|Song by Fort Minor from the album The Rising Tied|
|Released||November 22, 2005|
|Format||Digital, CD, Vinyl|
|Live debut||June 29, 2015|
|Last played||September 8, 2015|
|Label||Machine Shop Recordings, Warner Bros. Records|
"Kenji" is the thirteenth track on The Rising Tied by Fort Minor. The song is based on interviews with Mike Shinoda's father and aunt who were interned in Manzanar during World War II. Shinoda raps about how the family was given two days to pack everything into two bags, the depression, racial profiling, living under lockdown and growing crops for the guards. The voices of his father and aunt can be heard in sound bites.
In late 2006, Clear Channel Music posted the entire The Rising Tied album complete with commentaries from Mike Shinoda before each song. On "Kenji", he said, "When I was growing up, there were groups like Public Enemy, and Boogie Down Productions that would talk about more uhm, maybe political issues, or social issues... just whatever was affecting them, they thought, in their community and personally, and uhm, I don’t know, I feel like, and maybe that’s not completely missing from today’s hip-hop, but it’s definitely something that I’ve never done before on a record and I wanted to do. Uhm, especially when I thought about the fact that there’s never been a song done about Japanese internment. I’m half Japanese. My family was interned during World War II. What happened is after the bombing of Pearl Harbor, the US government basically went through a period, of what we would call now racial profiling. And they took all the Japanese Americans, anybody who was of Japanese descent and stuck them in internment camps. You can imagine, you come home from work, and the FBI’s sitting there and they tell you to pack up your stuff and you’re leaving today to go to a camp for the rest of the war, and you don’t know how long it’s gonna be, and it ended up being, you know, one to two years for a lot of people. Even after that there was a lot of racial tension going on and everything was just very difficult for families like mine, so I wanted to make a song about that. A lot of people when they hear that this happened, they can’t even imagine that this happened in the US, but it did. "
Talking about the process of interviewing his relatives, he said, "I knew my dad would do the interview. They are two of 13 brothers and sisters. Nine are left. They are two different experiences that sum up the internment. My dad was 3 to 4 years old and my aunt was in her 20s. She’s in her 80s now; she has experience talking about it. I had to plan my questions very carefully. I obviously wanted to get information she was comfortable telling. It took a couple of hours. She ran out of standard answers after an hour. You have an hour of responses in the safe zone, then they reveal what really happened. She told me about the way they set up the partitions in the room. They used thumbtacks and bed sheets. They had 20 to 30 people in one barrack. I don’t believe there was a toilet; they had to go to center of camp. I’m going to release an interview-only version of the song. There’s no drum loop and no rap vocals. I’m going to put it up on FortMinor.com." Mike played the song for as many people in his family as he could in little groups of 10.
Jay-Z basically decided what songs would go on The Rising Tied but the reception from his family was so good Mike decided "Kenji" was one of the two songs - the other being "Where'd You Go" - that had to be on the album.
On The Making of The Rising Tied DVD when he was helping Brad and Mike pick songs for the album, Jay-Z said that "Kenji" had a really hard beat.
When Linkin Park was on tour for One More Light in Europe, at the 2017.06.11 Prague show, Mike dedicated "One More Light" to his uncle Kenji who had recently passed away. Mike said that Kenji was a very patriarchal figure in his family. He said, "For those of you, who know my old Fort Minor stuff, his name was Kenji."
In 2018 while promoting Post Traumatic, Mike said about performing at the Identity LA Concert & Celebration for Asian American & Pacific Islander Heritage Month, "I have a song called "Kenji," which is all about Japanese internment during WWII. My family was interned, and I’ve never gotten a chance to play that song in its album version before. So I got to play that, and it was really special."
When asked about the song he is most proud of ever creating besides "Waiting For The End" (which won the Linkin Park Peru "March Madness" song bracket that Mike filled out), Mike said, "Proud of is an interesting way to put it. Kenji maybe, because I knew that nobody else was going to make that song. Right? And I was like, "I'm in a position to talk about this, what people don't talk about, because it's about Japanese internment." Who else is going to make a song like that? Especially a rap song in a weird meter."
Mike in 2018 also annotated the song on Genius.
He said about the name Kenji in the song, "The story is based on real events that happened during WW2." He added, "I used the word 'Jap'... for historical accuracy. As we all know, this word is not acceptable today. Do not mistake its presence here for an indicator that I think it is cool. It is not."
About Pearl Harbor being bombed, "On Dec. 7, 1941, Kenji goes out his front door and his world changes forever after he reads the headline of the newspaper saying the Japanese had attacked Pearl Harbor." About the "two trash bags, is all they gave them" line, "Two trash bags or less was the amount of belongings the Japanese could bring with them to the internment camps. (As described in the novel "Farewell to Manzanar")." About Manzanar, "Manzanar, where Kenji and his family were sent, was one of the major internment camps in California near to Los Angeles. On an unrelated note, Manzanar means Apple Orchard in Spanish."
