Back in 2020, Korean American artist Ted Park decided to visit rapper Parlay Pass in Atlanta after he felt his depression fully set over him in Jersey City during the initial wave of COVID-19.
What was initially meant to be a two-week trip ended up becoming four months, resulting in the creation of multiple songs with Pass, including their hit 2020 track “Dance Like Jay Park.” The idea for the upbeat banger came to the musicians while they were in the basement studio of a mansion as Ted was vibing to some beats.
“I played that beat, and Ted was like, “Ooh, this is like Drake’s ‘I could dance with Michael Jackson.’ And I was just like, ‘Oh, I could dance like Jay Park,’” Pass tells NextShark, referencing both Drake’s song “Toosie Slide” and Jay Park, the well-known Korean American rapper, dancer and entrepreneur.
The track would eventually keep its name as “Dance Like Jay Park” and go on to pay homage to Jay, who has greatly influenced both Pass and Ted’s careers and music styles.
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“As you start to grind and you start to achieve some of your goals, you meet these people on the way, and Jay is one of the most solid people you'll meet. And not even just in the industry, just in general as a person,” Ted says.
Ted mentions Jay’s solid character, both as an artist and a CEO, and credits him for giving him a chance by signing him to his label. For both Ted and Pass, the song serves as a tribute, acknowledging Jay’s continuous support.
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When Jay first listened to the track, he immediately felt the desire to collaborate and create a remix of the song. As Korean Americans who grew up in the U.S. and share a background in hip-hop, he emphasizes the special connection they have due to the shared experiences of being underestimated and having to prove themselves in the industry. Jay commends the hard work and hustle that artists like Ted and Pass put into their craft.
“So whenever I can lend a helping hand to people that I respect, that I appreciate, that I think are dope, I will,” Jay says. “I appreciate that Pass and Ted made a song that kind of has my name in it. I’m known for my dancing, but it's kind of like, they made a dope song, a catchy hook, made a dope video, and so I couldn't help but applaud it and also be honored as well.”
Two months later, the three artists released “Dance Like Jay Park Remix” in August 2020.
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However, it wasn’t until January of this year that they decided to drop its official music video. Ted explains that the delay was due to COVID-related travel restrictions, safety concerns for loved ones and a shift in focus away from music for a while.
“The timing just wasn’t right to just be trying to maneuver and do whatever,” he says, noting that the filming of the video only took place when Jay was in the U.S. for the launch of his Won Soju liquor brand last year.
“It was all God's plan, you know, we were all just in L.A.,” Pass recalls. “Everyone was all together, and we just made it happen. It was a real quick easy shoot that just was organic, natural and fun.”
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While the music video features the three artists partying and living a lavish lifestyle, they noted that the remix's lyrics actually holds deep and personal significance for them. The track depicts their journeys from a challenging past to a more successful present. It touches on various themes such as loyalty to friends ("I won't let my brother die in the streets"), determination to succeed ("My teacher said I'd work for minimum wage / I make more than that b*tch when I jump on a stage") and the contrast between past struggles and current achievements ("Been through hell looking back when I had no bands, now look I'm the man").
Pass notes that the lyrics are factual and reflective of his true lifestyle, mentioning that the song became even more poignant as he lost his little brother shortly after shooting the video.
Jay says that the song is reflective of many people’s difficult experiences during the past few years, particularly through the struggles of COVID-19. Jay’s verse reflects on his actions during the pandemic, where he distributed food to those in need in Seattle. “I think even though it's like an uptempo song that you can bounce to and even though the song is called ‘Dance Like Jay Park,’ I think all of our lyrics are a little bit deep. Like for me, rapping, ‘We passing out food in the streets / Donations on donations / Can't see my brothers suffering / I don't want them to bleed,’ that's at a time where COVID was at an all-time high,” he shares.
As for Ted, he says that the song has become a way for him to express things he initially hesitated to include in his musical journey. Ted, born to immigrant parents and raised in a predominantly white community in Wisconsin, dropped out of high school and took a bus to New York to pursue his dreams. He wound up in Brooklyn, where he lived in poverty for a time but was fortunate enough to receive the support and care of some of his friends.
“Sometimes in music, I feel like we're underestimated and we're underdogs. And I guess that I just really felt like I had some things I wanted to get off my chest,” Ted says. “So I’m really just representing what I've been through and where I came from to get to this point, regardless if people understand or believe it, because I feel like I have my own truth to share.”
The artists are gearing up for joint and individual projects in the coming months. Jay shares his ongoing promotion of Won Soju and his goal to finish his latest R&B album this year to “hopefully” release soon. Ted plans to continue pushing his artistic boundaries, especially with his joint project with Pass. He teases experimenting with genre-bending tracks on his solo project, emphasizing the importance of putting out music he finds dope while building connections in the industry. As for Pass, he is preparing for the release of his next single and video, an upcoming album and a short film project. He also reveals upcoming events, such as an “On The Radar” freestyle in New York and a performance at the “Spam n Eggs” event in Los Angeles.
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As the Korean American rappers move forward in their careers, they aim to inspire and spread positivity while maintaining their humility, collectively emphasizing their commitment to connecting with and being for the people.
“I always try to keep myself grounded and humble, so that I can continually just relate to people and be compassionate and empathetic and humane,” Jay says. “Even though people may think of me as a superstar, I never want to lose that human element of myself. I just want to spread positivity and love and influence your life in a good way.”
Pass urges his fans to count their blessings and appreciate what they have, noting that life's challenges are part of the journey. He acknowledges the difficulties people face, mentioning a recent loss of a friend, and stresses his gratitude for fans finding solace in his music.
“At the end of the day, when we die, there's no money, there's no fame or clout or accolades,” Ted adds. “It's really just what our actions were to influence and impact people. And at the end of the day, we're just like one another in some way, you know?”
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