Rapping on the door of US fame

Seattle-born Jay Park will be one of the judges in the upcoming season of Asia's Got Talent.
Seattle-born Jay Park will be one of the judges in the upcoming season of Asia's Got Talent.PHOTO: DON WONG FOR THE STRAITS TIMES

Rapper Jay Park is ready to make his mark after becoming the first Asian-American to be signed by an agency founded by Jay-Z

Rapper Jay Park made history last month as the first Asian-American signed on to Roc Nation, the management agency founded by hip-hop mogul Jay-Z.

"No, Jay-Z did not call me. It would have been surreal if he did," says Park, 30. "Just the fact that they do want to work with someone like me, that they do acknowledge my music, is a dream come true."

He was speaking to The Straits Times a week after the groundbreaking deal was announced on Twitter by Roc Nation last month.

One of the most recognisable names in South Korea's hip-hop scene, he beat the odds to rise to the top after leaving K-pop boyband 2PM in 2009.

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With the likes of Rihanna as his Roc Nation labelmates, Park is looking forward to working with some of the biggest names in music.

But he does not see such collaborations happening in the near future, and for good reason. He says: "Of course, I want to work with Jay-Z and Rihanna, but I feel that I have to put in the groundwork first, get my name out there, prove myself, show what I have to offer to Roc Nation and to the hip-hop community in the United States."

Fans can first catch him on the judging panel of the upcoming season of Asia's Got Talent, the spin-off of the international televised talent-hunt franchise. The new season is slated to premiere in October on AXN.

The Seattle-born musician met the media after he was unveiled as the new judge at a press event here last week. The programme attracts talents of all sorts, from singers to magicians, and can be a launching pad for the next star.

On what it takes for an Asian talent to go global, Park believes it is about being authentic. He says: "It is not about numbers or how big you are. I think you have to approach it in a very authentic manner. It is where people see if you are real or not."

He may be speaking from experience.

He debuted in 2008 with 2PM under mega management agency JYP Entertainment, which is behind current favourite girl group Twice and the now-defunct Wonder Girls. The agency terminated his contract for undisclosed reasons in 2010. It was widely speculated to have been due to fans' outrage over negative comments Park made online about South Korea years earlier.

Deemed too much of a rebel for mainstream K-pop, the spunky tattooed rapper has prevailed.

His fourth studio album, Everything You Wanted (2016), went to No. 3 on Billboard's World Album chart. He also co-founded two hip- hop music labels, AOMG (Above Ordinary Music Group) and H1GHR Music Records.

His expertise is often tapped by South Korean television producers, who have cast him as a judge on dance survival programme Dancing 9 and rap contest Show Me The Money.

Given his outspoken nature, one would not expect him to mince his words when commenting on the contestants on Asia's Got Talent.

He says: "I'm definitely going to be well-mannered and respectful. I'm not the type to say whatever just to be nice because you have to be real with these people to really help them. Sugarcoating things is not going to help."

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on August 02, 2017, with the headline 'Rapping on the door of US fame'. Print Edition | Subscribe