Dumbfoundead

Dumbfoundead

  • Real name: Jonathan Park / 조나단 박 / 박성만
  • Other names: DFD, Parker, Dummie
  • Date of Birth : 1986/02/18
  • Status : in activity
  • Starting career: 2005
  • Genre: Hip-Hop, Rap, Freestyle, Battle, Conscious Rap, Turn up
  • Label / Agency : 88rising (formerly known as CXSHXNLY | 2015 – ), Transparent Agency (2016 -), BORN CTZN (April 2017 -)

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Jonathan Park aka Dumbfoundead is an American rapper with Korean’s origins. Since 2016, he has signed with Transparent Agency, the group Far East Mouvement’s label where he also contributed to the development of the sub-label/collective BORN CTZN officially launched in April 2017. Even if Dumbfoundead doesn’t rap a lot in Korean, he’s still one of the Korean Hip-Hop scene figureheads. For over ten years, he has been striving to give more visibility to the Asian artists on the American market and his strategy is really obvious:

From rap battles to cinema, YouTube shows and even night events planning in KTown with the Spawn N Eggs collective; at this stage one may wonder if Dumbfoundead’s thirst for project would run out someday…

Consequently, he is a source of inspiration for a lot of Korean artists such as DPR Live who doesn’t hide his admiration and his absolute respect towards the KTown rapper. Then yes, it would have been a failure from us not to give you a proper article about him. 

Jonathan Park, the youth of a Korean immigrant in Korea Town 

Jonathan Park is born in February 18th, 1986, in Buenos Aires, Argentina. Before anything else, you have to know that following the Korean War – also referred to in the English-speaking world as “The Forgotten War” – (1950-1953), the South Korean government had to face an excessive density of population and had therefore been compelled to schedule a migratory policy towards Latin America within the few years following the conflict. Families were, back at that time, encouraged to leave the country and settle down abroad in exchange for an economic compensation. That policy lead to huge migratory movements toward Latin America, especially Argentina and the Flores district in Buenos Aires. 

It seems that the mother’s rapper was touched by that migratory movements as her family settled down in Argentina while she was only fifteen. It’s there that she met, a few years later, the dad of her children who was coming from South Korea for a business trip.

The couple had two children: Park Jonathan and his little sister Natalie. Nevertheless, the family wanted to go to the USA. The rapper’s dad settled down first, in Los Angeles, California, meanwhile his mother had to make all the way from Argentina with her daughter her son, who respectively were one and three years old. More than a journey, she had to cross the Mexico’s frontier illegally, so you can be sure about the rapper’s stance about Trump’s presidency.

However, it’s also worth noting that, the 90’s L.A wasn’t the most stable city of the country. With all those demographic changes generated by the Hispanic and Korean populations’ arrival, ethnic tensions were indeed strong in the southern part of the city (Ed: If you want to dig a little bit more into that topic, you can search some information about the LA’s 1992 riots).

It’s in that circumstances that the Park family had moved in the Korea Town’s neighbourhood. Dumbfoundead’s father opened a toyshop and, it’s via the radio cassette players music from the electronic shop besides his father’s that the young Jonathan discovered Hip-Hop.

As he explained it in an interview, if his father fits the representation of the conservative Korean who expects from his kids to have good grades at school – his mother however, was more indulgent towards their upbringing. His parents weren’t really there though, too busy fulfilling the family’s needs but also taking responsibility for their break-up. That absence left a certain independence to the children.

His sister and him may have been rebellious teenagers. For instance, the future rapper changed school several times and finally drop out at sixteen to settle down with his sister and a roommate in a little flat. Beside, he found a job as a bail bondsman.

However, he revealed that, without this liberty, he might not have been a rapper.

 

From freestyles at Parties to Project Blowed, a rapper who grew up over the battles.

That liberty allowed the young Jonathan Park to pretty evolve in a musical effervescence. During high school he used to go to punk rock concerts, to hang out to Silver Lake with people from various backgrounds such as hippies, indies or even rocks people. At that time, he also started to join in freestyles during parties. He was fourteen when he started to rap and at first it was just an excuse to enjoy free drinks, free weed and girls (Ed: Your basic 14 yo kid… Well he admitted himself that he was arrogant at that time…Dumbfoundead if you one day read this, no offense). But the thing is that the events are going to take another turn when, by a Thursday night, he decided to go to an open scene at South Central: Project Blowed.

