- 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 -)
Artist’s Social Networks
Jonathan Park aka Dumbfoundead is a rapper from Koreatown, California. In 2016, he was signed by Transparent Agency founded by the group Far East Mouvement 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 figureheads of the Korean Hip-Hop scene. For over ten years, he has been striving to give more visibility to the Asian artists on the American market and his strategy seems pretty clear:
From rap battles to movies, YouTube shows and even the organization of night events in KoreaTown with the collective Spawn N Eggs; at this stage one may wonder if Dumbfoundead’s thirst for project is going to run out someday…
As a consequence, he is a source of inspiration for a lot of Korean artists such as DPR Live who doesn’t hide his admiration and absolute respect towards the rapper from KoreaTown. So let’s go back to the career of this incredible artist!
Jonathan Park, a Youth in Korea Town
Jonathan Park is born on February 18th, 1986, in Buenos Aires, Argentina. Before getting further, 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 financial compensation. That policy led to huge migratory movements toward Latin America, especially Argentina and the Flores district in Buenos Aires.
It seems that Jonathan Park’s mother comes from one of those families since her parents settled down in Argentina while she was only fifteen. It’s there that a few years later, she met the dad of her children who was directly coming from South Korea to Argentina for a business trip.
The couple had two children: Jonathan Park and his little sister Natalie. However, the family wanted to go to the US. The rapper’s dad left first and moved in Los Angeles, California, while shortly afterward, Dumbfoundead’s mother had to make all the way from Argentina alone with her daughter and her son, who respectively were one and three years old. More than a simple journey, she had to cross the Mexican border illegally.
However, it’s also worth noting that in the ’90s, L.A wasn’t the most stable city in the country. With all those demographic changes generated by the arrival of Hispanic and Korean populations, 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 for some information about the 1992 L.A riots).
It’s in those circumstances that the Park family moved in the neighborhood of Korea Town. Dumbfoundead’s father opened a toyshop and it’s through the music from the radio cassette player from the electronic shop next door that the young Jonathan discovered Hip-Hop.
As he explained it in an interview, if his father fits the image 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 present though, they had to work to support the family and their break-up didn’t help. Therefore, Jonathan and his sister had some independence during their childhood.
He even recognized that he and his sister might have been pretty rebellious teenagers. For instance, the future rapper changed school several times and finally dropped out at sixteen to settle down with his sister and a roommate in a little flat. Besides, he found a job as a bail bondsman.
However, he revealed that, without this liberty, he might not have become 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 evolve in a certain musical effervescence. During high school, he used to go to punk rock concerts, was hanging out to Silver Lake with people from various backgrounds such as hippies, indie, or even rock people. At that time, he also started to join freestyles during parties. He was fourteen when he started to rap and he admitted that at first, it was just an excuse to enjoy free drinks, free weed, and girls. But at some point, things took 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 world of rap battles. This open scene was created in 1994 and every Thursday nights, MCs just have to give some money to join the battles. Big names like Ice Cube, Snoop Dog, or even Lenny Kravitz would have went there. So yeah, by confronting 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)
Thanks to this new awareness, he started to go to those open mic evenings assiduously and, gradually improved his skills. The feedbacks he got there helped him a lot. He was fifteen/sixteen years old (or 2001-2002) when he really started to take part in rap battles. It’s at this time that Jonathan Park started to get known as Dumbfoundead.
There are two types of freestyle battles. The ones where the rapper is accompanied by a beat, and the ones in which they are a Capella.
At Project Blowed, he always freestyled on instrumentals. It’s only with the World Rap Championship (Ed: likely from 2007, on YouTube the only one I could find was this one, but he might have participated in previous editions) that he started to perform a Capella. This only contributed to reinforce his reputation.
During that time, he joined the group Thirsty Fish (with Open Mike Eagle and Psychosiz), the three of them were also part of the crew Swim Team 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 this time by Swim Team.
