Last night, Korean-American hip hop artist Ted Park had his first live performance in over a year! Park made his comeback with the Ted Park and Friends concert, hosted at the Globe Theatre in a collaboration with KTOWN Night Market. To celebrate his comeback, as well as his first headlining show in Los Angeles, we conducted an exclusive interview with Ted Park for new fans to learn a bit more about him and his work.
Tell us a little about yourself. Where are you from? How did you get into music?
I’m from Madison, Wisconsin, born and raised. I moved to Korea with my family for a year in 8th grade and went through culture shock and isolation trying to figure stuff out. That’s where I found my love and passion for music - just trying to pen out my thoughts and frustrations. When I moved back to Wisconsin for high school, I would put out freestyles, homemade music videos... anything I could do to try and put myself out there, even though no one really believed.
Later, I dropped out before senior year and took a Greyhound bus to New York. After moving around from place to place - living in basements, hotel lobbies, friends' couches - I had two records that went viral within the same year, "Hello, who is this" and "Me Love." The rest is history.
How would you describe your creative process? How long does it take to write a song, do you collaborate with other artists/songwriters?
I just let the producers work their magic and I go in. I don’t write my music anymore, I freestyle everything. So I’m cutting a record in anywhere from ten minutes to an hour, depending on how much I’m detailing the song. I just love collaboration and adding my own sauce.
How would you describe your musical style? How has it changed since your debut?
I feel like my strength is my versatility and being able to weave through different genres and moods with ease, while still maintaining my own signature voice. I feel I’ve only grown and started to find myself as an artist and person, and the growth shows in the expansion of my music.
What’s your favorite part and least favorite part of being a hip-hop artist?
I hate the anxiety and constant overthinking artistry has - wondering if your music is good enough, if your drip is good enough, 'what if' this and that... and putting yourself on a timer racing to achieve your goals. Not being able to eat, sleep, struggling and starving trying to find a way to survive being an artist on the come up.
But as you elevate, you learn to appreciate the struggles you go through and only look for bigger and better things to put your people on. So all the battles you go through that feel like the worst, becomes what you love as you continue to ascend.
You released one new song every week in 2020 for “Ted Park Tuesdays.” What was this creative process like for you? Was it difficult to create music at such a fast pace? Where did you draw your inspiration
from for all this music? Did COVID make a difference in how you created music?
I make anywhere from 3-5 songs a day, so it was just fun to drop so much stuff and surprise the fans every week. This is something I will definitely bring back in the near future as my vault of unreleased music is becoming way too big. I really had to dig deep and find my inspiration during COVID, with being locked away from the world and all these terrible things happening to people. But it only motivated me to push harder and inspire people through my art.
Who is your dream collaboration and why?
I wanna work with everyone. But I would love to work with T-Pain, Kanye West, Drake, the Dream, Lil Uzi. So many artists, producers, writers with crazy talents and personality that I'd love to tap in with.
Is this your first in-person performance since COVID? How does it feel to headline such a large comeback event?
This is my first official show back, and first LA headline. It feels amazing and I'm just grateful for all the fans and homies coming to support and have a good time. This is my longest set ever, so I've been practicing and I can’t wait to unleash a new stage presence and energy.
Looking back at your debut, what advice would you give yourself?
To appreciate your gifts, but acknowledge your weaknesses and the things you need to work on. That it’s not just about your music and talent, there’s much more to it.
You are one of the faces of the Korean-American experience in music. Do you ever feel pressured as a public figure?
I feel the pressure but it makes me go harder. I love being a face of my people and can’t wait to fully break through and put us on. And also can’t wait to put on the next generation of Korean American kids who will be even bigger than me.
Who is Ted Park and Friends? Did you scout its members, and if so, what was your criteria?
Danny, my hyung from KTOWN Night Market, thought of the concept and I loved it. Why not put my homies on the same stage with me, whether local talents or emerging stars? All I look for is something interesting and authentic. I don’t care about numbers.
How do you feel about Korean culture becoming more visible in the West?
It’s hella dope seeing Korean faces and figures becoming more popular and known. People finally figuring out we dope! We just gotta do our best to represent us properly and understand and show respect for our culture and others.
What are your hopes for Korean-Americans in entertainment?
To be the best we can be and bring our own style and sauce and be who we are, not be something we're not.
You’re originally from Wisconsin. What is your favorite part about coming to LA? Do you have any places you always visit when you come here?
Coming from a small city, it’s humbling coming to a place like LA and tapping in with new people. I do like to step out a lil, but honestly I’m a studio rat so that’s where you’ll see me. I’m moving here to work on a few things, though, so I’m down for recommendations.
What is your favorite Korean food?
Jjajang and Korean bbq, all the real ones know.
What can fans look forward to from you in the future?
New music, shows, content where I exposure more of my personality and live and most of the best version of me. I’ll always put my heart on the line for my fans, and I can’t wait to bring y’all the best of me.