When Correy Parks recounts the moment he decided to pursue music, it sounds like the rapper is sharing a scene from a heart-wrenching Hollywood drama.

When Correy Parks recounts the moment he decided to pursue music above all else, it sounds like the rapper is sharing a scene from a heart-wrenching Hollywood drama.

"The night [my oldest sister] passed away [in 2013 due to complications related to lupus], I was driving to see my other sister," said Columbus native Parks, the youngest of three siblings. "I remember I was crying, and I passed this billboard that [read] 'Your life starts now.' And it just stuck with me. It was like, 'I can't wait anymore. I have to get to it. For her. For myself.' That's what started this whole thing."

In the years since, Parks has immersed himself more fully in his music, turning out a string of EPs that document the winding path he's taken from those childhood years he spent living in the now-demolished Woodland Meadows apartment complex, a gang-and-drug infested area commonly referred to as Uzi Alley. Collectively, these releases serve as signposts marking Parks' path, and even the titles convey a spirit of travel: The Layover, The Road Less Traveled and the forthcoming full-length effort Seoul Sabbatical, which the rapper expects to release sometime this year.

Though Parks' journey has been filled with myriad twists and turns, he's always maintained a strong sense of self. "I grew up in Uzi Alley, but I wasn't out messing with people selling drugs. I was in my room reading Harry Potter," Parks said. "I was always into what I liked to do. I never conformed to fit in anywhere. I was always observing and thinking and doing my own thing."

This curious, questioning personality frequently bleeds over into the rapper's verses, which explore issues of spirituality, inequality and love. At times, Parks loses himself in thought - "Once again up in my mind/ Feel like I'm in here all the time," he rhymes on the dreamy "Alone Again" - but more often he's finding new ways to engage with the world around him and wrestling with where he fits in it, or if he even has that desire.

"My whole life has been pushing that boundary of what people expect me to be," Parks said. "I have other rappers telling me, 'Oh, you're never going to make it in Columbus. You need to leave, and you need to do this and you need to do that.' But I've always realized there's no set path. Everything up to now has been, 'How do I do it in my own way?'"

A self-described introvert by nature, it took Parks significant time to develop a comfort level with inviting audiences in, though he's started to do so with increasing frequency. With The Road Less Traveled, for example, the rapper opened up about subjects he never thought he'd be comfortable discussing in song, including his sister's death and a recent bank foreclosure on the family's home.

"It's always scary to put yourself out there, but I've discovered the most powerful thing you can do is be vulnerable," Parks said. "I'm a guarded person, and I don't like to express all the details of my life, but this is the time and the place and the medium to really tell my story and to let everyone know we're all going through it, and we're all OK."