At the time, the rapper had also two solo projects already: Super Barrio Bros., a concept album from 2005 with 8-Bit samples, and lyrics kind of about video games. And, in May 2008 (2008 on Bandcamp and 2009 on YouTube) the album Fun With Dumb. He considered this album as his very first because he tackled more personal and daily topics but still with a hint of humor – Rapper’s O is like a masterpiece for this, the ultimate meme material.
The particularity of this album compared to his following ones that most of the people might know more is the prominent influence of the rap battles and freestyle universes. His flow was clearly permeated by this experience.
However, it’s in 2009 with his battle against Tantrum that Dumbfoundead definitively strengthened his renown. That battle was organized by the Grind Time league so for the first time the rapper was not truly freestyling but he actually came prepared for it (Ed: Today most of the rap battles are prepared before, especially the ones that are broadcasted online.).
An artist intending to last over time.
In the rap battle world, Dumbfoundead managed to gain real and long-lasting recognition. In 2015, after a five-years-withdrawal from 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, they have been organized by the Canadian league King Of The Dot Blackout for their fifth season 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 said this about Dumbfoundead in a press conference.
At the time it was not necessarily easy for an Asian-American rapper to make it in a mostly Afro-American environment though. About that, the rapper often explained that even if it was sometimes harsh, being Asian also allowed him to stand out, to catch more easily the attention of the audience because he had everything to prove. Nonetheless, he also said that despite the fact that there were redundant punchlines about Asian people (Ed: clichés are really common things during battles, the reflection behind their use can greatly vary though), differences tend to fade out quickly and in the end what matters the most is purely and solely potential. It’s thanks to your potential that you’ll win, nothing else.
« It was not about Black and White, It was about like, wack and tight »
Dumbfoundead in an interview for All Def Music (2015)
How did he manage to reach such fame in the battle world? An answer could be that he’s approaching battles as much like a sport as like a one-man show. For him, no matter who his opponent is, he’ll not spend his nights looking for some dirty pieces of information against them. It’s quite the contrary, he prefers to stay on more superficial punchlines, so that the audience can understand what he is talking about during the battle. It doesn’t mean that his punchlines are not complex (Ed: if you are interested in watching them they are linked at the end of the article and you will see that he’s truly skilled when it comes to diss people). Basically, he tends to focus on the physical appearance of his opponent because, for him, a battle is above all an entertainment, one needs to entertain the audience to gain their favors and obtaining a reaction from them.
Nevertheless, if the rapper has a huge affection and big respect for the universe of rap battles – to the point that in 2009 he started out the Bar Exam, a battle rap scene co-organized with Grind Time which takes place every two months in Los Angeles (Ed: I don’t know if it’s still a thing) – Dumbfoundead wants to leave a more tangible mark yet. 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 focus on his musical career which wasn’t the simplest thing since he was heavily associated with the image of the battle rapper. But he also had a hard time because he was a lot more at ease with rap battles and freestyle than with the songwriting process.
In this way, following his album Fun With Dumb accompanied by three M/Vs: Rapper-O’s, Night Riders, and Bullets of Truth, the rapper started to release more and more projects.
Firstly, in October 2009, he released several singles including collaborations with the group Epik High for the tracks Rocksteady and Maze. Or also, the track 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.
This same year he also started to work in a collective with artists from different audio-visual fields called Knocksteady.
Dumbfoundead is using his past and different experiences to keep on developing his musical identity. Anderson Paak. had a significant influence on him (Ed: formerly known as Breezy Lovejoy. / His discography is just awesome, you might have heard about his collaboration with Dean, but anyway you should definitely give a listen to his discography if that’s not already done).
Anderson Paak. contributed to the production of the album DFD released in 2011. He’s, for that matter, present on three songs: No more Sunny days, B*tch and Cellphone. There is an M/V adaptation for Cellphone by the way, Wax is also present on the track. However, the MV has only been released in April 2012. Same for the M/V of Cool and Calm, another track from the album, which has only been unveiled in February 2012. Some tracks had an MV adaptation earlier though, like, Green, BRB in collaboration with Andrew Garcia but also the really personal track Are We There Yet.
2011 is also the year he started his acting career. He played a role in Joseph Kahn’s horror movie Detention.
