G-Dragon is one of the, if not the biggest, names in the K-Pop industry. For many, it’s his group Big Bang which got them into this rapidly-expanding genre of music. Recognised as a innovator in music and fashion, the rapper has penned 22 number one songs, and is credited for production for not only his own releases, but also for those by Big Bang and solos by his bandmates. Although Big Bang are currently on hiatus, leader G-Dragon is about to set off onto the European leg of his M.O.T.T.E World Tour.
In support of his self-titled EP Kwon Ji Yong, the rapper has embarked on the M.O.T.T.E. World Tour. M.O.T.T.E. itself means “mother’s womb” or “from birth” in Korean (모태), but also serves as an acronym for ‘Moment Of Truth The End’. For the USA and Europe, it is the largest tour by a Korean artist, but it is the largest concert tour ever conducted by a Korean solo artist. In celebration of this, we’ve written mini-reviews on all of his solo albums, explaining his growth as an artist!
“You can call us the leaders of the new school” are some of the first bars spat on the eight track of G-Dragon’s debut solo effort. It’s a bold statement to make, but with already established YG Entertainment songwriter and producer, Teddy, saying it, it’s easy to believe. Turning 21 years-old on the same day as the release of Heartbreaker, GD is doing remarkably well for himself as the leader of Big Bang; a group who had recently blown up in South Korea and were on track to be the one of the biggest boy-bands in the world, raking in $44 million in 2016; more than N*Sync in 2002. But, in 2009, they were yet to reach this level of international fame.
Heartbreaker has several memorable tracks, such as the quirky “A Boy” and some memorable collaborations. “She’s Gone” featuring KUSH sounds like it was pulled straight out of a 90s Hip-hop cassette. Its style foreshadows G-Dragon’s collaboration with hip-hop sensation Missy Elliott only a few years later. But, the amount of collaborations with well-known artists on this album indicate G-Dragon’s need to associate himself with already established artists in order to truly feel grounded. There’s a sense of insecurity in that. But, with the record becoming the best-selling by a South Korean solo artist since its release almost a decade ago, it’s nothing he should have worried about.
It’s a valiant effort from G-Dragon, but as a body of work, it is overshadowed by the rest of his discography; not just in quality, but also in intricacy and intimacy. This album really helped G-Dragon become an artist that is taken seriously, as it was paired with a long-lasting, extensive solo tour.
One of a Kind (EP)
The title track has an incredibly Americanised sound, and a deep bass line which isn’t too dissimilar from contemporary hip-hop and rap tracks; think 50 Cents “Baby By Me” or Jay-Z’s “Run This Town”. But, follow-up “Crayon” offers something completely different; an energetic, eccentric club banger. Since Heartbreaker there has been clear progression, with more versatility and unpredictability from the rapper. He really takes creative risks, such as featuring unknown (and at the time anonymous) YG trainees; a serious gamble for an already well established musician. However, it definitely paid off with the mellow “Without You”, which features BlackPink’s Rose. Read our complete review here!
Coup d’Etat has a lot of electro-sounding elements in it, but effects such as the closing guitar riff on R.O.D., Jennie Kim’s vocals on “Black” really make this more than a hip-hop album. The experimentation which created individual songs on Heartbreaker and One of a Kind are coming together, creating tracks with a blend of genres. It’s a carefully constructed piece of work, and it really shows a sense of personal revolution and turmoil that the lyrics “This is my coup d’etat” suggest. The music video for the titular track is decked out with personal symbolism, really offering an insight into G-Dragon’s mind and creative framework.
There’s lots of different cultural influences taking place on this album, and this diversity is what has aided G-Dragon and Big Bang in their world domination. Diplo and Bauer feature on “Coup D-Etat”, Missy Elliott features on the second track “Niliria”, and there are several references to American pop culture are scattered throughout the record, especially on “Who You”. He even dabbles with a more rock-based sound, such as in the personal “Crooked”, which has a music video set in some of East London’s backstreets; an area overlooked by the media. The implementation of a traditional Korean song in “Niliria” clearly displays his Korean heritage; although he has been all over the world, he has not forgotten his roots. It is also this contribution which makes the track feel like Missy Elliott is stepping into his world, and not the other way around. Unlike Heartbreaker, where collaborations felt like a sense of security, this is purely personal preference and artistic vision. G-Dragon has the upper hand.
The openness of Coup d’Etat in describing G-Dragon’s current struggles is what really pushes it ahead of other releases, and bridges the gap between the even more musically diverse and personal Kwon Ji-Yong.
If you had previously seen into G-Dragon as an artist, on Kwon Ji-Yong, you are being introduced to the man himself. The writing on the USB stick is copied directly from G-Dragon’s birth certificate, and is his mother’s handwriting. The USB Stick features red paint which is easily removed, symbolising Ji-Yong’s birth. Heartbreaker may have been released on G-Dragon’s birthday, but Kwon Ji-Yong runs for 18:08, which eagle-eyed fans may note is his birthday. The rapper is inside of his work. In fact, the packaging and timing of the EP in itself makes a statement about the music industry; the public take home part of an artist. Artists are bought and sold in exchange for celebrity status. In this respect, it’s an incredibly damming and bold statement to make.
It’s the most intimate and musically diverse of GD’s solo albums; both musically and in terms of physical construction. It’s so carefully made, and has opened up a whole can of worms in the music industry; is a USB with a download link instead of the album track considered an album? What would happen when more content, such as new music videos, became available on the USB; would it make the album re-chart?
The record topped the Worldwide iTunes Album Chart, reaching number one in 46 countries; a record for Korean artists. After a week of sales, the album sold over 1 million copies in China alone. The references to previous work, personal life and art he displays on Instagram makes this EP incredibly lyrically dense, in a way not often done. You truly see the personal struggle he has between the G-Dragon persona and Kwon Ji-Yong, and how this idol persona has changed him. He strikes hard with tracks like “Bullshit” but shows his rarely seen tender side in “Untitled, 2014”. You can read a track by track review here.
G-Dragon is undoubtedly a “Super Star”, but some of the heartfelt lyrics suggest a lack of personal fulfilment. With there being so much thought and preparation going into the album, it will be interesting to see what the tour will be like. G-Dragon can only go up from here, and performing at Wembley is one way to do it. Watch the trailer for the European leg of the world tour here:
Will you be going to any of GD’s shows? If you still haven’t bought your tickets yet, there are still some available here!