Hip-hop for the masses

Korean- American rapper Jay Park started his own music label in 2013.
Korean- American rapper Jay Park started his own music label in 2013.PHOTO: WWW.BOOBAGRAPHY. COM

Artists under K-star Jay Park's label, AOMG, will perform here for the first time

Ex-communicated from the Korean pop scene for his outspoken ways, Jay Park has defied the odds to become a successful rapper in a music industry dominated by single-gender groups performing bubble-gum pop.

The Korean-American has also helped boost the hip-hop scene in South Korea by setting up indie music label AOMG (Above Ordinary Music Group) in 2013.

Park and his labelmates will showcase their music at AOMG's first concert here on Monday, as part of a tour that has already stopped in New York and Bangkok.

"Hip-hop is big now, but back then, there was no room for artists like me. I wanted to give them a chance to be in the spotlight and get greater credit for their talent," says Park, who was speaking over the telephone from Seoul on his 30th birthday on Tuesday.

"I also wanted them to have the freedom to make music without the limitations of a bigger company, which would probably pressure them to make something more mainstream."

  • BOOK IT / AOMG FOLLOW THE MOVEMENT IN SINGAPORE

  • WHERE: Suntec Convention Hall 601, Suntec City, 1 Raffles Boulevard

    WHEN: Monday, 5pm

    ADMISSION: $158, $188, $228 and $288 from Asia Box Office (asiaboxoffice.com)

Park, who used to be part of boyband 2PM, would understand the restraints of being signed to a big talent agency.

His two-year boyband career was cut short after management agency JYP Entertainment terminated his contract for undisclosed reasons in 2010. It was widely speculated to be due to fans' outrage over Park's negative comments about South Korea that he made online years earlier.

The singer-rapper soldiered on and pursued a solo career. He released his fourth studio album, Everything You Wanted, last year, and it went to No. 3 on Billboard's World Album chart.

He also recently earned a coveted spot in the sports and entertainment category of Forbes 30 Under 30 Asia 2017 list, which honours young notable talents across various industries.

The success of AOMG also did not go unnoticed and, last year, Korean entertainment conglomerate CJ E&M acquired the start-up.

Park prefers not to talk about the past, but acknowledges the initial challenge of going up against established entertainment agencies with deep pockets.

"We couldn't put that much money into promotions and big-budget music videos. We could rely only on our music," he says.

"But I think more people are catching on to hip-hop. Five years ago, a lot of these artists such as Loco and Crush, who are popular now, were unknown."

AOMG's roster of artists includes the who's who of the Korean hip-hop scene, such as co-founder and rapper Simon D, rappers Gray and Loco, and DJ Pumkin. The four acts are part of the ongoing tour.

In Singapore, Park hopes that home-grown rapper Shigga Shay, whom he performed with at last year's youth music event Shine Festival here, will join him on stage.

A spokesman for concert organiser Launch Group says: "There is no confirmation as of now, but you never know if Shigga Shay might just appear as a guest performer."

On spreading hip-hop to the masses, Park says: "We just have to keep pushing. The listeners are not attracted to what they are not used to. You have to get them accustomed to the sound through various ways, such as reality show Show Me The Money."

He is a judge on the upcoming sixth season of the televised rap contest.

As for love, it is not on the cards for the busy bachelor.

"It is not like I can't get a girlfriend. It's not like I don't want a girlfriend. I'm focused on accomplishing my goals. I can't do what I am doing now at 40, 50," he says.

"I'm hoping I can find love later on. Qualities of my ideal girl? She has to be confident and have a nice smile. I don't have a standard. She doesn't have to be a certain race, height or look."

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on April 28, 2017, with the headline 'Hip-hop for the masses'. Print Edition | Subscribe