Things speeded up again in 2012 as in February he unveiled the EP Love Everyday, with once again collaborations with Anderson Paak. for Paradise and Body High and with Wax for: Not right now.
He collaborated 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 Anderson Paak..
He ended the year with the album Take the Stares in December with for M/Vs Korean Jesus, Growing Young and 10Rounds. Wine, Fck It and Drinking Alone are his latest collaborations with Anderson Paak..
At the beginning of 2013, he released the album Old Boy John with 3 MVs for the tracks After Two, Clear and Ganghis Khan.
2014 is a quieter year. He’s co-MC on the show Dany From LA. Thanks to this he learned more about the Kpop universe. But he also kept up with ‘The Hotbox’. He started this in 2012 and did it for 2 years. The concept is pretty simple, a casual interview with other artists in a car.
In 2015, He took part in the remix of 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 who were gaining popularity at that time.
He started 2016 with, in April, the release of the documentary Bad Rap produced by Salima Koroma, which follows four American-Korean rappers including Dumbfoundead.
Musically, it’s in November that the artist came back with the album We Might Die with MVs for the tracks: Cochino, Harambe, Murals, Hold Me Down, and Safe. Safe stood out thanks to its message of protest for a bigger presence of Asian people in the entertainment industry.
The same year he also joined Transparent Agency, a label founded by the group Far East Movement. This especially makes sense since throughout his whole rap career, he often referred to the group as an ideal of success.
Within this label, with the rapper Year Of The Ox, he contributed to the development of the sublabel/crew BORN CTZN made official in may 2017
In 2017 he released two albums as well.
First the album Foreigner released in May. This album is quite a new step in his career because it’s the first time he targeted the South Korean audience directly. Therefore, he invited some major artists from the Korean scene like Tiger JK, Simon Dominic, Dok2, Jessi, Golden (formerly known as GSoul). You can find MVs for the tracks HYUNG, History of Violence, and Water.
The second album is none other than Rocket Man released in December 2017. The eponymous M/V has been censored in South Korea, seemingly for diplomatic reasons. The South Korean government would have wanted to avoid political conflict with 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.
There’s also an M/V for Every Last Drop.
That same year he also collaborated with DPR Live on the M/V Please featuring Kim Hyo-Eun and G2.
In 2018 he had the opportunity to go on a 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 in summer: Fun With Dumb with artists such as Jay Park in one of the episodes.
But he also released CAFE BLEU, a new EP.
There are two MVs for this project: Pink Bleu Dawn, released in January 2019 and Washed in April 2019
In 2020 he came back in April with the double single Inside / Outside in collaboration with the singer Satica. There is an MV for each track!
Dumbfoundead, a quest for identity
Why such a title? The easier would be to explain the reason behind the creation of the label BORN CTZN.
Indeed, they hadn’t chosen the name of the label randomly. BORN CTZN is like a translation of that will to belong to a country, that will to be officially recognized by the country which welcomed him by obtaining American citizenship. Jonathan Park only became an American citizen when he was already 19 years old. Before that, he was seen as an immigrant.
However, origins can’t be erased from the skin which means that, even if he’s an American citizen now, the rapper is still a little bit like a foreigner, as much in his adopted country as in his native one. With the album Foreigner, he wanted to express this feeling, this experience.
In fact, talking about his childhood, the rapper explained that, for instance, even though he was living in the neighborhood of KoreaTown, he was hanging out more with Latin Americans than Koreans (it’s worth noting that, contrary to what its name might suggest, Koreatown has a Latino majority which explains that the rapper’s parents didn’t have to master English, they could speak in Spanish and Korean only). Until he was fifteen, people used to call him “Chino” meaning Chinese in Spanish.
In fact, for a long time, he has even been marginalized by the South Korean Community from Koreatown because he didn’t share the same interests. When his fellows used to hang out in parking to smoke or to go to cybercafé and billiard rooms; the young Jonathan Park preferred art and movies – among his favorite movies he mentioned Old Boy by Park Chan-Wook, City of God realized by Fernando Meirelles and Katia Lund but also classics such as movies from Stanley Kubrick, Martin Scorses and so on.
