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When Mike Shinoda and the late Chester Bennington were writing lyrics for Linkin Park’s 2000 breakthrough, Hybrid Theory, they made a pact: No cussing. It wasn’t just about keeping their audience, a portion of which might’ve had trouble slipping Parental Advisory stickers past their parents. It was more that in avoiding blunt, four-letter expressions of frustration, Shinoda and Bennington could challenge themselves to lean into—and lay bare—their pain in ways that cussing only covered up. On a deeper level, the choice set a kind of metaphorical course for catharsis: Linkin Park were angry, but their anger burned clean. Hybrid Theory was a once-in-a-generation album, arguably the commercial and creative pinnacle of rap-rock. But part of the reason the band survived was that they were always more versatile than their moment. Heavy as it could be, the music was almost never macho, trading in hard-rock pomp for the arty vulnerability of emo and synth-pop. When they wanted to take the guitars down a little, they moved toward a brooding, post-hardcore vision of electronic music that let Bennington flex his inner Depeche Mode fan while retaining a sense of anguish that, it turns out, didn't need aggression to find expression. And by the time they went “pop” (2017’s One More Light), they’d been redefining the terms of commercial rock music for nearly two decades. Formed on the outskirts of Los Angeles in 1996, the group spent their first few years struggling—at one point, an executive suggested they fire Shinoda, their MC, and take a more conventional rock-band route. Hybrid Theory was a kind of Rubicon in hard rock, making the influence of hip-hop and electronic music impossible to ignore. Meteora came out in 2003, followed by a run of albums (2007’s Minutes to Midnight, 2010’s A Thousand Suns, 2012’s Living Things, and others) that shifted more heavily toward electronic music.

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