Linkin Park and Rakim Add Fresh Blood to ‘The Hunting Party’

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Jon Wiederhorn
·Writer
Linkin Park and Rakim Add Fresh Blood to ‘The Hunting Party’
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Over the past 12 years, the guys in Linkin Park have collaborated with Staind singer Aaron Lewis, rappers Pharoahe Monch and Black Thought, DJs The Alchemist and KutMasta Kurt, and on a remix album with Korn vocalist Jonathan Davis. In 2004, they released a mash-up EP with Jay-Z, Collision Course, which debuted at number one on the Billboard album chart and quickly went platinum. But when it came to their own albums, Linkin Park have always done everything themselves – until now.

The band’s sixth record, The Hunting Party (out June 17) features collaborations with numerous past and present music luminaries, including rapper Rakim on the song "Guilty All the Same." A lyric video for the track, which was posted on March 7, has already accrued over 4 million views on YouTube.

"The bridge on that song was always set up for rapping and for a while I thought I could do it," vocalist, rapper, and main songwriter Mike Shinoda told Yahoo Music. "But then I thought it just won’t be as surprising as I want it to be. So we decided to ask Rakim to rap on it; and when we found out he was interested, we were so, so thrilled."

Rakim’s interest in the project stemmed in part in his willingness to cross boundaries, but also because he related to Linkin Park’s current role as an ambitious commercial hard-rock band in a scene dominated by pop and R&B. "When I got on the phone with him I told him where we were at with rock music, how we arrived at this kind of an album – which is much heavier than our last few records -- and what the songs are about," Shinoda said. "He really connected with that and was vibing on that idea because that's kind of the same road that he’s been on. Rap has gone a very pop direction and he's not about to make a pop song. He's got a certain aesthetic that he wants to uphold and so do we, so we really related to one another on that level."

The rapper flew from New York to Los Angeles, and hooked up with the band at North Hollywood's Larrabee Studios. Unlike other rappers Linkin Park have worked with, Rakim took a methodical approach and was immaculate about each word he chose.

"He writes his lyrics on paper and he takes longer than most rappers do with a song," Shinoda said. "Most rappers will go into the studio and write a verse in an evening. Some guys go onto the mike and free-associate lyrics, like Jay-Z and Kanye, and they're awesome. But Rakim, in order to achieve what he does in a verse, works it out over the course of days or weeks. I really relate to that because that's how I do my best lyrics."

In the end, Rakim’s calculated approach was a perfect fit for the band and his delivery and lyrics sat seamlessly within the band's surging, stomping rhythm.

"His part was almost like a rap version of a guitar solo," Shinoda said. "He’s doing something very complex with a lot of color and a lot of inspiration. That was the first collaboration we did for the record, and it really inspired us."

In addition to working with Rakim, Linkin Park tracked songs with Helmet frontman Page Hamilton ("All For Nothing"), System of a Down guitarist Daron Malakian ("Rebellion"), and Rage Against the Machine guitarist Tom Morello ("Drawbar").

"This is our first album to feature collaborations because in the past we were in the same headspace that everybody else is in," Shinoda said. "We thought, 'Oh, our thing is so precious only we can be involved with it.' What I've realized is that this is a great moment to see what else we can do when we throw new people into the mix. It doesn't matter if our bands are so different. Let’s approach it from the inside-out and say, 'Look, this doesn't mean we are going to change who we are as a band. Let’s just explore a little and see what other musicians can add to our sound. And I hope that inspires other bands to get a little more open to crossing boundaries as well."