“This K-pop category ain’t enough size for me,” Suga claims on the title track of Agust D as he lays a fierce rap over the pulsating beat.
Just weeks after spitting “Fire” at the Staples Center at KCON LA alongside the rest of his boy bandmates in BTS, Agust D brings Suga’s (Min Yoongi) career path and difficulties to the forefront with an old-school rap style. The swaggering rapper took on his and the K-pop industry’s naysayers in his first mixtape, which dropped on Monday (Tuesday in South Korea). He is the second member of BTS to release a mixtape, following Rap Monster’s RM last year.
Throughout the impassioned 10-track Agust D, Suga added a new element to his career, separating his mixtape artistry from what he’s released with BTS as one of the group’s most prominent songwriters and lyricists. To cut ties with his identity as a K-pop idol and highlight his underground influences, the mixtape was released eponymously under the name Agust D, combining his stage name spelled backward with the initials of “Daegu Town,” referencing his hometown in southern South Korea.
Setting the stage as an outsider, the mixtape begins with a fierce declaration of Suga’s success in a quick intro and title track, both of which sample the seemingly anachronistic James Brown’s “It’s a Man’s Man’s Man’s World” for added pizzazz. (“Agust D” also features a shout-out to Billboard as he aggressively expresses his lofty goals.) Following with “Give It to Me,” an attack against those who would like to see him fail, the first part of Agust D is pure bombast. Things slow down for a skit in which Suga reminds the listener that this is his own music, something that is entirely separate from his identity within BTS.
Agust D then transitions into the raw reality of depression, OCD and social phobia that has plagued Suga between the time he left his hometown to pursue his dream in Seoul and the anguish he’s felt about selling out. Unusually frank for Korea, where suicide is prevalent and mental health care faces extreme stigma, the mixtape climaxes with “The Last,” as Suga relates seeking psychiatric help and coming to terms with the fact that he is in fact an idol and part of the mainstream pop industry. Whether that’s selling out or not is left up to the listener with the next track, the Scarface-evoking “Tony Montana,” on which Suga and featured artist Yankie lay out the dangers of success.
Ending with an interlude, “Dream, Reality,” and “So Far Away” featuring Korean indie singer Suran, Agust D finishes with the contradictory desire for the reality of life to be nothing more than a dream while at the same time urging his army of listeners to dream on.
Intense in its vulnerability, Agust D was entirely produced by Suga, something atypical within the K-pop world. After being made available for free through a variety of download and streaming sites, “AgustD” trended worldwide on Twitter following album’s release. The accompanying music video for “Agust D” also saw immediate success, and was viewed more than 1 million times within 12 hours of appearing on YouTube.