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Thursday, 3 July 2014

Koihime Musou Girls and Famous Koreans, Part XIII: Li Dian and Tablo (Epik High)


Daniel Armand Lee (Hangul/Hanja/Romanization: 이선웅/李選雄/Lee Seon-woong; born July 22, 1980), better known by his stage name Tablo (Hangul: 타블로) is a Korean-Canadian rapper, record producer, songwriter and actor. He is the member of Deoksan Yi Clan (덕산 이씨/德山李氏), a clan which is originated from the commune of Deoksan-myeon, Yesan County, Southern Chungcheong Province.

Born in Jakarta, Indonesia, he officially debuted as the leader and rapper for the Korean hip hop group Epik High under the record label Woollim Entertainment. Since their debut, Tablo has produced and co-written almost all the songs of Epik High alongside DJ Tukutz and Mithra Jin. He has also produced and been featured in many songs for several other artists. His work incorporates numerous musical styles, ranging from hip hop, to electronic music such as trance, trip hop, as well as rock.

Aside from his work with Epik High, he has collaborated with several artists, including group projects such as Eternal Morning and Anyband. Tablo has also made forays into acting, appearing in a number television dramas and films such as the fifth season of the sitcom, Nonstop (2005) and Fantastic Parasuicides (2007). Tablo was also the DJ for his own radio show, MBC FM4U's Tablo's Dreaming Radio and main presenter of KBS's Music Bank.

His family relocated several times to Indonesia, Switzerland and Hong Kong for his father's career until Tablo was six, when his family returned to his parents' home country, South Korea. His family again moved to Canada when he was eight. Tablo attended St. George's School until he was expelled for getting into a fight with another student in Grade 9. Tablo went to Seoul and spent three years in Seoul International School. Tablo was a coterminal student at Stanford University. He attained a Bachelor's Degree in English Literature and a Master's Degree in Creative Writing. Tablo started to play the piano when he was six, and switched to violin, which he played for 10 years. His music teacher, who is a pupil of Isaac Stern, used to lecture Tablo saying, "Music is communism, but you're playing democracy". However, he ceased to play violin as he was dismissed from the orchestra after suddenly playing the soundtrack of Jurassic Park while the orchestra was playing Brandenburg Concerto No.3 in a concert. In 1999, whilst he was still in high school, Tablo wrote the lyrics to Kim Gun-mo's song "Rainy Christmas", as Kim took an interest in Tablo after reading a poem of his.

During his early life, Tablo suffered from bouts of depression, the origins of which are unknown. According to Tablo, whenever he faced hardship, hip hop music served as an outlet for him and after his interest was sparked later in life, Tablo decided to make hip hop the focus of his career. However, Tablo's father, Lee Kwang-bu/이광부 disagreed in his career choice and tensions arose in the family as a result. Because of this, Tablo frequently tried to escape and leave home but eventually, he accepted his father's wishes and began to forget about music, ostensibly asking a friend to live out his own wishes to be making hip hop music. This same friend died of cancer sometime afterward, thus serving as an impetus for Tablo to re-enter the music industry at the behest of his dying friend. While he was in university, Tablo associated with an underground hip hop group, 4n Objectz, for three years.

Tablo met Mithra Jin and DJ Tukutz in the underground hip-hop scene. They formed Epik High and under the tutelage of Movement crew members, especially CB Mass (currently Dynamic Duo), they attempted to record their first record alongside hip-hop duo, and close friends, TBNY (composed of Yankie and TopBob). However, CB Mass member Curbin allegedly embezzled Epik High and TBNY's funds for their first studio album, effectively causing the disbandment of CB Mass (and the creation of Dynamic Duo without Curbin). Tablo and Epik High finally was signed by Woolim Entertainment, which at the time had focused on indie hip-hop and modern rock. Tablo made his official debut as the leader of the group Epik High in 2003 alongside DJ Tukutz and Mithra Jin. The group's first album, Map of the Human Soul was released on October 21, 2003. However, due to hip hop's lack of popularity in South Korea at the time, the album was a commercial failure. It wasn't until the release of their second album, High Society, when the group started to become more popular. Epik High's third album, Swan Songs, was originally intended to be their last album however, upon release, the album was number one on numerous charts, and swept the year end hip-hop awards. One of the lead singles from the album, "Fly", was featured on the soundtrack of the video game, FIFA 07. Due to the numerous offers to remake "Fly" as well as "Paris", the second single from the album, a CD sampler was released in Japan.

In 2007, the group released their fourth studio album, Remapping the Human Soul, and managed to push Epik High to the number one spot for best upcoming artist after selling almost 90,000 copies in the first month of release. The album ended becoming South Korea's third best-selling album of 2007. However, many songs from the album were banned from several channels and the album buying age was restricted to 19+ only due to some songs dealing with the issues that the Ministry of Culture and Tourism in South Korea deemed as inappropriate to younger listeners. The group later went on to release their next album, Pieces, Part One, which was also a commercial success.

In late 2008, Tablo published a book entitled Pieces of You. Although the stories were originally written in English, the book was first published in Korean. The Korean translation sold 50,000 copies in its first week of release and topped the bestseller's list in Korea. The original English version was released in February 2009 and was also met with moderate success. The book was met with positive critical reception with Tablo's writing being praised for a first-time author. After the group's contract with Woolim Entertainment expired in 2008, Tablo, alongside his group members, founded their own independent label, Map the Soul, and they went on to release an album of the same name. Through their independent label, the group went on to release two more albums; [e] in 2009, and Epilogue in 2010. In November 2013, Tablo revealed the reason of shutting down the label "Map the Soul" in his interview with HiphopLE that one of the executive member of Map The Soul embezzled the label's funds.

