Interview: Parker aka Dumbfoundead

Parker aka Dumbfoundead at The Rockpile West show in Toronto
Parker aka Dumbfoundead at The Rockpile West show in Toronto

Hi there, while many of our readers are familiar with you and your music, can you introduce yourself to those who aren’t? What’s one interesting thing they may not know about you?

How you doing. Yeah, I go by Dumbfoundead aka Parker. I’m from Los Angeles, California. I’m a rapper known for battle rapping, free-styling as well as music. An interesting thing that people don’t know about me, I’m pretty out there and open about all this shit so like they probable know everything about me. I damn near put my balls on Snapchat. Nah, I’m kidding, I’m just f&%king around, I didn’t do that. Yeah, I mean, I’m here to perform as well as make a return to battle rap.

How long have you been performing? How did you get into hip hop?

I’ve been performing since I was 15 years old, so it’s a little over a decade now.

Parker aka Dumbfoundead at The Rockpile West show in Toronto
Parker aka Dumbfoundead at The Rockpile West show in Toronto

You’ve done collaborations with artists like Epik High and Jay Park, is there anyone you’d like to collaborate with? Why?

There’s definitely, obviously I’ve collaborated with a lot of artists in Korea but I definitely have a lot of my heroes, rap heroes that I want to collaborate with in the States, you know what I mean, people I grew up listening to. But I’ve definitely collaborated with a lot of my heroes, local rap heroes in Los Angeles and artists I respect in my peer group. There’s still an endless list of artists I’d like to collaborate with.

I saw you perform in Toronto in 2012 for KRNFX’s Toronto Beatbox Battle, which was a great show by the way. How would you say your music has changed since then?

Oh yeah, I remember that; yeah, yeah.

Yeah, every time I put out new music each year, it’s constantly changing. But definitely I think my performance skills have changed as well. I’m able to perform better and like interact with the crowd in a more fun way where it’s not just the music but everything else, me talking to the crowd and all that stuff.

So I’m constantly trying to evolve as an artist for sure.

Parker aka Dumbfoundead at The Rockpile West show in Toronto
Parker aka Dumbfoundead at The Rockpile West show in Toronto

Which of your songs is your favourite? Can you tell us the story or inspiration behind it?

My favourite songs, I would say are Are We There Yet obviously. People can really connect with all three verses on that song; which are like about family, career and relationships. That song is, I think, really relatable.

And also Korean Jesus because it’s just a little off-the-wall kind of song. That’s the song that reflects another side of me as well.

You’ve just started an east coast North American tour. Has anything interesting or unusual happened while you were on stage on previous tours? Any fun stories?

Oh yeah, I’ve been touring since I was really young. And I haven’t done really lavish tours. We’re not traveling in a bus and shit. We’re crammed inside a minivan at best; you know what I’m saying. And if not that, it’s like a four-door f&%king car and we’re crammed in with my DJ or whoever comes along with us. So with those un-lavish conditions there comes a lot of crazy f&%king stories, you know. It’s been amazing, it’s really humbling. And we sometimes get by. Sometimes we’ve been in accidents, or we’ve been in financial situations when we can’t even continue to tour unless something miraculous happens. But there’s been a lot of stories, there have been things I can’t share.

Parker aka Dumbfoundead at The Rockpile West show in Toronto
Parker aka Dumbfoundead at The Rockpile West show in Toronto

You have two shows in Toronto this weekend – tonight’s solo show at The Rockpile West and you’re a part of King of the Dot’s (KOTD) Black Out 5 event on Sunday. What made you do battle rap again?

I’ve always been a battle rapper. And I also love making music. But I think it’s a good time to come back because the culture has gone so far. Battle rap, the scene, is amazing now. There are a lot of amazing battlers and all that. I thought it was interesting and I wanted to come back, especially with Drake’s involvement and his label OVO. I thought it was really official and it’s an organization I respect and I wanted to be a part of it.

Do you feel pressure to represent Asian Americans when you step on stage?

Nah, I like representing but I don’t feel pressure to do it. It’s just a natural thing. I definitely think we’re underdogs in media. You know, like if you turn on TV or radio you’re not going to see that many Asian people or any. You know what I’m saying.

I don’t feel pressured into doing it at all. I’m very confident in being a representative of that, you know what I mean. I think when I was younger and I was coming up in the rap industry, I wasn’t secure with who I was because I was the only one and when I looked around there was no one I could relate to.

So I had identity issues like oh, I wanted to be black; I wanted to be this or whatever because I didn’t have any heroes to look up to. So now that I am one of those heroes, I’ve embraced it fully. I’m super confident. And if you’re going to be one of those heroes, you have to be confident. You know what I’m saying, you can’t second guess it, and you can’t fold under the pressure.

