Charlie Park, The Grad
UWEC grad explores tough topics through hip-hop
An Eau Claire native is finding a new way to better himself through positive music expression.
Charlie Park (a.k.a. Zachary Klein) – or as he is known in the musical community, Charlie Park The Grad – is a 25-year-old hip-hop artist with a deep love for lyricism and self-improvement. Originally hailing from Eau Claire and returning to earn an English degree from UW-Eau Claire, Park is no stranger to creating music. Playing bass and other instruments throughout his life, he knew what it was like to master another’s art, but, last year, some unfortunate events spurred a new creative journey from the young emcee.
Park has handled his fair share of heavy topics personally, as he has mentally processed being adopted by white parents from Korea when he was born. After receiving a cancer diagnosis, he decided in November to put pen to paper and vocals to a microphone to begin writing and recording his own flavor of hip-hop music. Park said getting to go down a new musical avenue was just what he needed to clear his head and soldier on.
“I make music to relieve the pressure I feel in my head, but, in the long run, music is all about communicating an experience and communicating a message. I want to start performing this music once it’s safe, and I’m looking forward to it.”
– Zachary Klein, a.k.a. Charlie Park The Grad
“I talk a lot about my anxiety and my depression,” Park said. “I was diagnosed with bipolar syndrome, so my music helps me flesh that out and express it in a positive way. I always ask myself if I ask people to listen to my music, then what are they going to get out of it? For me, I could write party lyrics, but it’s not what I want my name tied to. I want to talk about my unique experience and normalize topics like mental illness and adoption so they are easier to deal with.”
So far, Park has released his own self-titled EP, which he said is a mixture of hip-hop/jazz/pop music with a varying twist depending on whatever musical mood he gravitates toward in the moment. The record deals with a wide variety of topics, including the current COVID-19 pandemic. A track entitled “Virus,” deals with the racism Park has had to endure being Asian, and misinformed people falsely viewing him as a problem due to their perceptions about the coronavirus.
Park is currently working on a new record, which he said is going to be a better overall product chock full of deeper and more thought-provoking lyrics.
“I want it to better in terms of production, lyric composition, lyric structure, and how I record it,” Park said. “I do everything myself. and I’ve learned everything I know about music production through experimenting, watching YouTube videos and the internet in general. I just want a cleaner and more polished product.”
Due to COVID-19 concerns, Park has yet to be able to perform his music live. But, after the world goes back to normal and concerts become viable again, Charlie Park, the Grad said connecting with people face-to-face via music is the experience he will cherish the most throughout his career.
“A part of the reason I play music is I love the atmosphere and connection you get from performing live,” Park said. “I make music to relieve the pressure I feel in my head, but, in the long run, music is all about communicating an experience and communicating a message. I want to start performing this music once it’s safe, and I’m looking forward to it.”