KOREAN-American rapper-dancer Jay Park has come a long way.
The 32-year-old is also a model, choreographer, record producer, and most recently, a judge on Asia’s Got Talent. We have seen him juggle his storied careers effortlessly and wear many hats. In our interview – a brief yet candid half-hour chat between his outfit changes during our photoshoot – Park shares what it’s like to be one of the few Asian faces in the hip-hop industry, what’s keeping him busy this year, and a little about his latest tattoo.
AM: You have had a storied career but let’s backtrack a bit – tell us how you started dancing.
Park: I first got into dancing just by watching Michael Jackson. When I was younger I’d kinda imitate him and you know, just see it on TV and then emulate it. When I got into high school, there was a hip-hop club. The club did a lot of b-boy breakdancing, so it started off as a hobby, and then I got really into it and started battling. I have been into dancing ever since I was little.
So being a dancer was your childhood dream?
Yeah, I danced for fun inside my house (privately!) ever since I was young. But it was around high school when I started taking dancing more seriously.
What would you have done differently if you could go back in time?
I wouldn’t do anything differently because everything I have done thus far has gotten me to where I am today.
But if I were to do one thing differently, I think it would be to start singing at an earlier age. I started singing really late at like 19. Everyone who is a great singer now – they started singing when they were like five or six.
2019 looks like a busy year for you. Can you tell us more about your upcoming projects?
Oh yeah, I have a lot of stuff going on. I have a project dropping with Roc Nation and then I have a rap album coming out. It’s called “The Road Less Travelled”. I am doing Asia’s Got Talent. I have a world tour coming up. We are doing the AOMG (Park’s label) programme, and we are letting anyone from anywhere in the world audition. We are trying to find the best hip-hop and R&B talent out there.
The one piece of advice for budding performers?
You need to have the right mindset. You have to be focused and consistent. You need to have the right work ethic. I think it’s just the attitude you have as well. You can’t be cocky with it. Talent can only get you so far, but if you want longevity, you have to be humble. You have to keep on working at your craft, and you have to be focused.
We heard you are doing a new MV with local rapper Shigga Shay?
Yeah, we were in Los Angeles together and he pulled up to the studio. It so happened that I was also in Singapore last year for Asia’s Got Talent. We’re going to make a music video happen. I am glad that Shigga Shay’s releasing music again and hopefully he can get kinda like the hip-hop singing out here and have it progress more. Singapore is very small but there are a lot of talented people here.
You mentioned before that NBA player Jeremy Lin is an inspiration.
I think Jeremy Lin’s the only Asian American in the NBA right now so he has to go against the odds, go against the grain. He does not get the spotlight like everybody else. He is in a lane of his own, but I think he is doing a great job and that inspires me. Like him, I am the only Asian American signed to Roc Nation. There are not that many Asian faces in hip-hop over in the United States so we have to make sure that we represent right. We have to make sure that we work on our craft; that we stay on top of our game so that we are undeniable.
How would you describe your fashion style, and where do you get your clothes and accessories?
I just wear whatever I think looks good. I don’t play too much into trends. Thankfully, I am endorsed by Nike so I wear Nike all the time, to be honest.
I am very blessed to have wonderful fans – they send me a lot of items like clothing and bags, which look very dope. Usually everything I wear, from head to toe, is mostly from fans.
Does your music or dance translate into the way you dress?
Of course. When it comes to self-expression with music – with what you say, how you talk, how you speak, what you put up on your Instagram, what you wear – it’s definitely going to show a side of yourself. It’s going to show your character. No matter how hard you try to be someone else, there’s gonna be little hints of you in there.
Out of curiosity, how many tattoos do you have?
I don’t know, bro. I’ve got a lot. A lot. I lost count like five to seven years ago.
And your favourite?
Hmm… the latest addition I’ve got is a H1ghr Music tattoo, because it’s only been a couple of years since I founded H1ghr Music (hip-hop label). It’s been doing great and I invested a lot of time and effort into it. I am continually doing so because I feel that it’s very important – we have artistes from the United States and Korea so I think it’s very important to try to bridge the gap.
Hair/Makeup: Han Jooyoung