I love pressure. That shit makes me better, that’s why I put myself in situations of pressure. Like I didn’t have to come back to battle rap but I did because I wanted a challenge. And I keep doing that constantly.

Parker aka Dumbfoundead at The Rockpile West show in Toronto
Parker aka Dumbfoundead at The Rockpile West show in Toronto

We asked our readers to let us know what THEY wanted to ask Dumbfoundead aka Parker and here’s what they asked:

What is your opinion on K-pop as a Korean-American hip hop artist?

Oh, K-pop. I think K-pop has its awesome moments and has its duh, whatever moments. K-pop is a really dominant genre of music in the world. It’s not like just oh, this extra thing on the side. No, it’s pretty huge and it’s a huge market and everything.

I don’t really care for it as an industry as far as a market and a money-making machine goes. If something innovative that comes out of it, it sparks my interest. But I don’t really care for it as an industry, like record labels pumping out group after group, it’s boring.

But I do enjoy a lot of certain characters and weirdness that come out of it; you know what I’m saying. Like when I see G Dragon, I’m not going to say that I love everything he does, but I respect him because he’s so different. Like you watch that video and you don’t know what it is, is it hip hop, is it pop? You don’t know. I respect things like that.

Anyone who’s pushing the envelope forward but also kind of acknowledging where they get their influences from. I don’t like somebody just copying a genre and blatantly looking like they are, you know what I’m saying. And there is a lot of that in K-pop too. I think it’s important for any K-pop artist who’s pursuing it to know where all the roots are, where the roots of what they are doing come from.

Or it just becomes a job. And art is not a job, you know what I’m saying. Art is something you have to be passionate about and understand the roots of. It’s one of the few art forms, the few things that you have to kind of do that before you make money at it.

What advice can he relay to aspiring Asian Canadian or Asian American youth hoping to break into the music scene?

That’s actually interesting that you said that because I didn’t realize, I always say Asian-American but there are like Asian-Canadian and Asians everywhere else. But it’s all obviously the same, to me it’s the same, who I’m inspiring that comes from Asian descent. I would just say, you got to be bold. And it’s hard to be bold when we’re looked at how we are.

There are definitely stereotypes that come with being an Asian male or Asian woman. Like tons of Asian women in world are fetishized you know and Asian males are looked upon as timid or passive. And that’s not what I am, obviously and that’s what I try to show that to the max. If I’m already a dude that doesn’t give a f&%k and who’s not shy, I put that x 10 when you put a camera in front of me. I put that x 10 when I make music to put that point across.

I tell everybody, go extra hard with that. You can’t second guess it. Yeah, that’s the main advice I can give. Be yourself and yourself you sometimes don’t know until you really dig deep inside.

What does it really mean to be an Asian-American or Asian-Canadian? We’re kind of making the blueprint, we’re creating that. There’s no identity at the moment.

Parker aka Dumbfoundead at The Rockpile West show in Toronto
Parker aka Dumbfoundead at The Rockpile West show in Toronto

I know you’ve been asked about this before but you switched from “Dumbfoundead” to Parker a while back… but still use both aliases. Why did you switch and why do you still use both? What’s the difference?

Right. Well, I’ve had Dumbfoundead since I was 15. I literally thought of the name when I was 14 years old. And sometimes when you’re 14, you don’t make the best decisions. I’m not saying I’m ashamed of my name Dumbfoundead. But I’m getting to my late 20s and it’s a name that, off the bat, people might make certain judgements of it, you know what I mean.

So I wanted to have a name that was a little bit neutral and kind of rebrand myself and come together. Because I’m at a different place than I was when I came up with the name Dumbfoundead too. So to me, it’s not about me changing my name.

It was like me like blossoming into, I don’t want to use the word ‘blossoming’. I don’t want to be a battle rapper using blossoming… I blossomed into Parker. [laughter]

But it’s growth, it’s growth but it’s not just growth. It’s actually almost a new me too. ‘Cause there’s a whole generation of people who don’t know who I might be. So to me, the name isn’t important.

Finally, is there anything you want to add?

Nah, that’s it. Thank you so much.

Editor’s note: huge thanks to Parker aka Dumbfoundead for taking a few moments before his show at The Rockpile West to speak with us. It was a fun interview. To keep with the PG tone of ATK Magazine, we didn’t spell out certain curse words but nothing was censored.

Cindy Zimmer

Live life to the fullest everyday - this is a the philosophy I try to live by and it's taken me on many adventures. I write about Korean culture from a non-Korean perspective as the editor/founder of ATK Magazine and I'm the Chair of the Board of Directors of the Toronto Korean Film Festival (TKFF). Previously, I ran a Korean-English language exchange group (in Toronto) for 3 years to stay connected to my three years living in Korea as an English teacher. I love music, film, food and sports and write about 3 of the 4.

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