Hybrid Theory is the debut studio album by American rock band Linkin Park, released on October 24, 2000, through Warner Bros. Records. Recorded at NRG Recordings in North Hollywood, California, and produced by Don Gilmore, the album's lyrical themes deal with problems lead vocalist Chester Bennington experienced during his adolescence, including drug abuse and the constant fighting and divorce of his parents. Hybrid Theory takes its title from the previous name of the band as well as the concept of music theory and combining different styles. This is also the only album where bassist Dave Farrell does not play on.
Four singles were released from Hybrid Theory: "One Step Closer", "In the End", "Crawling" and "Papercut", all of them being responsible for launching Linkin Park into mainstream popularity. While "In the End" was the most successful of the four, all of the singles in the album remain some of the band's most successful songs to date. Although "Runaway", "Points of Authority", and "My December" from the special edition bonus disc album were not released as singles, they were minor hits on alternative rock radio stations thanks to the success of all of the band's singles and the album; "Runaway" has also made several appearances on radio stations.
Generally receiving positive reviews from critics upon its release, Hybrid Theory became a strong commercial success. Peaking at number two on the US Billboard 200, it is certified 12x Platinum by the Recording Industry Association of America (RIAA). It also reached the top 10 in 15 other countries and has sold 27 million copies worldwide, making it the best-selling debut album since Guns N' Roses's Appetite for Destruction (1987) and the best-selling rock album of the 21st century. At the 44th Grammy Awards, it won Best Hard Rock Performance for "Crawling".
In 2002, Linkin Park released the remix album Reanimation. It included the songs of Hybrid Theory remixed and reinterpreted by nu metal and underground hip hop artists. Contributors to the album included Black Thought, Pharoahe Monch, Jonathan Davis, Stephen Carpenter, and Aaron Lewis. The sound of later Linkin Park albums would involve experimentation with classical instruments such as strings and piano, both of which, along with the same elements of electronica from Hybrid Theory, are prominently included in the band's second studio album, Meteora.
Linkin Park was founded in 1996 as the rap rock band Xero: lead guitarist Brad Delson, vocalist and rhythm guitarist Mike Shinoda, drummer Rob Bourdon, turntablist Joe Hahn, lead vocalist Mark Wakefield and bassist Dave Farrell (who subsequently left to tour with Tasty Snax). In 1999, after Wakefield's departure, lead vocalist Chester Bennington joined the five members of Xero and the band was renamed Hybrid Theory. Bennington's previous band, Grey Daze, had recently disbanded, so his lawyer recommended him to Jeff Blue, vice president of A&R coordination for Zomba, who at the time was seeking a lead vocalist for Xero. Blue sent Bennington two tapes of Xero's unreleased recordings — one with vocals by former Xero member Mark Wakefield, and the other with only the instrumental tracks — asking for his "interpretation of the songs". Bennington wrote and recorded new vocals over the instrumentals and sent the tapes back to Blue. As Delson recalls, "[Bennington] really was kind of the final piece of the puzzle [...] We didn't see anything close to his talent in anybody else." After Bennington joined, the group first renamed itself to Hybrid Theory and released a self-titled EP. Legal complications with Welsh electronic music group Hybrid prompted a second name change, thus deciding on "Linkin Park". Throughout 1999, Linkin Park was a regular act at the Los Angeles club, The Whisky.
Hybrid Theory received generally positive reviews from critics. Mike Ross of Jam! praised the album as an effective fusion of hip hop and heavy metal music and deemed Linkin Park "one of the finest new rap metal bands". Stephanie Dickison of PopMatters wrote that they are "a far more complex and talented group than the hard rock boy bands of late" and "will continue to fascinate and challenge music's standard sounds." Q magazine commented that the band had given "angst-ridden rock... an effective electronic spin". Johan Wippsson from Melodic complimented Don Gilmore's production and described Hybrid Theory as "destructive and angry but always with a well controlled melodic feeling all over." The Village Voice's Robert Christgau gave the album a two-star honorable mention rating and cited "Papercut" and "Points of Authority" as highlights; he quipped, "the men don't know what the angry boys understand".
In a more critical assessment, William Ruhlmann of AllMusic found that on Hybrid Theory, Linkin Park sound "like a Johnny-come-lately to an already overdone musical style." NME critic Noel Gardner said that it was a "decent" album in need of editing, writing that "otherwise damn fine soaring emo-crunchers like 'With You' and 'A Place for My Head' are pointlessly jazzed up with tokenistic scratching". Rolling Stone's Matt Diehl felt that the album "works in spots" and the band "knows its way around a hook", but panned Bennington and Shinoda's "corny, boilerplate-aggro lyrics".
Reviewing Hybrid Theory in 2006, Tyler Fisher of Sputnikmusic perceived a lack of musical variety on the record, but concluded that it "stands as a defining mainstream album at the turn of the century, and for good reason." Writing for Stylus Magazine the following year, Ian Cohen found that while the album is "almost completely forgettable" outside of its singles, it "was strangely fresh for mainstream rock radio, particularly placed in relief of its ugly post-grunge peers and the staunch revivalism of the Strokes/White Stripes front." Pitchfork's Gabriel Szatan was more enthusiastic in a 2020 review; he wrote that "all the band's sharpest tendencies meshed and their less attractive aesthetic impulses were suppressed" on Hybrid Theory, while crediting the band with helping to normalize discussion of mental health "within pop, rock, rap, and every genre along the heavy axis". Luke Morton of Kerrang! argued that it is "not hyperbolic to say that Hybrid Theory is one of the most important rock albums of all time."