As I clear my throat, reach for a microphone and scream out “Fight me!” upon promptly mounting my soapbox, I declare that the “Agust’D” mixtape (2016) was one of the greatest musical hip-hop/rap releases of its time, domestically and internationally, and will continue to be a part of the litmus test of artistry for many artists. Again, fight me on this.
I’ve sat on this op-ed for well over a year (obviously, as it’s minutes before we ring in the year 2018). I fully confess that I am a fan who has struggled for months to write this piece without bias. Opinion editorial is based upon the writer’s opinion, but I can’t create a good piece if I’m fangirling in every other sentence. Most importantly, I needed to source the facts. So, here we go.
Receipts are hyperlinked where necessary, netizens.
As of Dec. 31, Min Yoongi‘s mixtape has had over 145,000 listens and over 34,000 reposts on various Soundcloud accounts. Yes, there are more artists on Soundcloud who have higher rankings, his group mates included, but under the moniker Agust’D (DT for Daegu Town, the city he was reared in, followed by Suga spelled backwards) he ranked as one of the top twenty mixtapes of 2016 by FuseTV. He was the only non-native English speaker referenced on that list. He was the only one with the most geographical and cultural distance so closely associated with “real rap.” With a mighty effort, on the freemium tip, Suga took K-pop by the throat and shook it, foaming at the mouth by choice, not by rabid circumstance.
And here we are, possibly hollerin’ out “YAASS!” and “Say that!” as I restrain myself from waxing any more poetically than I already have before. (Viewer discretion advised.)
Not once have I stifled my awe of the work done with this year old mixtape. It is a piece of art because of the story it tells — the unexpected, oft ignored, “dark side” to the exploits of the Korean pop industry. It did not slink away from speaking about depression, jacked-up things we tell ourselves when no one’s listening or the heavy burdens of fame.
He is not the first to speak about these things, but he is the first Korean idol rapper (a title handed out haphazardly at times) to push the matter with raw fervor. Again, not the first Korean rapper, nor the first Korean artist, but the first K-pop idol rapper, on a widely available mixtape. The only other idol rappers who could come close to having such depth revealed (outside of BTS, yes A.R.M.Y., I know RM brings the fire and J-Hope has strung the masses on for the infamous hixtape), in my most humble opinion, is Bang Yongguk of B.A.P if he ever decides to unleash what is speculated to be a mighty collection of unheard music. Ah yeah, and Zico of Block B.
“Agust’D” is an undeniably relevant piece of art because it was done by an artist who is labeled “K-pop idol” before anything else. How many of your non-acclimated friends have you had listen to a BTS track in this historic year alone, who would say something along the lines of, “I dunno what he’s/they’re saying, but I know it’s dope”? Imagine being boxed in by that, knowing you have so much more to give!
While listening to the tracks of the mixtape, you felt emotions ebb and flow. You heard his delivery change from the swagger of Suga, to the vulnerability of Min Yoongi, and then into the void of Agust’D. Depending upon the lists you search on the Internet, Suga ranks within the top 5 South Korean idol rappers in recent history. This is built upon a bedrock of cadences that can influence thee stinkiest of stank faces. A cadence is modulation of one’s voice and with every gasp, heave and intonation, Suga delivers.
Likewise, he doesn’t always go for double entendre execution but instead aims straight for his point on tracks like “Give It to Me” and “Tony Montana.” Even more so, Suga pig-in-a-blankets the entire 10-track project by producing each track and selecting a mix engineer (PDogg) and mastering engineer (Alex DeYoung) who brought symphonic warmth, reverb, bass and treble around his voice.
There will be other artists who attempt mixtapes and solo projects, no doubt. This particular release, however, will always be on the barometer, increasing the pressure to deliver something of substance. It’s sick. From start to finish, it’s sickening.