Project Blowed is just an institution in the rap battles world. This open scene was created in 1994 and offers a place for rap battles on Thursday nights, MCs just have to give some money to join. Big names like Ice cube, Snoop Dog or even Lenny Kravitz would have participated. Then yes, by exposing himself to Project Blowed, the young rapper really questioned himself and quickly understood what true talent was.

« Literally I like shit my pants the first day »

Dumbfoundead in an interview for All Def Music (2015)

 

Stronger through this new awareness, he started to assiduously go to those open mic evenings and, gradually improved his skills notably thanks to the feedbacks he got there. He was fifteen/sixteen years old (or 2001-2002) when he really started to take part to rap battles and that Jonathan Park became known as Dumbfoundead.

At Project Blowed, he freestyled on instrumentals and, it’s only with the World Rap Championship (Ed: likely from 2007, on YouTube the only one we can find it’s this one, but he might have participated to previous editions, we don’t know. Dumbfoundead, if, by any chance, you are reading this, please give us more details ToT) that he started to perform a Capella. Through this, the rapper went on reinforcing his reputation. 

During that time, he joined the Thristy Fish group (with Open Mike Eagle and Psychosiz), the three of them were also part of the Swim Team crew with Sahtyre, VerBS, Alpha MC, Lyraflip, Rogue Venom and DJ Zo. In 2007, Thirsty Fish released the album Testing the Water, followed in 2008 by the album Ocean’s Eleven by Swim Team.

The rapper also already had two solo projects: Super Barrio Bros., a concept album from 2005 with 8-Bit samples and lyrics displaying about video games universe. And, in May 2008 (on Bandcamp 2008 and YouTube in 2009) the album Fun With Dumb that he considered as his very first album especially because he tackled more personal, daily topics but with still a hint of humour – Rapper’s O is a like masterpiece for this, the ultimate meme material.

The particularity of this album in comparison to those which’ll follow and that are generally more known is the influence of the rap battles and the freestyle universe. His flow was clearly permeated by this experience.

However, it’s in 2009 with his battle against Tantrum that Dumbfoundead will definitively strengthen his renown. That battle was organized by Grind Time league which means that it was also the first time that the rapper was not doing freestyle but was in fact prepared for it (Ed: Today most of the rap battles are prepared before, above all the one which are broadcasted online. We’ll try to make an article more detailed about the rap battle universe in the next few months if you are interested in it).

 

An artist who intends to last over time.

In the rap battle world, Dumbfoundead succeed in gaining a real fame, a lasting fame. In 2015, after a five-years-withdrawal of this musical universe, the rapper came back for two battles. One taking place in March, against the rapper Conceited and a second one in September against Dizaster – those battles have respectively almost 9 and 2 million views today. Those battles were within the scope of the fifth season organized by the Canadian league King Of The Dot Blackout sponsored by Drake and OVO.

« For me, you know, for me a big thing is Dumbfoundead »

« To see him come back and just bless us with (his) presence at this event is insane »

 

Drake would have say this about Dumbfoundead in a press conference.

It wasn’t, yet, really obvious for an Asian rapper to make a breakthrough in a mostly Afro-American environment. About that, the rapper often explained that even if it was sometimes harsh, being an Asian also allowed him to stand out from the others, to catch more easily the audience attention, he had everything to prove. Nonetheless he also said that despite the fact that there are redundant punchlines about Asian people (Ed: clichés are really commonly used during battles, only the degree of thinking behind them vary), finally and quickly differences are fading out and that the only remaining thing is purely and simply everyone’s potential.

« It was not about Black and White, It was about like, wack and tight »

Dumbfoundead in an interview for All Def Music (2015)

 

This fame is maybe explainable by the fact he’s approaching battles like as much as a sport as a one man show. For him, no matter who he’s against, he’ll not spend his nights to look for some dirty information against the other rapper. It’s quite the contrary, he prefers staying on more superficial punchlines, so the audience could understand what he’s saying. It doesn’t mean that his punchlines are not well-made or thoughtless (Ed: if you have the curiosity to consult them at the end of the article you would see that, conversely, he’s just so skilled, simple yet effective). He just basically focuses on physical appearance because, for him, a battle is above all an entertainment, one needs to entertain the audience to gain its favours and obtaining reaction from it.

