Lots of flavor with Ted Park
“We slowly figured things out & once the music started catching some eyes, we never let off the gas”
As LiFTED celebrates its first anniversary this month, we look back on an amazingly wild, fun, and productive year! Honestly, it’s been crazy. We launched in March 2021 with Bohan Phoenix on the cover and the simple mantra - ‘Elevate Asian Hip Hop.’ We have tried to live up to that by covering all angles and levels of Asian artists across the entire region – from hotspots like Seoul, Saigon, and Bangkok to remote locales like Nepal and Brunei. We chose Bohan because his story is unique, and emblematic of the reach, power, and ingenuity of the Asian Rap game, from Chengdu to New York City. And because he’s a dope MC.
It’s with great pleasure that a year later we celebrate another totally unique MC whose roots are Korean but the story is an Asian-American one - Ted Park. Originally from Madison, Wisconsin, the son of South Korean immigrants, Ted Park is actually a 2022 version of the All-American success story – a self-made man who made his bones in New York City and Seoul. He’s blown up through a combination of hustle, grit, wit, and mic skills. Because of this, he has fans from LA to Taipei to Gangnam. We caught up with him as he was headed to SXSW in Austin, Texas for a few showcases and, as he put it, ‘Lots of flavor.’
YOOO Ted Park! It’s amazing to finally get a chance to meet you and chop it up a bit. We’ve been following your career since back in 2016. You’ve got quite a story – really, a modern Hip Hop story, like the American Dream. We’re super excited to have you on our One Year Anniversary cover. Greetings from Hong Kong!
Yoo! Ah man, I greatly appreciate your support since Day 1! I had no idea you guys were tapped in since then. Super honored to be on the one-year anniversary cover!!
The trajectory of your career so far is crazy. You grew up in Madison, Wisconsin the son of Korean immigrants. Then you spent a year in South Korea right before High School. Then back to Madison for high school where you started rhyming. Then you dropped out of HS before graduation and moved to NYC, lived hard but ‘made your bones’ on the open mic Hip Hop underground circuit. Then blew up on YouTube in 2016, and now you’re extra large living in LA. How did this all happen? Did I miss anything?
You pretty much got it! Appreciate y’all following my journey. It’s been an unconventional path, to say the least, but that’s what makes it even more special getting it this far. Growing up in Madison, my parents always encouraged me to find and do what I love but I know for sure they didn’t think it’d be rapping.
Regardless, even though we didn’t have money or connections they supported me. They gave me the courage to troop it out to NYC and follow my dreams. Initially, New York was definitely a struggle, having no funds and barely being able to eat. But much love to the fam who held me down and gave me a roof over my head when I had nowhere to go and made sure I was stamped and good in the hood. Never thought I’d be out in Canarsie, followed by being up in Harlem in some crazy places. When you have good people around, you adapt and embrace your new home. We slowly figured things out and once the music started catching some eyes, we never let off the gas. I definitely wouldn’t be here without a lot of love, help, and hours dedicated by some special people.
‘Hello [Who is This?]’ was your first hit, right? What was your life like right before that, and then right afterward?
Yeah, definitely. It was crazy getting under 1,000 streams in 30 days and then within 48 hours jumping up 100,000 and hitting the US Viral Top 10 on Spotify. I definitely started getting some respect. I turned local non-believers into believers and some people in the industry started following me, but the record didn’t fully pop off. I never understood then, but I started to realize that I wasn’t ready for my moment. Still appreciate everything that came from that record; it made me believe I could really become an artist someday.
In the past five years what has been your biggest hit?
To be honest, I don’t think I’ve had ‘the one,’ but rather I’ve put out a lot of quality music that has helped me build a beautiful and solid fanbase. It might not be the biggest one yet, but they show out for me. I think some of the bigger records I’ve put together are ‘Drippin’ with Jessi, ‘Hello, [Who Is This]’, ‘Me Love’, ‘Dance like Jay Park’ with my bro Parlay Pass, ‘Let it Go,’ and ‘End of the Night’ with H1ghr Music and Jay Park.
In the past 5 years what has been your biggest thrill as an artist?
Seeing my parents and friends get excited when people bring me up or play my songs. It just makes me smile to see them excited about what I’ve accomplished.
You really defy any stereotypes for a rapper - either American or Korean. It’s a really interesting mix of ‘Boy next door’ and super-nerd style. You carry it off with fly lyrics and a cool R&B vibe on some of your tracks. In your world, Kpop is dominated by idol-looking rappers, and the US scene has long been dominated by gangsta style. Where do you fit in?
I try to bring my own sauce, and I’ve been around so many people from different walks of life that I feel I can understand and relate to many. I’m from a small city where people don't tend to dream big. I personally always tried to stand out through my fashion or my artistry. Coming up in New York, I was surrounded by people really in these streets who stamped and took care of me when I was at my lowest. And all my Korean/Asian friends and hyungs who have gotten behind me to rep out people and put me on to our culture. I got a lot of different people behind me that I wanna represent and make proud.
Your drip and your whole look is also undefinable. You look nerdy at times, and then you also rock some very fly gear, too. Do you think about fashion, are you a big clothes guy? Is there a method to your madness?
I just love to stand out and wear things that express how I feel. Whether it’s a high-end design or a white tee and sweats and letting the jewels shine. It’s all about the cut and the confidence it gives me while rocking it.
What was the story behind Ted Park Tuesdays? That was crazy, you were like the hardest working man in showbiz for a minute!
I wanted to show that I think no one works harder than me in the studio. I have at least a thousand unreleased full songs front to back and ready to go but I stopped because I’ve actually been working harder than ever. The music has always come easy to me but learning the business, really defining my brand story and what I wanna represent, art direction, refining my sound, that’s the hard part! [Shout out to Xansei for helping me create a new identity with our new stuff.] Strategic partnerships to take this to the next level have allowed me to really put things in motion and give this next sound I have an even crazier push.
You’ve collaborated with some Asian MCs like RAMENGVRL and Jay Park. Do you want to do more collabs and features with Asia-based artists? If so, who?
Working with Jay and RAMENGVRL were both great experiences and congrats to them on their new ventures. Me, Xansei, and Parlay Pass just dropped a new single ‘Crazy Rich Asians’ with a bunch of Asian artists I rep heavy. I want to tap back into the KHop scene and tap in with other Asian cultures this year and really bring us all together.
When you were coming up, who were your biggest Hip Hop influences? Who did you rap like before you found your own style?
Akon, T Pain, Drake, Wayne, and Kanye. I rapped like a little bit of everyone and tried to bring my own little flows and melodies in little pockets. This is the year I really feel like I’m showcasing a new sound, my own sound and I can’t wait for you guys to hear it! Working with the same core of producers like Xansei consistently has helped me create my own identity. Shout out all the amazing producers that have worked with me on records coming out soon!
Finally, thanks for helping us celebrate one year of LiFTED! What does the rest of 2022 look like for Ted Park?
It’s my pleasure and thank you guys for having me be a part of something so dope. A lot of music and a lot of shows have been locked in and I’m excited to show everyone what I got in store. My new single ‘Crazy Rich Asians’ with Xansei and Parlay Pass dropped March 11 and the remix is LOADED with some of your favorite Asian rappers, so stay tuned!