Although rooted in alternative metal, Linkin Park became one of the most successful acts of the early 2000s by welcoming elements of hip-hop, modern rock, and atmospheric electronica into their music. The band's rise was indebted to the aggressive rap-rock movement made popular by the likes of Korn and Limp Bizkit, a movement that paired grunge's alienation with a bold, buzzing soundtrack. Linkin Park added a unique spin to that formula, however, focusing as much on the vocal interplay between singer Chester Bennington and rapper Mike Shinoda as the band's muscled instrumentation, which layered DJ effects atop heavy, processed guitars. While the group's sales never eclipsed those of its tremendously successful debut, Hybrid Theory, few alt-metal bands rivaled Linkin Park during the band's heyday.
Drummer Rob Bourdon, guitarist Brad Delson, and MC/vocalist Mike Shinoda attended high school in Southern California, where they formed the rap-rock band Xero in 1996. Bassist Dave "Phoenix" Farrell, singer Mark Wakefield, and DJ/art student Joseph Hahn joined soon after, and the band courted various labels while playing hometown shows in Los Angeles. Few companies expressed interest in Xero's self-titled demo tape, however, prompting Wakefield to leave the lineup (he would later resurface as the manager for Taproot). Hybrid Theory became the band's temporary moniker in 1998 as replacement singer Chester Bennington climbed aboard, and the revised band soon settled on a final name: Linkin Park, a misspelled reference to Lincoln Park in Santa Monica. With Bennington and Shinoda sharing vocal duties, the musicians now wielded enough power to distinguish themselves from the wave of nu-metal outfits that had appeared during the decade's latter half. Warner Bros. vice president Jeff Blue took note and signed Linkin Park in 1999, sending the band into the studio with Don Gilmore shortly thereafter.
Linkin Park titled their debut album Hybrid Theory, a tribute to the band's past, and released the record during the fall of 2000. "Crawling" and "In the End" were massive radio hits; the latter song even topped the U.S. Modern Rock chart while peaking at number two on the Billboard Hot 100, an example of the band's crossover appeal. Linkin Park joined the Family Values Tour and also played shows with Cypress Hill, leading the group to log over 320 shows in 2001 alone. Come January 2002, Hybrid Theory had received three Grammy nominations and sold over seven million copies. (Sales later topped ten million, earning the album "diamond status" and making Hybrid Theory one of the most successful debuts ever.) Despite their meteoric rise, however, Linkin Park spent the remainder of the year holed up in the recording studio, again working with producer Don Gilmore on a follow-up album. Meanwhile, the timely summer release of Reanimation helped appease the band's eager audience, offering remixed versions of Hybrid Theory's tracks.
A proper sophomore effort, Meteora, arrived in March 2003, featuring a heavier sound and stronger elements of rap-rock. Although the record spawned several modern rock hits, songs such as "Numb," "Somewhere I Belong," and "Breaking the Habit" furthered the band's crossover appeal by simultaneously charting on the Hot 100. Linkin Park once again supported the album with ample touring, including performances with the second annual Projekt Revolution Tour (the band's own traveling festival, which originally launched in 2002) and additional shows with the likes of Metallica and Limp Bizkit. Live in Texas was released to document the band's strength as a touring act, and the bandmates tackled various personal projects before beginning work on a second remix project.
Released in 2004, Collision Course found the band collaborating with king-of-the-mountain rapper Jay-Z, resulting in a number of mashups that sampled from both artists' catalogs. Collision Course topped the charts upon its release, the first EP to do so since Alice in Chains' Jar of Flies, and Jay-Z furthered his association with the band by asking co-founder Mike Shinoda to explore the possibility of a solo hip-hop project. He did, dubbing the project Fort Minor and releasing The Rising Tied in 2005 with Jay-Z as executive producer. Linkin Park then reconvened in 2006 to begin work on a third studio album, which saw Shinoda sharing production credits with Rick Rubin. The resulting Minutes to Midnight arrived in 2007, debuting at number one in several countries and spawning the Top Ten single "What I've Done." In 2010 the band teamed up with Rubin again to produce its fourth studio album, A Thousand Suns.
by Andrew Leahey