Ardent Korean Hip-hop enthusiasts may already have been waiting for 25th April 2021 to come around, so that they can celebrate another amazing year completed and the beginning of yet another bop music-filled year in their favorite artist, Jay Park’s life. Respected in the community as one of the major pavers of Korean Hip-hop’s spread to the global music listeners, not just by his own diverse and an overwhelming number of music releases but also by bringing the Korean Hip-hop musicality of other artists from his 2 record labels, AOMG and H1GHR MUSIC, to the forefront; Jay Park’s claim of being “Hip-hop scene’s Godfather” doesn’t seem to be just careless words put in a verse to make it sound good.
From being a K-Pop idol who fell victim to the cancel-culture and had to return back to his home in the US (where he worked at a used car shop), to being the trendiest artist in Korea, a revered CEO, a proud representative of Asian music worldwide, and the first Asian artist to be signed to Jay-Z’s Roc Nation label; the journey of this humble and talented Korean-American singer/rapper and his musical evolution incites wonder and inspires dreamers to let their passion burn ceaselessly.
On the occasion of his 34th birthday, we bring to you an exploration of Jay Park’s musical progression from leaving the K-Pop group, 2 PM, to inspiring love and respect in the hearts of all K-Hip hop enthusiasts around the world.
“We only have a limited time on this Earth. While I’m on this Earth, while I have this time that is given to me, I try not to take it for granted. I try always to think forward, this progressively, and how to better myself and the people around me and our surroundings. It’s just constant evolution every day.” – Jay Park on ‘On The Records’ show.”
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1. Nothing On You (Cover)
Mapping the musical evolution of Jay Park, we absolutely had to begin at the first traces of the artist’s return to Korea after the harsh backlash he had faced. So, our first track is a cover track Jay Park uploaded on Youtube (while still in Seattle, USA) of American rapper B.o.B’s (Bobby Ray Simmons Jr.) popular track, ‘Nothing On You’. Going viral, with more than 2 million views in less than a day, this cover song initiated Jay Park’s return to the Korean music industry and showcased his diamond-in-the-rough potential. The artist’s melodic acoustic vocals and simplistic, self-written rap verse additions in the cover, wowed music lovers all over as they recognized his sleeping, innate talents.
2. Abandoned (Ft. Dok2)
“I couldn’t believe you left me/I was so sad, my world collapsed/ You turned away from me as cold as ice/ You turned away, turned away girl.”
After coming to Korea and making his comeback in July 2010, 2011 saw the release of Jay Park’s first mini-album “Take A Deeper Look” with a hit title track, ‘Abandoned’, that gained him a new record of being the first artist to win a music show award on a debut stage. The iconic R&B track showed the budding all-rounder spirit of Jay Park as a dulcet-toned singer, a sentimental songwriter, and an exceptional dancer who could make any groovy rhythm, his very own. Talking of being abandoned by a lover, the track featured another young OG of today, Dok2 of Illionaire Records, whose rap verse was the perfect addition to enhance the impact of Jay’s vocals. This was also one of the first appearances of Jay Park’s strong, maverick visuals that spellbind his fans, even after a decade of his debut.
3. WORLDWIDE (Prod. by Cha Cha Malone)
After the first mini-album in 2011, Jay Park showed his immense passion for making music as he released several tracks and EPs in the following years and even established the infamous AOMG and H1GHR MUSIC labels in 2013 and 2017 respectively.
His November 2015’s “Worldwide” album however opened a new chapter in his life, as he moved on from the dance-pop, R&B infused musical genres he had delved into so far, to an edgier, authentic Hip-Hop style of music. With Illionaire Records’ founders, The Quiett and Dok2 in tow, Jay Park released the opening track of the same name as the album, that employed pure hardcore rap skills and made a statement to all that Jay Park was really not just a K-Pop idol or a singer, but was a passionate and sincere creator of Hip-hop music. His declaration to be the propagator of the then under-rated K-Hip hop music, to a worldwide stage through this heavy-hitting track, also gave a presentiment of the bright and global future of the K-Hip-hop industry, carried thus far by Jay Park and the other talented moguls resiliently, through thick and thin. The “Worldwide” album also contained the global party hit-track “Mommae” that saw the carrying out of a crucial experiment by Jay Park, to see where his Korean, as well as Global audience’s tastes, lie; enhancing his understanding of his listeners’ musical spectrum.
