Daniel Armand Lee (Korean: Lee Seon-woong; (Hangul: 이선웅); born July 22, 1980), known professionally as Tablo (Hangul: 타블로), is a Korean-Canadian rapper, record producer, songwriter, author, and entrepreneur who's currently based in South Korea. Tablo is best known as the leader and producer of veteran Korean hip-hop group Epik High, and the founder of independent music label HIGHGRND (High Ground), which houses band Hyukoh.
Tablo became employed as a lyricist while still in high school. After completing his studies, Tablo returned to Korea to pursue music against his parents' wishes. In 2001, Tablo formed Epik High alongside DJ Tukutz and Mithra Jin. The group has after released 10 full-length albums and 1 EP, with Tablo having produced and co-written all the songs. His debut solo album, Fever's End, was released in 2011.
Outside of Epik High, Tablo is a record producer and songwriter for additional artists and involved in collaborative projects such as Borderline, Eternal Morning, and Anyband. His music incorporates numerous styles, ranging from trance, trip hop, to rock. Tablo is additionally the author of the best-selling book Pieces of You, published in both English and Korean. He made his film debut acting in Nonstop (2005). In 2016, Tablo left his radio show, MBC FM4U's Tablo's Dreaming Radio, after eleven years to focus on HIGHGRND.
Life and career
1980–2003: Early life and career beginnings
Tablo was born in Jakarta, Indonesia on July 22, 1980. His family relocated several times to Switzerland and Hong Kong for his father's career until Tablo was six, when they returned to South Korea briefly. His family moved again to Canada when he was eight. Tablo attended St. George's School in Vancouver until he was expelled for pushing an older student off the stairs. Consequently, he transferred to Seoul International School. As a coterminal student at Stanford University, Tablo simultaneously attained a Bachelor's Degree in English literature and a Master's Degree in creative writing in three years. Tablo has an older sister and an older brother, who graduated from Cornell University and Columbia University respectively.
Tablo started to play the piano when he was six, and switched to violin, which he played for 10 years. His music teacher, who had been a pupil of Isaac Stern, used to lecture him saying: "Music is communism, but you're playing democracy". Notwithstanding 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 1998, 17 years old Tablo wrote the lyrics for legendary Korean singer 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. Whenever he faced hardship, hip hop music served as an outlet. Notwithstanding Tablo's father disapproved of his career choice, so as a teenager, he frequently ran away from home. Ostensibly, Tablo asked a friend to live out his dream, but when that friend died of cancer, it became an impetus for him to re-enter the music industry. Tablo later admitted his family forced him to enrol in Stanford, and even after the release of his second album, was still persuading him to return to the United States to attend Law School. While he was at Stanford, Tablo associated with an underground hip hop group, 4n Objectz, for three years.
2003–10: Success with Epik High and Pieces of You
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). Notwithstanding 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 were finally signed by Woolim Entertainment, which at the time focused on underground 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. Notwithstanding 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, that 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 became 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 up fitting South Korea's third best-selling album of 2007. Notwithstanding a large number of songs from the album were banned from several channels and the album buying age was restricted to 19+ due to a few songs dealing with issues the Ministry of Culture and Tourism in South Korea deemed inappropriate for younger listeners. The group later went on to release their next album, Pieces, Part One, which was additionally a commercial success.
In late 2008, Tablo published a book entitled Pieces of You. Although the storeys 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 additionally met with moderate success. The book garned a positive reception from critics, with Tablo's writing 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.
2010–11: Musical hiatus and Stanford controversy
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. Notwithstanding in mid-2010, after allegations by Dan Lee's own cousin Samuel Seungmin Cho (owner of Invent Capture LLC) who additionally went to Stanford, 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"; additionally known as "Tajinyo", Hangul: "타진요"), a few netizens claimed that Tablo couldn't 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 managers, who goes by the username whatbecomes, claimed 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 additional legal documents online, a large number of netizens refused to believe him, and called for additional documents such as his immigration statement and diploma to be released. Tablo visited Stanford University in late August to disprove these allegations by having the University registrar re-print his documents on camera, and a large number of 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 aired on MBC October 1 and 8. Notwithstanding notwithstanding the documentary and Stanford's administration clearly siding with Tablo, membership at "We Demand the Truth from Tablo" increased to as a large number of as 190,000 within a few days, as numerous netizens refused to believe Tablo or the documentary. Tablo and members of his family received death threats and he became a virtual recluse. Tablo ultimately left Wooliment entertainment throughout the Tajinyo incident, not wanting to spread harm to the agency or to Infinite, who had only recently debuted when the controversy broke out.
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 Eungsuk 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 additionally revealed that whatbecomes had fraudulently used a friend's ID number to create the website, violating Naver's terms of service. Notwithstanding a large number of 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 notwithstanding proof provided by both the university and the police that Tablo did indeed graduate from Stanford University.
2011-current: Return, solo career and Epik High comeback
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 signed as a solo singer under YG Entertainment, he indicated that it didn't mean that Epik High disbanded, nor that they would necessarily sign with 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, while their comeback album, titled 99, was released on the 19th. On December 30, 2012, throughout 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.
In October 2013, Tablo joined KBS variety show The Return of Superman with his daughter Haru.
