G-Dragon and T.O.P are best known as the main rappers from one of the biggest idol groups on the K-Pop scene today – BIG BANG.
Individually, they have also each found success in many different areas of the entertainment industry, outside of BIG BANG’s borders.
T.O.P established his acting career quite a few years ago and managed to make his mark despite his idol status. Meanwhile, G-Dragon has become the model for so many different advertising campaigns you can barely count them and has found a enormous level of success pursuing his solo career.
It seemed that the pair wanted to pursue a slightly different sound to BIG BANG for a while; they began to fully embrace the Hip-Hop genre they love so much, adding their own flavour resulting in that self-titled “Ghetto Electro” sound they are now synonymous with.

Was it worth it or should they remain within the comfortable parameters of their original group?

Track 1: Intro

We are thrown straight into GD&TOP’s world thanks to this short track. The pair has cleverly incorporated every track name on the album into the lyrics and rap about who they are and what they represent. They seem eager to discard their “idol” status and look upon it with a high level of disdain. Listeners will notice a lot of sampling of previous Hip Hop tracks, which at first I am never too pleased to hear as I think it’s unoriginal and lazy of artists to do this (in MOST cases). However, in this context it makes a lot of sense. The two want to pay homage to the many rappers that have come before them and want to let the listeners know what sort of background their music comes from – they are laying the foundations down before they build their own house in a way.
UK Potential: 3/5 (I don’t see how this track could really be released as a single given the fact that it is an introduction to this album specifically, however it has a lot of attitude and their English pronunciation is pretty spot on).

Track 2: High High

This energetic track was the very first single they released, strapping to it a typical party-in-a-nightclub video that fully shows the world all that GD&TOP is about. Whilst blinged up to the back teeth in sparkly jewellery, it is clear to see they wanted to explode onto the scene as a new unit. With an incredibly infectious English hook-line and a thumping bass that makes you want to jump, the song has that simple message of wanting to go out a party the night away, to experience that “High” and forgot your stress. Listeners are also re-introduced to GD&TOP’s starkly contrasting voices that they could only experience briefly before in BIG BANG. On paper, these two would not coalesce in your wildest dreams, but as you will hear, the sound they produce goes together better than strawberries and cream (or if that’s not your taste *insert another clichéd pairing here *)
UK Potential: 5/5 (Sounds not dissimilar to the work of Far East Movement that found mainstream success here).

Track 3: Oh Yeah (Feat. Park Bom of 2NE1)

Fans of 2NE1 will rejoice at the familiar sound of Bommie’s booming vocals during the chorus of this song that, whilst at first can be quite a shock to the ears, soon becomes an element that gives the track almost ALL of its character. It seems as though GD&TOP wanted to add something to the track that gave it a complete twist and enlisted the help of their agency-mate Park Bom to do so. The song bounces along with a heavy beat behind electronic sounds with yet another contagious hook line in English that firmly embeds itself in your mind. After originally having a slight aversion to this song, it has now become one of my firm favourites on the album. It is also a genuine delight to watch GD, TOP and BOM perform this song live together as they all share a playful chemistry that you know can only accumulate from knowing one another for such a long time.
UK Potential: 2/5 (BOM’s contrasting vocals may scare some listeners off).

Track 4: Don’t Leave/Don’t Go Home.

This song is probably one of the most interesting on the album, just as much for its sound as for the controversy it caused. GD shows us once more that he can sing as well as rap as the song opens with vocals that are so soft they are bordering femininity. On first listen, it almost reminded me of Michael Jackson in its sound. The song is sweet, soft and insanely innocent sounding and, to the non-Korean speaking listener, it may make no sense why a song like this would be banned by MBC. However, I personally feel one cannot deny the “suggestive” nature of the lyrics when you look up the translation.