Nevertheless, if the rapper has a huge affection and a big respect for the battle rap universe, so much that in 2009 he starts the Bar Exam up, a battle rap scene which takes place every two months in Los Angeles with Grind Time (Ed: we couldn’t assure that the event is still happening, so if someone has the information don’t hesitate to indicate it in the comment space). Dumbfoundead wants to leave a more tangible mark, he has this will to challenge himself as an artist.

Indeed, unlike rap battles, songs can have a real impact on people’s life. The rapper decided to dedicate himself only to his musical career which wasn’t the simplest thing because he was stuck with the battle rapper’s label. And also, because he was a lot more at ease with rap battles and freestyle than the song writing process.

In this way, following his album Fun With Dumb in which there are three M/V: Rapper-O’s, Night Riders and Bullets of Truth, the rapper had multiplied the projects.

Firstly, in October 2009, he released several singles whom collaboration with the group Epik High: Rocksteady and Maze. Or also, the piece Clouds in April 2010 featuring Jay Park and the singer Clara.

In December 2010, he unveiled the EP Cut + Paste in collaboration with his friend DJ Zo and while at the same time working in a collective of artists with diverse audio-visual domain: Knocksteady.

Dumbfoundead is using his past and different experiences to keep on developing his musical identity. Breezy Lovejoy had a significant influence on him (Ed: known today under the name Anderson.Paak / Eli’s Note: this guy is just a real gem, you might know him thanks to his collaboration with Dean, but anyway he’s really worth it).

Breezy Lovejoy contributed to the production of the album DFD released in 2011. He’s, for that matter, on three songs: No more Sunny days, B*tch and Cellphone which M/V adaptation with Wax on the track was only released in April 2012 like the M/V of Cool and Calm which is only unveiled in February 2012. Green also got an M/V adaptation like the really personal piece Are We There Yet and same for BRB in collaboration with Andrew Garcia.

2011 is also the year of his actor starting career as he played a role in the horror movie Detention by Joseph Kahn

Things speed up again in 2012 as in February he unveiled the EP Love Everyday, with once again collaborations with Breezy Lovejoy: Paradise, Body High and Wax: Not right now.

He collaborates again with Jay Park in May on the track You Know How We Do.

In July he leaves for the Yolo tour organized by the movement 9seven7 alongside Andrew Garcia but also his guest Breezy Lovejoy.

He ended the year with the album Take the Stares in December with for M/V Korean Jesus, Growing Young and 10Rounds. Wine, Fck It and Drinking Alone are his latest collaborations with Breezy Lovejoy.

At the beginning of 2013, he released an album and a single Old Boy John with After Two, Clear and Ganghis Khan M/Vs.

2014 is quieter for him. He’s the co-MC on the show Dany From LA, which allowed him, at the same time, to open himself to the Kpop universe. Beside he keeps going with his smoke out interviews in the Hotbox he started in 2012.

In 2015 he participated at the remix of the track It G Ma by Keith Ape alongside A$AP Ferg, Father and Waka Flocka Flame. He also made another apparition on the battle rap scene (cf. higher) and ended the year with the M/V Mijangwon in collaboration with Nafla and Loopy that were gaining popularity at that time.

He opened 2016 with, in April the release of the documentary Bad Rap produced by Salima Koroma, which follows the progression of four American-Korean and especially their career journey.

Musically, it’s in November that the artist came back with the album We Might Die with Cochino, Harambe, Murals, Hold Me Down and Safe M/Vs. Safe stood out thanks to his protest message for a bigger presence of Asian people in the entertaining industry so, globally against the white washing.

The same year he also joined the label of the Group Far East Movement: Transparent Agency which truly makes sense, as, throughout his whole rap career he often quoted the group as a success ideal.

Within this label he contributed to the development of the sublabel/crew BORN CTZN in which he signed alongside the rapper Year Of The Ox.

He released, as well, two albums Rocket Man in December 2017 whose eponymous M/V is censored in South Korea, seemingly on account of diplomatic reasons. The South Korean government would have wanted to avoid political conflict with the North Korean’s regime as Rocket Man is nothing else than the nickname President Trump gave to Kim Jong-Eun in a Tweet. The artist never thought it would turn out like this.

