Jamie Park came to our shores for a conversation with local youths in 2019. This year, we have Tablo, headlining Singapore’s youth “unconference” SHINE NOW, connecting with us through a Zoom session from South Korea.
He, like any other Asian child, was not spared by his parents who held on to a deep-rooted mindset that his flair for writing, be it songs or scripts, should stay as a passion. Instead, they wanted him to opt for a “safer” career to put bread on the table.
“I probably would have done fairly well even if I became like a professor or went into law, but I’m not certain that I would have been passionate about it,” he says. Even his friends forewarned him to keep his career and hobbies as two entities, but he defied convention and lumped them into one.
And the outcome? He became the frontman of a hip-hop trio who have sold out countless concerts, and made history as the first Korean act to play at Coachella.
But it took a gruelling time for him to procure these groundbreaking feats, and they came with a hefty price.
Things started out rocky for Tablo, when the trio released their first album Map of The Human Soul. His parents were waiting for him to fail, to prove to him that this showbiz was a no go. True to their word, “I was making no money in the first two albums”, he says.
His career did take flight, until the big Tajinyo scandal in 2010. Through a screen, Tablo was evidently emotional recounting his experience. He acknowledges that celebrities are inevitably susceptible to scrutiny, “but it’s rare that any celebrity experiences what I did, because it was, you know, ongoing for more than two years”.
Perhaps, it’s the unfortunate experience that shaped him to become who he is today. Majoring in English Literature also influenced the way he sees music, as he finds inspiration in things that make him feel uncomfortable.
The discomfort forced him to question his beliefs, keeping him on his toes. He soon realised that for one to constantly grow as a person, it is quintessential to admit the hard truths: that we are not always right.
If anything, Tablo tells youths to “travel out of your comfort zone, poke yourself and constantly keep yourself motivated”, urging them to take the first step, no matter how hard it may be.
But he is not stopping short at merely dishing out verbal advice. Tablo has plans to spend his next decade nurturing people when they need it, and to assist other people in achieving their dreams. “Hopefully that can be what I do for the rest of my life”.
Additional reporting by Jared Michael Ong.