Yang Hyun Suk, the CEO of GD&TOP’s agency (YG Entertainment) was determined to override this decision, stating that the lyrics were not suggestive and refusing to make changes to any part of the song, but this ultimately was to no avail. In a strange way, I actually applaud GD&TOP for what I see as a clever concealment of inappropriate intentions through how they use language in the song. I can definitely see where MBC is coming from in their decision to ban the track…but I still think it’s a shame as it is a good track! They also created a great music video for it which they showed at Big Show 2011, but it is relatively hard to come by in good quality, presumably because of the multiple bans it has.
UK Potential: 3/5 (I think a Western audience might appreciate GD&TOP’s cheekiness a little bit more).

Track 5: Baby Good Night.

A romantic track is not really something that you would expect on this album, but that is exactly what you get!
The sound and lyrics are quite sensual and there are hints of sexual connotations, but the song remains very sweet and genuine. The track flows smoothly and GD’s soft voice leaves you feeling very relaxed and calm. There is not a lot else to say about this song other than that it is lovely and it really shows GD&TOP’s versatility as artists.
UK Potential: 4/5 (This song communicates a feeling that many can connect to – not wanting to say goodnight and leave a boyfriend or girlfriend after spending time together. I do think it would do well, but not as an attempt to initially break into the UK market).

Track 6: KNOCK OUT

Here we come to the one of the currently most listened to songs on my iPod. This song was also released with a music video and really shows that the pair means business on the Hip-Hop scene.
The duo teamed up with famous DJ DIPLO (who has also worked with the likes of Busta Rhymes).  The song has a sporadic and irregular electronic sound that is reminiscent of the instrument used in the Doctor Who theme. The track revamps a more “old school” Hip Hop feel and reminds me of Missy Elliot’s work in the 1990s. The MV is super stylish with a completely white set and lots of slim models dancing around. GD&TOP flaunt their unique fashion whilst sitting on designer furniture, popping bubblewrap. Yeah…it’s worth a watch!
UK Potential: 4/5 (I think the UK would love the strange style and catchy hook of this song).

Track 7: Oh Mom.

This track is a T.O.P solo song. The story that goes along with it is said by some to be that it’s a song T.O.P created as a dedication to a fan. This fan apparently wrote a letter to T.O.P asking to meet him as they were terminally ill and wanted to fulfil their wish to meet their idol before they died.
Allegedly, T.O.P ignored the request as it is a sadly common occurrence for fans to feign illnesses in order to try and meet their idols. The fan supposedly died and T.O.P was informed by a video sent by the fan’s family, after the viewing of which he reportedly cried.
The lyrics to this song certainly do match up to this story, but one does hope it is untrue in any case as it is so heart-wrenchingly sad.
The songs style is more like a rock song in parts, which illustrates the intense feelings that T.O.P has here. T.O.P begins by describing how the fan (possibly) must have felt towards him and proceeds to go into the aftermath of guilt that has tormented him after the news of this fans death and thus, the confirmation that the request was entirely genuine. T.O.P pleads to his mother to tell him what he should do now, in a way that seems like he has regressed to his childhood as a result of their despair he has been overwhelmed by.
The song is beautiful and horrendously upsetting at the same time. I highly recommend that people look up the English version of the lyrics with the fan’s story in mind.
UK Potential: 4/5 (I definitely think anyone can empathize with the pain T.O.P has felt, the song has to affect anyone who listens to it in some sort of way).


Track 8: Obsession/Nightmare.

Anyone who has heard and seen the incredibly dark MV for G-Dragon’s track “She’s Gone” (which was shown during his “Shine a Light” solo concert) will probably be able to see why this track has become known by fans as “She’s Gone part 2”. The lyrics tell the harrowing story of a man obsessed with an ex-girlfriend that has betrayed him.
This person constantly recalls her face in his mind and promises to forgive her if she would only come back to him. One is lead to think that the individual proceeds to brutally murder the woman as he is consumed by his obsession. The song ends with the man realising what he has done to the one he loves after begging her to smile for him.
Clearly this song is very heavy in its content; however the track does not pull you into a state of depression. Yet again, GD explores the darker side of human relationships through his work, but where “She’s Gone” expresses anger towards a lover’s betrayal, “Obsession” shows the much more vulnerable a complex thought processes of the one betrayed.
UK Potential: 2/5 (Though this is a powerful song, it is understandable why this remains an album track rather than a single release. It doesn’t seem to have that “mainstream” formula).