Moving on to verse two, Mike said about the start of the verse, "The soldiers literally looked down at them, as they stood on top of the watchtowers, and they metaphorically looked down at them, as the soldiers claimed the Japanese people were traitors." About the garden, "In WWII internment camps, the Japanese often grew the traditional "victory garden.""
About the line "prisoners of war in their own damn country, what for?", "They were stripped of their rights and treated as second class citizens, even as Japanese Americans were fighting and dying for "their" country. There was even an all Japanese American unit, which included 21 Medal of Honor recipients. It is ironic to think that while they were fighting overseas, most of their family members were in the internment camps."
About the line "the only way out was joining the Army", "Many Japanese joined the US military to escape the camps, and to somehow prove their loyalty/‘redeem’ themselves. Some of these men ended up on the Enola Gay, killing their own people with the A bombs."
About the end of the second verse, "My family came to the U.S. with nothing. By the end of the 1930s, they had one of the most successful businesses in town, a general store / barber shop / gas station / pool hall. During internment, they were forcibly removed from it, where it was left for years to decay and subjected to vandalism. When they returned after the war, it was unusable. They were forced to sell it, and became minimum wage farm hands. No one wanted to hire the Japanese in America at that time. My family were subjected to racism at every turn, even though they were proud American citizens the entire time."
"Kenji (Interview Version)" was released by Mike Shinoda for free download exclusively for Fort Minor Militia members in on January 31, 2006. On March 8, 2006, the song was made available on the Fort Minor website. The song was produced and mixed by Mike. He wrote: "this song is a fort minor militia preview. it will be available on fortminor.com later, but you're hearing it here first. this version of the song contains interview clips only...all the things that were in the interviews that i couldn't fit into the song, but i thought i should put this out there for you to hear. i think this version really tells the intimate side of my family's internment camp story well. also, don't miss this part of the story: my dad's family was pretty successful before they were forced into the camp; when they got out, they had newspaper for wallpaper and were picking grapes as day-laborers. the internment had hit them pretty hard."
The song was released with "Do What We Did" on the same day.
Note: Only the date of the very first release of each version is listed.
|Kenji||The Rising Tied||3:51||2005||November 22, 2005||
|Kenji||The Rising Tied (Non-PA Version)||3:51||2005||November 22, 2005||
|Kenji (Interview Version)||2:24||2005||January 31, 2006||
|Kenji||Instrumental Album: The Rising Tied||3:50||2005||
"Kenji" was not performed at all until 2015 when Fort Minor made its comeback with "Welcome". Mike performed the song as a mashup with "Castle Of Glass" - the instrumental was a remix of the M. Shinoda Remix found on Recharged, and featured the regular lyrics of "Castle Of Glass" until the bridge, where Mike performed all of the parts of "Kenji" over the bridge instrumental (with the speeches included over the speaker).
The studio version of "Kenji" finally made its debut in 2018 when Mike began touring for Post Traumatic. The song was featured mid-set, eventually gaining an extended intro when the tour went to Asia. Matt Harris would play the extended intro on guitar before switching to a bass guitar during the main part of the song, with Mike playing synth chords before the track started. Starting with the second show of the tour in Bangkok, Thailand, Mike began rapping verse one of "Hands Held High" over the intro. Because "Hands Held High" is banned in China due to their censorship laws, Mike experimented with a few verses during the Chinese shows that featured "Kenji" in the set, performing verse one and part of verse two of "It's Goin' Down" and verse three of "Until It Breaks" over the intro. Following the Asian tour, "Kenji" started getting rotated in and out rather than being a staple.
Last Updated: September 14, 2016
|Type||Description||First Played||Last Played|
|Alternative||Mashup with "Castle Of Glass"||June 29, 2015||September 8, 2015|
Last Updated: May 3, 2020
|Type||Description||First Played||Last Played|
|Intro||Ext. Intro w/ No Verse||August 7, 2018||October 10, 2018|
|Intro||Ext. Intro w/ "Hands Held High" Verse 1||August 9, 2018||August 19, 2018|
|Intro||Ext. Intro w/ "It's Goin' Down" Verse 1 & Partial Verse 2||August 12, 2018||August 12, 2018|
|Intro||Ext. Intro w/ "Until It Breaks" Verse 3||August 14, 2018||August 14, 2018|
"My father came from Japan in 1905,
"I was a kid in, I was a, I was a baby and a young kid in camp"
- Shinoda's Song | Hyphen Magazine, May 1, 2006
- Mike Walks Us Through 'The Rising Tied' | LP Association Forums, October 27, 2006
- https://www.gq.com/story/mike-shinoda-post-traumatic-interview Linkin Park's Mike Shinoda Is Taking the Next Step
- LPLive: Mike Q&A Summary 6/26/2020, June 26, 2020
- https://genius.com/Fort-minor-kenji-lyrics Genius: "Kenji" Lyrics
- [https://www.lpassociation.com/forum/threads/making-whered-you-go-un-making-kenji.21255/ LPAssociation: MAKING 'WHERE'D YOU GO?', UN-MAKING 'KENJI'