When Jay Park signed to Roc Nation in July 2017, the move signaled a mutually beneficial future for both parties. For Park, who over the last few years has become one of the biggest and brightest hip-hop stars in South Korea, it opened up the opportunity to fully establish an America audience. On the flipside, Jay Z and the Roc brought on someone who could expand their international presence.
Park kicks off his Roc Nation partnership with a record ripe for the clubs in "Soju," especially when you add 2 Chainz to the equation. The single is produced by Woogie, a member of H1GHR Music—Park co-founded the label with longtime collaborator Cha Cha Malone—showing Park is also making these moments count for those around him. “I have a lot of people on my shoulders in terms of, there’s very few Asian Americans doing it in hip-hop right now in the States," Park told Complex. "I’m representing for them, representing for Seattle, for Korea.”
Complex sat down with the Seattle-bred, South Korean-based artist to talk about joining Roc Nation, his new single, and what fans can expect from his upcoming music. You can check that out, along with "Soju," below. The song is also available on iTunes.
What played a role in your decision to sign with Roc Nation?
I’ve been putting in a lot of work over there in Asia and Korea, and I feel like I definitely established myself, and established AOMG and H1GHR Music the label over there, and set my footprint in Asian hip-hop and the culture over there. I just felt like it came to a point in my career where I plateaued over there, just in terms of me being an artist and career-wise as well. And I felt like, I need to do English music; I speak better English than I do Korean. I think the fans enjoy it as well, so let’s start making music in English.
And right when I decided that for myself, this Roc Nation thing came about. And of course, who wouldn’t want to sign to Roc Nation? Especially if you’re doing music, especially if you want to do it the correct way.
It’s sort of cyclical in that Roc Nation is something that Jay Z built for himself, and you’ve done that for yourself too with AOMG and H1GHR.
Yeah. For me, I don’t just call anybody my boss, I wouldn’t just sign… I’ve been in a situation where I’ve been unhappy at being at a label. So I wouldn’t just sign away my rights or just being under someone. It’s gotta be somebody that I respect, that I really hold in high regard.
Do you have a favorite Jay Z album?
I listened to the Black Album a lot when I was younger. I think I was in high school, or maybe even younger.
What was it like working with 2 Chainz on this new single?
When I told everybody around me like, “Oh yeah, 2 Chainz is about to hop on,” everybody was like, “Really?” Everybody was excited because 2 Chainz is like the OG; the Snoop Dogg of Atlanta. He’s always relevant, he’s always poppin’, and he’s dope. He’s a dope artist, dope MC, and so I’m definitely honored to work with him on something that sort of introduces my culture to the people over here. I’m very glad that he hopped on.
You mentioned before that most of the music that’s going to be coming is English. Is that going to be for this EP as well, or is that more for the album?
This EP is all English. “Soju” is obviously a Korean word, but it’s all in English. I felt like for me as an artist, there’s really no boundaries. I’m just free to express myself however the way I want. If I want to rap, If I want to sing, if I want to mix Korean and English, talk about whatever I want to do. I feel like you have much more space to create as an artist over here. And of course you do in Korean as well, but there’s a lot of limitations, in terms of censoring, in terms of what people are ready to accept.
I saw you did a remix with Justine Skye, and she’s on the Roc Nation roster. Are you planning on working with more artists on the roster?
Yeah. They were like, “Yo, what do you think about doing this remix?” I was like, “Yo I like this song.” I did it, I think I have a couple more remixes coming out from the Roc Nation camp. And I also worked with a guy named Young Paris, who has an Afrobeats-type style. A lot of the fans enjoyed that collab as well because they would have never thought of me hopping on an Afrobeats-type song. I definitely want to work with whoever is down to work.
Cha Cha's been with you every step of the way; AOM, AOMG, New Breed, all the projects. Can you speak to the dynamic and growth that you guys have had over the years.
It’s crazy. We’ve definitely pushed each other and leveled up in our own aspects. Back when we first started, we were both just b-boys. And then it turns out he does music as well: “Yo, I do music too, let’s collab.” We did one song together, and after that it was history.
When I listen back to the songs that we first did together, I can’t even listen to it because some of it’s cringy, like the delivery is not good, some of the lyrics is kind of weird. Our mixing and mastering wasn’t on point back then. If you listen to the stuff now, you can definitely see and hear the growth, and you can tell how much work we’ve put in, the ten thousand hour rule. I think we are ready to stand there and trade with the best of them.
What can fans expect from this new music that you got coming?
I take pride in reinventing myself and showing different sides of me, as an artist and in my music, that the fans wouldn’t expect so that you always anticipate a Jay Park song. You never know what you’re gonna hear ‘cause it’s gonna be different than the last release. So even this EP—it’s called Ask About Me—I think you’ll be able to see my versatility as an artist.