Track 9: Of All Days.

Another T.O.P solo, this song offers us a crazily catchy chorus that embeds itself in your mind after just one listen. T.O.P seems to sing of someone he cannot get out of his mind no matter how hard he tries to and he is suffering a lot as a result. It seems that when he stops fighting the thoughts, it is the only time he can feel free and comfortable again. Despite the fact that the lyrics show us quite a horrible situation for someone to be in, the sound is a relatively happy one. It communicates that idea of: “I really hate it like this, but I wouldn’t have it any other way because it’s all caused by you.”
Whilst I can’t say I have ever experienced these feelings myself, one can definitely empathise as it is a common thing to have to suffer a little bit for loved ones in life.
UK Potential: 4/5 (It’s a good song with a relatable concept that a lot of western songs also seem to communicate).

Track 10: What Do You Want?

To describe this song in a word, I would say “crazy”…
It’s another G-Dragon solo, taken from his “Shine A Light” Concert album. The tune is actually taken from the song “Shazam” by Duane Eddy which accounts for it country swing sound. The lyrics tell of a guy that keeps himself in a constant state of drunkenness in order to get over the fact that a woman he treated well left him for another man. This song is incredibly fun and energetic, mimicking that feeling of wanting to get back at someone as he shouts childish taunts (“You meanie!”).
UK Potential: 3/5 (I would only recommend this be released in the UK if they were already established artists, it does work perfectly as a treat for fans on an album though).

Track 11: Turn It Up.

Here we have another T.O.P solo, it was previously released as a single in 2009. Those of you that are familiar with Jay Z’s music will not be able to deny the striking similarities between this song and Jay Z’s “On to the Next One” in both song composition and MV concept. Personally, I found this quite disappointing as I feel T.O.P has enough talent and character to not need to adapt other rapper’s work. However, it is understandable as Jay-Z is probably a big source of inspiration for him.
This song is a typical Hip Hop song. The lyrics speak of affluence and wealth and T.O.Ps proclivity for designer labels. However, his unique deep and gravelly vocals help give the song an interesting twist. It seems as though T.O.P could make a nursery rhyme sound cool if he rapped it (next album maybe?).
I still find T.O.P to be quite an enigma. Throughout the MV, you can see his playful side come out briefly before it is quickly covered up again by charisma and I think that is part of the reason why girls go crazy for him.
UK Potential: 2/5 (I don’t think T.O.P would get away with the Jay-Z imitation if it was released over here).


Not unlike other K-Pop album packages, the album comes in a good quality, thick cardboard and plastic casing. There is an attached lyrics book, complete with pictures of both G-Dragon and T.O.P looking their best with creative designs and layouts. You can also get the large A3 poster of them both.
Rating: 3/5 (Really nice, but not ground-breaking for South Korean album packaging! :P)

(Credits for image: Google Images)

To answer the question posed in the introduction, it would seem that it was incredibly wortrhwhile for GD&TOP to break off from BIG BANG and pursue their own path.
YG Entertainment is offering some of the most hard-hitting Hip Hop artists on the South Korean music scene today, but what I like most about YG artists is that they add their own flavour to what they produce. It’s easy to take what the likes of Dr Dre has done and churn it out again, but these guys are taking it as inspiration and then doing their own thing. Kind of like saying: “Yeah, I like what you did there Snoop Dogg, but we’re gonna try it this way.”
I am not a huge fan on Hip Hop in any sense, but GD&TOP have managed to give me an entirely new view on the genre as a whole.
The two of them unashamedly exageratte the Hip Hop cliches of Bling and B*tches whilst offering us songs with real substance and depth. I think these guys would probably do quite well if they aimed themselves at the UK market.
If you like the Hip Hop and music from artists like Far East Movement, I highly recommend that you give GD&TOP a listen.

Click here to check out GD&TOP on YesAsia

What do you think of this review? Do you agree with us? Let us know in the comments!

This is one in our series of K-pop album reviews. You can read them all here.

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