In 2010, it was announced that Epik High would go on hiatus after DJ Tukutz enlisted in his mandatory military service, whilst Tablo and Mithra would be working on solo careers until DJ Tukutz's return. However, in mid-2010, a group of internet users raised doubts about the academic background of Tablo, who majored in English and English Literature at Stanford University. Led by two fan sites, most notably "We Demand the Truth from Tablo" (Hangul: "타블로에게 진실을 요구합니다"; also known as "Tajinyo", Hangul: "타진요"), some netizens claimed that Tablo could not have graduated from Stanford University with both a Bachelor's Degree and Master's Degree in English and Creative Writing, respectively, in just three and a half years.

It became front-page news in Korea in June 2010, when one of the fansite's manager, who goes by the username, whatbecomes, claimed that that Tablo's academic record was "not making any sense" and showed what he believed to be inconsistencies in Tablo's transcripts. Even though Tablo posted his official transcript and other legal documents online, many netizens refused to believe him, and called for other documents such as his immigration statement and diploma to be released. Tablo visited Stanford University in late August to clear himself by having the University registrar re-print his documents on camera, and many of Tablo's acquaintances and former professors from Stanford attested to the validity of his academic background on camera. The documentary was shown in two parts: "Tablo Goes to Stanford", and "Tablo and South Korea Online", which respectively aired on MBC October 1 and 8. However, despite the documentary, and Stanford's administration clearly siding with Tablo, membership at "We Demand the Truth from Tablo" increased to as many as 190,000 within a few days, as numerous netizens refused to believe Tablo or the documentary. Tablo left Wooliment entertainment during the Tajinyo incident because the label did not follow through when it said it would help.

On October 9, however, police confirmed that Tablo had indeed graduated from Stanford, having requested information beyond what Tablo had already provided, directly from Stanford University. South Korean police filed an arrest warrant domestically and with Interpol for the arrest of whatbecomes, who was revealed to be a 57-year old Korean-American named Eung Kim living in the United States. In addition, twenty-two netizens received summons indicating they had been sued by Tablo for criminal defamation. The fansite was shut down soon after by its host site, Naver, following the results of the investigation, which also revealed that whatbecomes had fraudulently used a friend's ID number to create the website, violating Naver's terms of service. However, many members of the fansite joined another community called "We Demand the Truth from Tablo 2" (Hangul: "타블로에게 진실을 요구합니다2", or "타진요 2"; "Tajinyo-i" for short), which has a membership of over 33,000 netizens despite proof provided by both the university and the police that Tablo did indeed attend Stanford University.

On September 27, 2011 YG Entertainment announced that Tablo would be signing a 4-year contract with them and that his first solo album would be released on November 1. Although Tablo has signed as a solo singer under YG Entertainment, he indicated that it does not mean that Epik High has disbanded nor that they will necessarily sign to YG as a group. On October 14, 2011 Tablo released the song "Airbag" from his new upcoming album. On October 21, 2011 YG announced that the new album, titled Fever's End (Hangul:열꽃), had been split into two parts. The first part was released along with the recent announcement and the second part was released on the planned release date.

On September 27, 2012, YG officially announced through yg-life.com that Epik High would have their comeback in October 2012, after a three-year hiatus as a group. Their first single, "춥다" ("It's Cold") featured SBS's K-pop Star finalist Lee Hi and was released on October 9 and their comeback album entitled 99 was released on the 19th. On December 30, 2012, during the SBS Gayo Daejun Tablo joined fellow Epik High bandmate, Mithra Jin, Dynamic Duo and Simon D for Cypher 2012, a remix of popular hip-hop tracks of the year to much acclaim.

Tablo married Korean actress Kang Hye-jung in October 26, 2009. Their daughter is named Haru, born on May 2, 2010. In October 2013, Tablo joined KBS variety show "Superman is Back" with his daughter Haru. That day, Tablo broke his shoulder when he and his band mates (DJ Tukutz and Mithra Jin) performed live in China.

On April 21, 2014 Tablo returned as radio DJ. His show's name is "Tablo, Dreaming Radio". He was the same program's DJ until 2009. In March 2014, Tablo carried out a collaboration work with China’s top female singer Zhou Bichang.

Tablo has been a longtime fan of hip hop music, citing an almost lifelong affair with the culture itself. While listening to hip hop at an early age through artists such as Run-DMC and acquiring Cold Crush tapes, he concurrently gained recognition as a rhymer. His major and enduring love affair with making hip hop music was sparked later in life, however; after hearing Drunken Tiger rapping, the group "Epik High" was formed in 2000 at an early time in the culture's local evolution. Tablo has since claimed to be the first emcee to have used the "rhyming rifle" technique. With the hip hop scene in Korea and Korean emcees being known for their fickle tendencies, Tablo has through the years kept alive his legacy and career through numerous shows, appearances on influential overseas (American most notably) hip hop artists work, such as EPMD.


Epik High - Fly (Swan Songs/Black Swan Songs)


Tablo's Single - Bad feat. Jinsil (Fever's End Part 1)