“I don’t like to put myself in barriers because if you set barriers for yourself, what if you want to outgrow those barriers? It stunts growth. I don’t want to be like, “I’m just a rapper, I just want to do Hip-hop. I just want to be in the States.” I want to be an artist that translates globally.” – Jay Park in an interview with Billboard.
“They tried to tell me you can’t always have it your way/ They tried to keep me out of class up in the hallways/ They tried to tell me that your looks will fade someday/ Maybe you, not me b**ch?/ Imma be sexy forever.”
The next major (and global) step towards Jay Park’s climb up the exquisite musical ladder, would be his release ‘Sexy4Eva’ that happened after the legendary signing of the artist to Roc Nation. Off of his 2018 album “Ask Bout Me”, the all-English track, inspired positive body image and challenged the conventional notion that “beauty” and “sexiness” are a matter of appearances that will change and fade away over time. With feel-good instrumentals and uplifting, breezy vocals resonating throughout the track, ‘Sexy4Eva’ marked the “Realness” behind Jay Park’s ear-pleasing musical flairs and the alleviating messages he wants to convey to people through his releases – probably changing the views of many who viewed his music, and hip-hop music in general, as just braggadocious noise.
5. Sway In The Morning Freestyle
Following his so-called “American debut” by signing to Roc Nation and releasing albums with the label, Jay Park’s musical horizons broadened, but the expectations that shot up with the opening up of this new space had to be met to the T as well.
His appearance on May 28, 2018, in Sway Calloway’s most-respected show, ‘Sway In The Morning’ – a show that promises to unmask the most real sides of any talented artist that comes to the show proved to be another great milestone achieved in Jay Park’s career as he won over not just the hosts but all the Hip-hop enthusiasts tuned in, to the show with his 3-minute long freestyle.
Showing off his cadence and his lyrical prowess, this freestyle covered a lot of important, visible problems faced by the world (especially Americans) like Race discrimination, Gang wars and riots, Clout-chasing trends, and the flaws of the authoritarian system of the United States. Vocalizing these social issues, Jay Park showed his socially conscious side and professed, “Ain’t nobody gotta die, you ain’t gotta ride/ Y’all both human beings just ain’t seeing eye to eye, that’s it.”
“I teach game and change lives and show it’s bigger than rap/ We motivate the streets, help ’em eat, they tipping they cap…I’ll never sell myself short, my legacy’s wealth.” – raps Jay Park zealously.
6. GRAYGROUND Cypher (Ft. Kim Hyo Eun, pH-1, Chaboom & DJ Wegun)
“It’s ‘real recognize real’/ Together with each other, spit out the shit you feel/ If you sign H1GHR, AOMG, that’s a f*ckin’ deal…I use techniques that only come from the soul/ Sincerity that no one can follow, not imitate/ It’s Jay.”
Part of his 2019 album, “The Road Less Traveled”, alongside popular tracks like ‘Feng Shui’, ‘Twilight’, ‘Ben Baller’, etc., ‘GRAYGROUND Cypher’ originally featured Korean artists like veteran powerhouse Chaboom, trendy trapper pH-1, and Ambition Musik’s bold-voiced rapper, Kim Hyo Eun, in addition to 3 other American rappers. However, the Dingo video featured only the Korean artists, which seemed to be a special gift for his Korean fans who might not have been able to appreciate the otherwise all-English album, fully.
