Korean rapper and actor T.O.P, one fifth of K-pop heavyweights BIGBANG, begins his mandatory military service on Thursday, Feb. 9. For a period of almost two years, the artist will serve his country and take a break from the entertainment world.
But while there’s been some reluctance to say goodbye from his bandmates, time will pass quickly and the deep-voiced rapper will be back. In the meantime, here are some of T.O.P’s most memorable moments to tide you over while waiting for his return.
“D.I.S.C.O” by Uhm Jung Hwa (2008)
T.O.P joined influential Korean diva Uhm Jung Hwa on her 2008 hit, where his rapid-fire rhymes added depth to the electropop dance number. Although his part was minimal as a featured artists, the rapper’s addition helped propel the disco-themed song’s success. The two reunited last year to perform an updated version of “D.I.S.C.O,” one of T.O.P’s final broadcast performances before his enlistment.
“Friend” with Taeyang (2009)
Part of the soundtrack from a Korean television show by the same name, “Friend” brought together the sentimental R&B styling of fellow BIGBANG member Taeyang with T.O.P’s domineering tone. Despite the auto-tune, the rapper’s intense delivery of the rhythmic verses drove the song’s compelling sound.
“Hallelujah” with Taeyang and G-Dragon (2009)
Acting as an assassin in the popular Korean spy drama IRIS, T.O.P and two other BIGBANG members contributed to the soundtrack with this song. His precise rap in “Hallelujah” was juxtaposed with the sound of gunshots and wolfish howls, adding a darker edge to both the track and T.O.P’s dramatic delivery of his verses.
“Turn It Up” (2010)
His first solo single, T.O.P’s 2010 song was filled with the boastful tone that the artist would come to showcase throughout much of his following work. Unlike most K-pop singles, “Turn It Up” doesn’t feature any singing from T.O.P nor from a featured artist. Instead, it’s a pure rap track and overflowing with the confident, almost mocking, tone that the rapper tends to favor.
“High High” as GD&TOP (2011)
T.O.P and G-Dragon joined together in 2011 to form BIGBANG sub-unit GD&TOP and this team’s work has featured some of T.O.P’s most colorful moments as a performer. If “Turn It Up” introduced T.O.P’s swaggering mannerisms, “High High” brought it to a new level with his repetitive raps on this pump up electropop jam. Plus, his chant of “G-H-E-T-T-O E-L-E-C-T-R-O” remains one of the most catchy and baffling moments of Bigbang’s career.
“Knockout” as GD&TOP (2011)
The Diplo-produced “Knockout” is an electronic hip hop frenzy all about GD&TOP’s high-flying lifestyle, and is one of the duo’s most over the top productions. Featuring synth wails and a scratching beat blended with T.O.P and G-Dragon’s boastful lyrics, “Knockout” is off-kilter K-pop at its best.
“Fantastic Baby” (2012)
Up till now, the list has been absent of BIGBANG group efforts simply because T.O.P’s low-bass voice is such an integral part to the group’s sound that it would be practically impossible to pick out a handful of songs where he’s at his best. But the rapper’s meme-worthy tagline in “Fantastic Baby” deserves a shout out as one of his defining career moments. The 2012 banger was BIGBANG’s first hit to garner international attention and T.O.P was one of the primary reasons. “Boom shakalaka” anyone?
“Don’t Leave Me Alone” by Pixie Lott (2012)
T.O.P and G-Dragon collaborated with British singer Pixie Lott on this song, the only English-language track that he released since BIGBANG’s start in 2006. His smooth flow translated well between the two languages and his impassioned rap beseeching “Don’t Leave Me Alone” matches T.O.P’s status as a Korean sex symbol.
“Doom Dada” (2013)
No other T.O.P performance can really compare to his latest solo effort; “Doom Dada” is a hard-hitting alt hip-hop track that thrives on complexity. The melody is magnetizing with its whirring synths, tribal beats, and chanting, all of which pale in comparison to the rapper’s aggressive, multi-tonal delivery of his verses. Though T.O.P’s deep tone is inseparable from Bigbang’s identity, it is “Doom Dada” where T.O.P revealed his true artistry.
“Zutter”as GD&TOP (2015)
The long awaited follow-up to “Knockout,” the braggarts GD&TOP returned with “Zutter” on BIGBANG’s Made album. The song contrasted G-Dragon and T.O.P’s spits and flows with a trap-driven melody, the natural progression from their earlier tracks as a duo. Matching its eccentric style, “Zutter” was accompanied by a music video that showed just how bizarre the pair can actually be.
“Last Dance” (2016)
As the title suggests, “Last Dance” was T.O.P’s final release with BIGBANG before he enlisted. The melancholic pop rock ballad was a poignant swan song, featuring the lyrics “It won’t be long” and ending with a sentimental rap from T.O.P.