Fort Minor is a name Linkin Park fans grew a bittersweet relation to, that “side project” Mike Shinoda made in between albums that just happened to have more than ‘first grade vocabulary words’ and a deeper look into the rapper in a rock band. Described as “something serious” by executive producer Jay Z, many fans did worry it was already the end to Linkin Park, two years since Meteora and a six-song collaboration project with Jay Z on Collision Course already seeming to push back the new album from Linkin Park- and now this?
Funny enough- made in 2005, with the strongest dependence on the band belonging to those steadily but likely uncertainly making it through their teenage and young adult years- Fort Minor truly was “something serious” to many of the fans once it released. Songs like “Right Now,” “Feel Like Home,” “Red to Black,” and “Slip Out the Back” the type to delve deep into your chest, opening it for that breath we felt like we couldn’t let go off, the type to reach into the water to pull you up from.
“Slip out the back before they know you were there/And at the worst you’ll see nobody cares/Cos you don’t wanna be around when it all goes down/Even heroes know when to be scared
I’m no hero, you remember how I was, you know/All I ever did was worry, feeling out of control/To the point where everything was going end over end/I’m spinning around in circles again/This is where you come in/All of this to explain to you why/I had to separate myself away from yesterday’s life/Please remember this isn’t how I hoped it would be/But I had to protect you from me
Thats why I slipped out the back before you knew I was there/And I know the way I left wasn’t fair/I didn’t want to be around just to bring you down/I’m not a hero but don’t think I didn’t care.” – Slip Out The Back, The Rising Tied
In 2005, a lot of us were just too young for parents to understand this “hip hop act” was something more, more than the explicit warning on the CD we bought with our allowance, many of us having to hide it, only listen through the privacy of our headphones. So, for ten, long years, hearing “man, I wish I could have been there” or “I’d give anything to go back and go to that FM show” wasn’t too rare.
Then, “Welcome” was dropped.
“Yeah it’s been a long minute/Let me break it down now if ya’ll still with it/First time I did it, yeah I’ll admit it/I kinda hit it and quit it and left ya’ll hanging”
It started with the most annoying and crazy hinting and toying with our hearts, Shinoda looking pretty nuts with the way he handled the “promo”- yeah, I said it. An Instagram and Twitter being made, all social media for Fort Minor updated with blacked out photos. Then we got nothing from Mike for months, until he started contacting himself from Fort Minor accounts, replying back with his personal one; we were losing our minds.
Was it really time for the Fort Minor Militia to rise up again, after nearly ten whole years? A lot of us responded to it all with “don’t f*** with us, Shinoda.” Opening up Twitter and Facebook a year ago, to say “fans lost their shit” is an understatement.
Mike kept reminding us it was ‘just a non-album single,’ immediately shot down hopes for another album or mixtape, but we didn’t care. At that time and moment, one song was all we needed. Whether “Welcome” was liked or not, every fan was reminded how much we loved “that side project” from years ago. And out of nowhere, a show was announced. A. Fort. Minor. Show. Was. Announced. For those of us that never got to go to the Fort Minor shows because we were too young, for those of us who were too busy leaving home and just trying to get it together, responsibility having kept us away- we were suddenly there again, but this time, we were going to make it to the Fort Minor show.
June 29th was going to be not only the first Fort Minor performance since 2006, but the first Fort Minor show that truly was just Mike. He announced the “one-man show” in Los Angeles, and fans just didn’t know how the hell to handle it. I myself bought the ticket wondering how I was going to make it; I was flying home from Colorado from Loudwire Fest- indeed for Linkin Park- that night. Long, crazy, anxious story short- I pulled up in a very expensive cab ride with luggage in tow at exactly 9pm, just minutes before Mike took the stage.
Many thought he’d end up with others on stage, but he didn’t. There he was with a few instruments and his laptop set up, exactly how one man can in fact handle a show alone. Whatever expectations I had were thrown out the moment the music started, and quite frankly, it was different but one hell of a Fort Minor show, and it was perfect as a first for many. Not one person left feeling let down or still regretting not going ten years back. But what really made it worth it, were two things: seeing Mike Shinoda nervous for the first time, and “Kenji.”
Fort Minor always brought out a bit of confidence in us, hard not to with “Remember the Name,” “Believe Me,” “High Road,” and “There They Go.” How else were you supposed to rap along, keeping up with him and the boys from Styles of Beyond? So as I stood there seeing him on stage at this show and two more in Europe, alone, no Linkin Park or his Rising Tied members, slightly fidgeting and admitting out loud how nervous he was… it was the closest I ever felt to a hero and idol.
Now “Kenji;” it taught what textbooks couldn’t all those years back. It was always a hard song to listen to, but to have witnessed it live was truly an experience. The first time ever performed in any sort was at that Los Angeles show, played over the “Castle of Glass” remix instrumental, but it’s not the performance burned into memory, held in my heart.
In between Linkin Park headliners, the one-man Fort Minor that Mike was performed in Berlin, Germany. I had thought the performance in Los Angeles was beautiful, but there, in that specific city in a intimate venue full of German fans, all of us old enough to know… it was stunning. Chilling. It was hard to breathe, and I’ll never forget the silence we all stood in as he gave us “Kenji,” the collective release of the breaths we had all held. At that show that night, it didn’t matter if it was our first, second, or tenth Fort Minor show; this show was ours, unlike any of them because of that one song. Brought to us that night, all because of one song.
Shows and emotions put aside, “Welcome” also brought along Mike’s art skills out to play, a mural painted on 1000 blank record covers. Three fans in particular saw themselves in the characters painted on, actually, but most just simply appreciated the fair beauty in a hijab out of the four main portraits. Everyone was “Welcome.” The mural taken down square by square, each signed, each of us able to buy a piece of Fort Minor and Mike’s art? It was genius, LP Catalog making a spectacular online mural documenting each vinyl sleeve purchased and claimed by fans. It was like collecting Pokémon cards and comparing them, trading them, from all over the world.
There will always be the same young fans we were ten years ago today. So it’s been fun, how the conversations have changed over the past year. There’s a lot of older fans adding to their stories of Fort Minor shows, a lot that could finally let go of the regret of not going ten years back, a lot of new, young fans finally understanding why us older fans obsessed so much.
“Welcome” welcomed back a lot of memories, more replays to that old, battered CD, welcomed new lyrics to hum to ourselves as we go through our days and nights, welcomed unique experiences with Mike. We’re all hoping it’s not another ten years until we get to feel like this again.
“I don’t need their blessing now/I don’t need their invitation/Ain’t no way to shut me down/Or to take this path I’ve taken/And maybe I’ve been left out/But never let this be mistaken/They can keep their blessing now/Forget me now/’Cause I was never welcome”