Normally I’m categorically against individual members of a band doing side or solo projects – think Wes Borland leaving Limp Bizkit, Ozzy Osbourne leaving Black Sabbath, or Gary Barlow leaving Take That. There generally ends up being friction between the artist, and his regular band, the side/solo project is normally a disaster anyway, and all involved agree it should never have happened.

Well, all that may change.

The Rising Tied is the debut album from Fort Minor, the name Mike Shinoda, rap star from mega-band Linkin Park, has chosen to give his rap aspirations.

And it doesn’t stop there – not only did Mike name the group, but he also wrote every song, plays nearly every instrument, produced the album, and came up with the videos. Did I mention this guy was a genius?! That could end up being the understatement of the year.

The Rising Tied kicks off in fine style, after an unnecessary intro from executive producer Jay Z (his only appearance on the album), with Remember the Name, an autobiographical track which lays the foundation for everything that follows. From there Mike Shinoda unleashes what is sure to be remembered as one of the best albums of 2005, if not one of the best hip hop albums of all time.

The Rising Tied is 16 tracks long, and it’s fantastic from start to finish. Highlight tracks include the aforementioned opening track Remember The Name, Petrified, Cigarette, Kenji, and my personal favourite Believe Me. Like with most hip hop albums there is a flurry of guests, but they are used well on The Rising Tied, adding to the songs rather than appearing for the sake of appearing on someone elses album.

Above all that, the thing I like most about The Rising Tied is the music. Mike Shinoda is a great rapper, and very unique in that he uses intelligent language to get his point across. He doesn’t fill every song up with lyrics about how he is some girls superman, or about going to a candyshop, or any other stupid crap like that – his songs are about real things, like the problems in relationships, trying to make it onto the scene, the challenges he faced, and other topics like family and ancestry.

It could be the Linkin Park influence, since the songs definitely show a certain amount of angst and dissatisfaction, but Shinoda is a standout musician in his own right, and he forms his own style.

In addition to the great lyrics, the music is fantastic – as a friend of mine pointed out, its like listening to Linkin Park without the guitar, bass or drums. That could be an unfair generalisation, and you could make a solid case for how different it is from Linkin Park, but at the end of the day, Shinoda wrote the music, and he wrote music for Linkin Park, so similarities are unavoidable.

One thing I will say: the music is different to the other hip hop or rap you hear, with layers of sound forming a detailed foundation for the lyrics to work off. Unlike the other big hop hop or rap stars, like Eminem, or 50 Cent, the music is complicated and sounds awesome. There are no simple beats here, like on 50 Cent’s album.

As mentioned, The Rising Tied is a great album, and definitely one of the better albums of 2005. I give it an 8 out of 10. Its been a long time coming, but the wait has been worth it. Hopefulyl Shinoda can establish himself from here on out.