On April 21, 2014, Tablo returned as radio DJ. His show's name is Tablo's Dreaming Radio. He was the DJ for this same programme until 2009.
In March 2014, Tablo carried out a collaboration with China's top female singer Bibi Zhou.
On October 18, 2014, Epik High released their music video for "Born Hater", after the video was delayed by YG due to the Pangyo Techno Valley Festival Tragedy. The track is from their eighth album, SHOEBOX, and features a myriad of hip hop artists including Beenzino, Verbal Jint, Song Min-ho of YG's latest group WINNER, and YG artists B.I and Bobby, who're part of YG Entertainment's boy group iKON.
Tablo married Korean actress Kang Hye-jung on October 26, 2009. Their daughter, Haru, was born on May 2, 2010.
Tablo has been a long-time 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-D.M.C. 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 after 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.
In 2008, Tablo published a collection of short storeys he had written, titled Pieces of You. The English translation was published in 2009.
|Title||Album details||Track listing||Peak chart positions||Sales|
|Fever's End: Part 1||12||–||4||KOR: 11,099|
|Fever's End: Part 2||13||21||2|
|"—" denotes releases that didn't chart or weren't released in that region.|
As lead artist
|2005||"Rhapsody of Rain"||–||–|
|2008||"Eternal Morning" (with Pe2ny)||4||–|
|2011||"Airbag" (feat. Naul of Brown Eyed Soul)||4||5|
|"Bad" (feat. Jinsil)||3||4|
|"Tomorrow" (feat. Taeyang)||2||3|
|"—" denotes releases that didn't chart or weren't released in that region.|
As featured performer
|2006||"I'm Coming" (Rain feat. Tablo)||1|
|"Rainbow" (Infinite Flow feat. Tablo and JW)||4|
|2007||"Talk Play Love" (Tablo, BoA, Xiah Jun-su and Jin Bo-ra)||1|
|"Promise U" (Tablo, BoA, Xiah Jun-su and Jin Bo-ra)||3|
|"Daydream" (Tablo, BoA, Xiah Jun-su and Jin Bo-ra)||10|
|2008||"I Love You" (Navi feat. Tablo)||1|
|"—" denotes releases that didn't chart or weren't released in that region.|
|2002||"New Joint (Remix)"|
|2005||"Let Me Love You"|
|"School of Hip-hop"|
|2007||"The 'M' Style"|
|"It's All Over Anyway"|
|"Memory (Rap Mix)"|
|"When the Sunshine Comes"|
|2010||"Smiles & Crys"|
- 2004: "이력서" (Dynamic Duo)
- 2004: "Sky High" (Nonstop 4 soundtrack)
- 2005: "Campus Love Story" (Cho PD)
- 2006: "내일은 오니까" (Paloalto & The Quiett)
- 2006: "남자라서 웃어요" (Kim Jang Hoon featuring Mithra Jin)
- 2006: "Never Know" (by Lim Jeong Hee)
- 2006: "Rain Bow" (Infinity Flow)
- 2007: "여자라서 웃어요" (Sim Soo-bong featuring Mithra Jin)
- 2007: "Talk Play Love" (Anyband)
- 2012: "Style" (Rania)
- 2013: "Turn it up" (Lee Hi)
- 2013: "Special" (Lee Hi)
- 2013: "Fool" (Lee Hi)
- 2014: "Rise" (Taeyang)
- 2014: "Let go" (Taeyang)
- 2014: "Love you to death" (Taeyang)
- 2016: "Three words" (Sechskies)
|2015||27||"Daydream" (featuring Borderline: Tablo & Nell's Kim Jong-wan)||Yes||Kim Jong-wan||No||Kim Jong-wan|
|2007||Fantastic Parasuicides||Min-ho||Main role|
|August Rush||Clarinet player||Cameo appearance; uncredited|
|2004||Epik High's Love and Delusion||Himself||Series regular|
|2005||Nonstop||Tablo||Main role; season 5|
|2007||High Kick!||Teacher||Cameo appearance (Episode 150)|
|2008||Woman of Matchless Beauty||Himself||Cameo appearance (Episodes 7 & 8)|
|Music Bank||Co-host||Alongside Kim Sung-eun and Min Seo-hyun|
|2009||Mnet Director's Cut||Himself||Television movie|
|Come To Play||Himself||Ep 262 - Movement Special|
|2010||Happy Together||Himself||Celebrity guest (Season 3, Episode 144)|
|Happy Birthday||Himself||Series regular|
|2012||Strong Heart||Himself||Celebrity guest alongside YG Family|
|Healing Camp, Aren't You Happy||Himself||Celebrity guest (November 5th)|
|2013||The Return of Superman||Himself||Series Regular|
|2014||Show Me the Money 3||Himself||Producer/Judge|
|2015||Show Me the Money 4||Himself||Producer/Judge|
|2016||Please Take Care of My Refrigerator||Himself||Celebrity Guest alongside Simon Dominic (Season 1, Episode 64,65)|
|Year||Music video||Length||Album||Official MV on YouTube|
|2011||Bad (나쁘다)||4:07||Fever's End: Part 1 (열꽃)|
|Tomorrow (Feat. Taeyang)||4:14||Fever's End: Part 2 (열꽃)|
|2011||Mnet Asian Music Awards||Best Rap Performance||"Bad"||Nominated|