However, the artist career doesn’t stop to progress since the second album unveiled in May is directly targeting the Korean audience. Tiger JK, Simon Dominic, Dok2, Jessi, Gsoul… The album includes plenty of collaborations with major artists from the Korean scene and counts three M/Vs HYUNG, History of Violence and Water.

The same year the M/V Every Last Drop came out and, but he also had a collaboration with DPR Live on the Please M/V featuring Kim Hyo-Eun and G2.

For now, 2018 had been an opportunity to go on northern American tour called The Yikes Tour in which he invited his friend from BORN CTZN: Year Of The Ox but also Nafla, G Yamazawa, Ted Park, Isaac Flame and DJ Zo.

He also inaugurated a new show this summer: Fun With Dumb, with the notable figure of Jay Park in one of the episodes and released is new EP CAFE BLEU (Ed: We’ll try to talk more about it, when we’ll update the article since this is a translation of the French version written this summer)

 

Dumbfoundead, the everlasting foreigner

In order to explicit this weird sub-title, the easier would be to explain the reason of the BORN CTZN label creation.

Indeed, the label’s name wasn’t chosen randomly. BORN CTZN is like a translation of that will to belong to a country, the country which welcomed him; to make his belonging public as he became an official American citizen when he was already 19. Before that he was seeing as an immigrant. 

Nevertheless, origins can’t be erased from the skin which means that, even if he’s an American citizen, the rapper stays a little bit like a foreigner, as much in his adoption culture as in his native one. The album Foreigner was a way to express his feelings toward this.

In fact, when he talked about his childhood, the rapper explained that, for instance, even though he was living in the Korea town neighbourhood, he was hanging out more with Latin Americans than Koreans (it’s worth noting that, even though there is a lot of Korean in KTown which is one of the biggest Korean community neighbourhood, KTown population is mainly Hispanic; which explains that the parents’ rapper shouldn’t need to master English as they could spoke in Spanish and Korean only). Until his fifteen, people used to call him “Chino” or Chinese in Spanish. 

To tell the truth, for a long time he had even been marginalised by the Ktown’s South Korean Community because he had other interests. When his fellows fitted more into the AZN category, which means that they used to squat parking to smoke or that they used to go to cybercafé and billiard rooms; the young Jonathan Park was preferring art and movies – among his favourite movies he mentions Old Boy by the brilliant Park Chan-Wook, City of God realised by Fernando Meirelles and Katia Lund but also classics such as Stanley Kubrick, Martin Scorses and so on.

In addition to his foreigner’s status in his adopted country, in his community he was thus seen as a king of nerd, a westernised foreigner.

It’s only when he had reached a certain popularity in the rap battle world, as he was fifteen, that the other Asians recognised him as one of them, that their vision of him changed. They even started to see him as a representative of the community.

It was all the more surprising given that Jonathan Park wasn’t at all the image people might have about an Asian rapper back at that time. When he had, according to him, a nerd style, the other Asian rappers were more of the gangsta with chains style.

However, it’s also that and the conceptual research behind his lyrics – like the fact that he can sometimes play different roles in a same rap – which allowed him to stand out.

And yet Dumbfoundead didn’t accept right away that status of representative of the Asian-American community. Torn between his different cultural identities, he had, for a while, denied his Korean identity stating that he was American before everything else.

It’s over the years and because of young Asians thanking him for his indirect work as an Asian-American community representative that he realised that lack of Asian figure in the entertainment industry. Then, he decided to fully embrace this role as much as to give more visibility to the Asians on the entertainment field as to become himself an assertion ideal for the Asian-American youth.

Thus, if the rapper has been friend for a long time with some Korean scene artists such as Tiger JK, Dok2, Simon Dominic, Jessi, Jay Park, Gsoul and other. In an interview – with, among others, Jessi – Dumbfoundead explained that the female rapper helped him a lot to fit into the Korean culture. However, the rapper never really had the desire to spread on the Korean market. Yet, with the rising of the Korean Hip-Hop enthusiasm, the rapper had may be changed his mind as his album Foreigner shows it. By the way, he revealed that his most interesting collaborations were probably the ones he did with Kpop artists.

