confinement in the Japanese internment camps during World War II. Shinoda tells a heart-wrenching story, explaining the life of that time:

“Ken got out, big hopes of a normal life, with his kids and his wife/But, when they got back to their home/What they saw made them feel so alone/These people had trashed every room/Smashed in the windows and bashed in the doors/Written on the walls and the floor/”Japs not welcome anymore”/And Kenji dropped both of his bags at his sides and just stood outside/He, looked at his wife without words to say/She looked back at him wiped the tears away/And, said “Someday we’ll be okay, someday”

Very few missteps are apparent during the 52 minutes of music. One of these examples is “Petrified,” the follow up single to the aforementioned “Remember the Name.” Cluttered, would be an accurate adjective to describe the song. Also “The Battle,” an out of place live verse from Celph-Titled that is cut way too short. The Rising Tied might not go multi-platinum like a Linkin Park album, but Mike Shinoda has done what he came to do. Bring a fresh hip hop sound to a wide audience of listeners, and he did it with an album that is not only better than most LP’s from “real rappers” but with much more passion and dedication.