This DF Live track with Kim Hyo Eun, pH-1, and Chaboom thrown into the mix, and a very DJ Wegun-esque beat portrays the raw hip-hop mentality and talent that Jay Park, the “Rapper”, possesses. The elite bilingual lyricism, the polished delivery, and the musical versatility of uniting a global community (over 29 artists in total on the album), all contribute to the ever-progressing version of 2019’s Jay Park.
It is interesting to note that the album cover of “The Road Less Traveled” captured this intriguing and apt metaphoric evolution of the artist; the metamorphosis of the Jay Park of then, to the Jay Park of now.
7. Dingo Freestyle Killing Verse
Premiering live on 30th August 2019 and hailed as one of the Top 5 Dingo Freestyle Killing Verses to date, Jay Park’s DF Killing Verse set a new standard for the K-Hip hop series and the rappers starring henceforth.
Kicking off the show with a cool proclamation, “Young legend. Young G.O.A.T” and his mellifluent, easy-flowing R&B hit tracks like ‘All I Wanna Do’, ‘YACHT’ and ‘All Day (Flex)’, Jay set a laid-back, groovy mood before pumping it up to a power-packed, “Super Saiyan” mode with tenacious rap verses from ‘On It’, ‘Worldwide’, ‘Finish Line’ and ‘SOJU Remix’.Wrapping it up with a chill, party mood (which suited his chic, shirtless-but-golden-jacket-on outfit) through verses from ‘iffy’ and ‘Giddy Up’, Jay Park proved his “Hip hop Godfather” status as the 14-minute long Bar-fest showcased his exceptional ability to portray several emotions, in several different flows, while riding several distinct beats.
The smooth transitions as he switched from one to another and the magnetic charisma he exuded while performing flawlessly (even though the show is live), undoubtedly set in stone for all to see, the now-refined-and-superior musicality of the artist called “Jay Park”.
8. Jay Park & DJ Wegun- Twist The Plot (Ft. Kim Ximya)
“Yeah, what’s with all the fuss?/ Long as me, long as I make a plus/ Trolls live under bridges /But they hiding in us/ So there’s no love or no trust.”
Released on 30th October 2020 – a day celebrated as Halloween all over the globe, the joint EP of Jay Park and hit-maker DJ Wegun titled “Everybody Sucks” with its gory-themed title track, ‘Twist The Plot’ took the K-Hip-hop enthusiasts by a pleasant surprise!
With its intriguing, psychedelic music video in place and a special featuring by eccentric-emotive rapper, Kim Ximya, ‘Twist The Plot’ brings to the table not just the well-oiled combo of DJ Wegun and Jay Park but also brings back the hardcore K-Hip hop spirit of Jay Park as he flows unrestrainedly like water, vocalizing his elite penmanship and wordplay. Perfectly displaying what the rest of the 6-tracked EP holds for its listeners, 2020’s ‘Twist The Plot’ was yet another hard pill to swallow for all the under-appreciators of the K-Hip hop mogul’s lyrical dexterity and virtuosity.
“No matter what happens in the future, I gave it my all for my people and that’s what counts.” – Jay Park posts on Instagram.
For the living legend known as “Jay Park”, the 3-time winner of Korean Hip-hop Awards’ Artist of The Year (2017, 2019, and 2021), these 8 tracks off of his hundreds of global collaborations and solo releases, can only shine a light on a basic progression path of the artist’s deep and diverse musicality. They can also only show us the different sides of the “Artist Jay Park”, among the myriad sides of the “Individual Park Jae-beom”, however, for the celebration of his lion-hearted journey by K-Hip-hop enthusiasts worldwide, these tracks seem to be the perfect representation of Jay Park’s timeless promise, “I’ll always try to take it H1GHR/ make us flyer/ Keep it fire till the day that I retire.”
Check out the old-but-informative, NO JUMPER Interview to know more about Jay Park’s beginnings and his rich, musical tapestry:
Also, check out his latest release ‘SUMMERIDE’ with longtime partner and fellow Art of Movement (AOM) member, producer Cha Cha Malone: