Nov. 29 (UPI) — A few months shy of the first anniversary of his English-language EP under the entertainment agency Roc Nation, Korean-American singer and rapper Jay Park unexpectedly announced via Twitter he would retire in a few years.
Fans were puzzled, but the stir calmed down a bit a month later when he announced his first world tour, Sexy 4eva. After more than a decade active in South Korea, Park would embark on his first solo tour throughout Asia, Europe, North America and Oceania.
Through several interviews and tweets, Park expressed unease about the tour before hitting the road.
“I was worried. Some people tour every year. Me, I don’t do that. I’ve only toured with AOMG,” the 32-year-old Seattleite told UPI in a phone interview after finishing rehearsals for his sold-out New York show.
“I was sort of worried if fans would show up, but it’s been way past my expectations.”
Having founded two music labels in Korea — AOMG and H1ghr Music, being one of the most prolific artists in the country’s hip-hop scene and becoming the first Asian-American artist signed to Roc Nation in 2017, it’s almost shocking to think Park’s origin story starts with K-pop.
After being ousted from the K-pop group 2PM in the late aughts and going back home to Seattle and ending up working in a tire shop, Park built himself and his career from the ground up — a theme often heard in his lyrics.
Park not only survived in an industry where everything was stacked against him, but also thrived in it. His albums and EPs regularly top the charts and ultimately go platinum in Korea, and he is a staple figure in the country’s growing hip-hop culture.
In addition to being a rapper, an R&B singer and mogul in the making, Park also is a dancer, producer and actor.
The last time Park toured the states was 2016 with his AOMG labelmates. This time around, the Sexy 4eva tour has 10 stops in the United States, and fans have been showing up in droves to see just him.
The show’s setlist is a trip through his Korean hits, the new English-language material and even a rendition of the YouTube cover he uploaded in 2010 that restarted his career as an entertainer.
While in the midst of his tour throughout the United States, he unexpectedly announced a followup to last year’s “Ask Bout Me.” After working with American producer Hit-Boy on May’s “K-TOWN,” the duo kept doing sessions together and eventually came up with enough songs for the very appropriately named EP, “This Wasn’t Supposed to Happen,” released on Nov. 15.
“It was never planned,” Park said of the EP.
He recounted how Hit-Boy kept inviting him back for more sessions after “K-TOWN” because he really liked the track. In three sessions, they recorded six songs, and ultimately Roc Nation decided to turn them into a full collaborative EP.
“It kind of happened very naturally, very organically. So that’s why I was like, ‘Yo, this wasn’t supposed to happen.'”
Last year’s “Ask Bout Me” was Park’s boastful introduction to the mainstream public in the West. Featuring rapper 2 Chainz, “Soju” initiated listeners to the Korean alcoholic drink and Korean drinking culture overall.
He brought on producers he had worked with his entire career, like Cha Cha Malone and GroovyRoom, and released an English version of a previously released Korean single with a new verse by rapper Vic Mensa.
“Ask Bout Me” presented a crash course on who Park was as a superstar from Korea, and “This Wasn’t Supposed to Happen” shows where he’s going next with this new chapter in his career.
Though leaning heavily on trap with songs like “20/20” and the lead “Renaissance Man,” the EP also explores different musical styles, like the groovy house-tinged “Call You Bae” and the melodic “Fade Away,” in which Park put his singing chops front and center.
“It was great working with Hit-Boy. He is a legendary producer in this game. It was kind of refreshing for me to work with Hit-Boy just because it always gives me motivation and a new energy to work with different producers that have done different things,” he said.
While Park is known for his collaborations with other artists, “This Wasn’t Supposed to Happen” doesn’t feature other rappers or singers. Park did, however, recently jump on fellow Korean-American rapper Jessi’s song, “Drip.”
“It’s not that I pick them. They pick me,” he said about frequently working with different artists throughout his career. “Back when I was in the come up, not a lot of people gave me the time of day, so I kind of know what that feels like. If there’s someone I think is dope that I respect, I try to make time or put in the effort to help them in a certain way.”
Though the thought of retirement lingered heavy on Park’s mind a few months ago, going on tour and meeting his fans, who told him they gain courage from seeing him and are inspired by him, made him rethink the decision.
“It definitely gave me a realization like, ‘Wow, I’ve really touched a lot of people. Do I need to keep on going and do right by these people who believe in me?” he said. “It’s kind of re-motivating and re-inspiring me as an artist and as a person in general.”
The North American leg of the Sexy 4eva tour ends Dec. 1 in hometown Seattle, and Park will head to Oceania in 2020. More countries have yet to be announced.