Daniel Armand Lee better known by his stage name Tablo (Hangul: 타블로)
is a Korean rapper,record producer, songwriter and actor
Tablo 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.
1980–2003: Early life and career beginnings
Tablo was born in Jakarta, Indonesia on July 22, 1980. 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. His family again moved to Canada when he
was eight. Tablo attended St. George's Boarding Schoolin Vancouver until his roommate
Nicolas Tse and himself were both expelled for getting into a fight with an older student in
Grade 9. Consequently, Tablo returned to South Korea and spent three years in Seoul
International School. Tablo was a coterminal student at Stanford University.
He simultaneously attained a Bachelor's Degree in English Literature and a Master's
Degree in Creative Writing in only three and a half years.
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 him 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 disagreed in his career choice and tension
arose in the family. As a result, Tablo frequently ran away from home, but he eventually
accepted his father's wishes and began studying for the Law School Admission Test.
Ostensibly, Tablo then asked a friend to live out his music dream, but that same friend died
of cancer sometime afterwards, thus serving as an impetus for Tablo to re-enter the music
industry at the behest of his dying friend. 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). However, CB Mass member Curbin
allegedly embezzled Epik High and TBNY's funds for their first studio album, effectivel
y 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. 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 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.