If being seen as a foreigner in his adopted country wasn’t enough, his own community thought of him as a sort of nerd, a westernized Korean.
It’s only at the age of fifteen, when he managed to reach a certain popularity thanks to the rap battles, that the other Asians recognized him as one of them, that his image changed. They even started to see him as a representative of the community.
It was all the more surprising given that, young Jonathan Park didn’t meet the expectations people might have about an Asian rapper in the US back at that time. When he had to quote him, a nerd style, the other Asian rappers were more of the style of the gangsta with gold chains.
However, he managed to make strength from that and it’s actually partly because of his nerdy side that he stood out. His nerdy side but also thanks to the ‘conceptual research’ behind his lyrics – like the fact that he can sometimes play different roles in the same rap.
Dumbfoundead didn’t accept this status of representative of the Asian-American community right away yet. Torn between his two cultural identities, for a while he had denied his Korean identity asserting that he was American before everything else.
It’s over the years and thanks to young Asians thanking him for his indirect work as a representative of the Asian-American community that he realized that lack of Asian figures in the entertainment industry. Then, he decided to fully embrace this role as much to give more visibility to the Asians in the entertainment field, as to support the Asian-American youth and push them to dream high.
Therefore, if the rapper has been friends for a long time with some artists of the Korean scene such as Tiger JK, Dok2, Simon Dominic, Jessi, Jay Park, Golden and others. In an interview with Jessi at his side, 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 make it on the Korean market.
With the rise of enthusiasm for Korean Hip-Hop, the rapper might have changed his mind as his album Foreigner shows it though. It’s also worth noting that he revealed that his most interesting collaborations were probably the ones he did with Kpop artists.
Dumbfoundead also stands out because of his public since, as he said it himself, he has both an audience of people into rap than people into Kpop. This can for instance be explained by the fact that he made apparitions in several more Kpop oriented entertainment shows. However his outsider status, allowed him to keep a total freedom of speech, he didn’t have to fit into all the standards of the Korean culture 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 able to be his true self and still be appreciated by the Kpop audience. He likes the fact that he can express himself without filters on Twitter for instance.
Started from the bottom …
From the 3 years old kid who arrived illegally in the neighbourhood of KTown to the famous artist he is 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 was even to flood YouTube with contents. 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 talked about the daily life and, as most of the rappers, he exaggerated some stories to reinforce the storytelling and opted a lot for humour and Turn Up sounds.
However, over time, his global vision of things changed, and with that the direction he wanted to take for his content. So he decided to go for a new strategy and choose quality over quantity. Rappers such as J Cole or Kendrick Lamar inspired him in this way but also classic figures such as Tupac, Eminem, Ice Cube or even Biggie he looked up a lot when he was younger.
More generally, it’s not from rap that Dumbfoundead draws his inspiration the most. Quite the contrary, the rapper has eclectic musical tastes and even avoid to listen to music that much to not be too influenced by it. In fact, it’s from visuals that he gets inspiration the most (Ed: he’s envious of Kpop visuals, but because of budget…), books, life in general. He likes to talk about women a lot. Not only about romantic relationships but also because he grew up surrounded by women, for a long time only with his mother and sister. Then he feels the need to proclaim his respect, something that you could notably hear through his track Upgrade in the album Foreigner. For this track he indeed used samples from recordings of his family. Or even more clearly in his song Are We there Yet in the album DFD which is a real tribute to the courage of his mother, 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 an interview from 2016, 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 the idea of getting into a serious relationship with kids either.
To conclude, Dumbfoundead’s career has, until today, been led by his work dedication. For him, Talent is most of all gained by work; but also by self-confidence. To be a good MC, it’s just primordial to be self-confident, but also to dare constantly, to outdo yourself endlessly.
Some Rap Battles
All Def Music
Fever Seoul Live
the apartment with asuf and baluch
Dumbfoundead on Genie Music x HIPHOPLE Livestream – Trad by DPR FANS
The Korea Herald