Dumbfoundead’s distinctive characteristic is also in his public since as he said it himself, he has a rap lover audience as much as a Kpop lover one. This can for instance be explained by the fact that he has appeared in several more Kpop oriented entertainment shows. However, thanks to his outsider status, he could keep a total freedom of speech, he didn’t have to fit into all the Korean culture standards that he finds a little bit stifling sometimes. He really loves his native culture, but he wouldn’t see himself living there.

« It’s hard to be a I don’t give a fuck, hip-hop personality in a place that gives a fuck a lot of times, and they give a fuck, a lot of people are judgmental »

Dumbfoundead in 2015 for Jjajangmyeon Explosion

 

Also, even if he admits that things are changing in South Korea, he’s happy to be recognised as himself by the Kpop audience and for instance that he could express himself as much as he wants to on Twitter without filters.

 

Started from the bottom …

From the 3 years old kid who arrived illegally in the KTown neighbourhood to the famous artist he becomes today the journey has been tough and the rapper never stopped to evolve, always adapting.

The result is that Dumbfoundead is as much a kid from the street as one from the social networks. If he started by handing out flyers for his shows on the street, quickly he surfed on the YouTube, Facebook and Twitter wave. For a while, his strategy even was to flood YouTube with contents. Indeed, between his vlogs, interviews and tracks he posted at least one video every week.

At first it was rudimentary. For instance, there hasn’t been one dollar spent for Rapper-O’s M/V, same for Bullet of Truth which was filmed and edited with a simple digital camera in less than an hour. The money he made from those videos back at that time was only dedicated to production and the development of its merchandising. 

In his tracks Dumbfoundead talks about the daily life and, as most of the rappers he exaggerates some stories to reinforce the storytelling and opts a lot for humour and Turn Up sounds.

However, as time passes by, his global vision of things had changed, and he wanted to kind of find some control again about his content. Choosing quality over quantity. It’s for instance, rappers such as J Cole or Kendrick Lamar who inspired him in this way but also classics such as Tupac, Eminem, Ice Cube or even Biggie who inspired him for most of his younger life.

More generally, it’s not from rap that Dumbfoundead draws the most his inspiration. Quite the contrary, the rapper has an eclectic musical taste and even avoid listening to music that much to not be too influenced by it. In fact, he’s inspired by visuals above all (Ed: he’s envious of Kpop’s visuals, but because of budget…), books, life in general. He has a special fondness for woman topic. Not only about romantic relationships but also because he grew up surrounded by women, a long time only with his mother and sister. Then he feels the need to proclaim his respect, something that we could notably hear through his track Upgrade in the album Foreigner where people can hear samples of his family. Or even more clearly in his song Are We there Yet in the DFD album which is a real tribute to his mother’s courage, but which also talks about his relationships, his career and so on.

In the future, he is thinking about coming back to cinema. His first love. In a 2016 interview the journalist asked him where he would see himself in 10 years, the artist said that he doesn’t know if he would still rap and he would like to explore more the cinema field, like acting, filmmaking… He doesn’t exclude either the idea of getting more into a serious relationship with kids.

To conclude (Ed: but there is probably still a lot more to say ToT), Dumbfoundead’s career has, until today been led by his work dedication. Talent is most of all gained by work for him; but also by self-confidence. To be a good MC, it’s just primordial to be self-confident, but also to constantly dare, endlessly outdoing yourself.

Some Rap Battles

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=PRPqpDa7k4E   

JREKML

Dumbfoundead

All Def Music

theurbandecadence

Fever Seoul Live

TheBeeShine

channelapa

nine seven

Part 1

Part 2

https://www.youtube.com/watch?annotation_id=annotation_43063&feature=iv&src_vid=Moa3GSLzy9s&v=mG51dbbXdgE#t=13m30.1s

FoundAsians

itsbongoboy

Rap Grid

Battle Rap

Jjajangmyeon Explosion

djvlad

Wilkine Brutus

KoreanAmericanStory.org

the apartment with asuf and baluch

Steebee Weebee

Dumbfoundead on Genie Music x HIPHOPLE Livestream – Trad by DPR FANS

The Korea Herald

Discography

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