"I always had to fight for my place."
Korean American Jay Park has spoken up about Jay-Z and growing up as an Asian-American.
Jay Park was one of the first and only Asian artists to be signed to Jay-Z’s label, Roc Nation, in July 2017. The 30-year-old rapper is now working on his debut Roc Nation album and will feature as a judge in the second season of Asia’s Got Talent.
Park also runs his own label AOMG and recently launched a second label, H1GHR Music Records, signing artists from the US and Asia.
Flowsion Shekar, CEO of Koreaboo, a popular content platform specializing in K-pop with a reach of over 50 million, “Jay Park has clearly become an icon for those struggling to make a name for themselves.”
“It shows that Asia is not being ignored … You can be an R&B singer, a rapper, a singer from Asia and have ambitions to takeover a global market. You can be recognized by the greats,” he added.
In an interview with CNN, park discussed his rise to success.
Born to Korean immigrant parents in Seattle, Park said he always felt different. “Me, being Asian-American, I was always looked at as an outsider. I always had to fight for my place.”
Park’s mother had wanted him to be a doctor or lawyer but Park deep down he knew he was not going to achieve it. “That wasn’t happening, because I was skipping school and going breakdancing,” he said. Park joined a b-boy crew called Art of Movement.
Nonetheless, Park earned his mother’s support, who encouraged him to enter a talent audition organised by K-pop label JYP Entertainment. Park was selected to travel to South Korea after the successful audition as the face of K-pop boy band 2PM.
“I thought I’ll go for a couple of years and help my family out,” said Park. “At that time, it was just me, and mom and my brother, having money problems. We couldn’t pay the electric and water bill.”
Although Park is almost fluent now in Korean, he was only a beginner when he entered the country at age 17. “It was really hard to sacrifice my life in Seattle and do this thing I knew nothing about,” said Park.
“It was a culture shock, the seniority system, the food and the way they did things. … For me, it was a hobby and fun, but there, it was training, almost like a job, where you have to practice from 10 a.m. to 10 p.m.”
Last October, Park released his fourth studio album, Everything You Wanted, which reached no.3 on Billboard’s World Album Chart and No. 3 on the iTunes US R&B Chart.
In July 2017, Park was signed with Jay-Z’s Roc Nation. “[Roc Nation] like the image I have now,” said Park. “I’m just me.”
He added that he would love to work directly with Jay-Z one day and is “willing to put in the work to make that happen and one day we’ll see.” As a longtime fan, Park said “it’s still crazy to me that he knows who I am.”
Park hopes to inspire and reform the image of Asian males away from “people who are good at math” to be “sexy too.”