To start November, I decided to bring probably what I love most in this world and what I enjoy the most to talk about: Music. And who better to share this with with me than Agust D?
On a mixtape with his own artistic name, Agust D brought a raw musical experience with lyrics filled with feelings, delivered by the melody with fast raps, sometimes even agressive, that burn like fire.
Despite that, Agust D manages to bring us a myriad of feelings and situations that, personally, made his songs something very important in my life.
The album isn’t afraid to talk about the darkest places of the soul or to criticize a society that lives only of appearances. It talks about greed, dreams, reality shocks, depression, social anxiety and a little bit of hope that we can maintain amidst all desperation.
On looking at himself in the mirror, Agust D opened his own soul to welcome those who went through the same anxieties.
Today on my wagon, we’ll go to Daegu, on South Korea, in order to get to know the boy who moved to Seoul and today is a successful man on the music industry.
(WARNING: As mentioned above, the album discussed also talks about heavier mental health issues – such as depression, social anxiety and suicide mentions. Those are topics that can cause triggers, so I thought it was better to warn readers.)
Who is Agust D?
Min Yoongi (민윤기) was born in March 9, 1993, on the city of Daegu (대구), South Korea. Since he was young, he showed interest and talent for music – one of his biggest passions, if not the greatest. In spite of playing piano and finding himself on the musical instrument – as he shows on one of his songs, First Love – his biggest expression came after getting into Hip Hop.
Knowing he wanted to follow his dream of becoming a musician, Yoongi started out as an underground rapper – apart from putting efforts to work in the field, specially with musical production. When he took notice of an audition held by an entertainment company, Big Hit Entertainment, he seized the opportunity and started out as a trainee – not before making his songs and selling them by himself as he could.
Moving to Seoul (서울), Yoongi joined the group BTS (방탄소년단) with the stage name SUGA (슈가). As part of the group, he is a rapper, composer and musical producer and, even though he resisted against choreographies at the start, he is also a good dancer.
In 2016, he released his first mixtape – a collection of his own songs, written and produced by Yoongi – with the name Agust D, which means “DT Suga” read backwards, bringing his city (Daegu Town) on “DT”.
Therefore, Yoongi keeps his two personalities on the musical environment: SUGA, BTS’ rapper who writes songs with the group themes, and Agust D, the solo rapper who writes about what’s in his own soul, without filters or restrictions.
About the Mixtape – Agust D
As said before, Yoongi appeared on the media in 2016 with his persona Agust D and a mixtape with the same title of his stage name. The album is filled with songs written and produced by the artist over the years, talking about complex and even controversial themes.
The choice to release as a mixtape came from his desire of not compromising to one mindset when bringing the songs together. Agust D brings raw and no filter works, something that doesn’t fit well with marketing, promotions and industry orientation.
Therefore, in order to work freely, Agust D was released in the aforementioned format, on streaming platforms. Nevertheless, with its reissue in 2018, the mixtape got #3 on World Albums Chart of Billboard (the #1 on that time was the Black Panther soundtrack).
What’s the difference between Agust D and SUGA? Well, on Yoongi’s own words in an interview for Time Magazine: “The difference is that there is a lot more that I can openly express and that I can show a more raw side to myself [with Agust D]. What’s similar is that both sing of dreams and hope”.
It’s safe to say: rawness is not lacking on Agust D’s MVs – such as the first that was released and introduced him with his first mixtape, this posts’ subject.
Although also using visual media, what realy matters is the soul of the music presented by the artist: the lyrics on all this mixtape present profound themes or pure revolt, that must be read and appreciated in order to understand his work.
On the song above, for instance, Agust D brings a diss track (usually used on Hip Hop, to insult someone or answer to an insult) filled with remarks as his trips around the world (Brazil to New York, Paris to New York); his achievements on the musical world; his goal (at the time) to reach Billboard; how kpop as a catergory is too small for him; and, mainly, as all those artists that criticized him for becoming an idol and “selling himself” to the industry, leaving underground rapping, are unsuccessful and consumed by jealousy when seeing him with his achievements.
Therefore, to make things a little more organized, I parted this post in 3 music sections (according to my own placings):
- Diss Tracks – With Intro: DT SugA (feat. DJ Friz), Agust D, Give it to Me and Tony Montana (feat. Yankie);
- Skit and Reflexions About Society – With Skit, 724148 and 140503 at Dawn;
- Dreams and Realities – With The Last, Interlude: Dream, Reality and So Far Away (feat. Suran)
Starting with the famous diss tracks, Agust D opens with its title song and Give it to Me, bringing Tony Montana further in the album. What the three songs have in common is how he talks to those who criticize him or feel a rampant jealousy, always with agressive lyrics and a posture of taking no outrage home.
“Born a tiger, ain’t gonna live like a dog”– Give it to Me, Agust D
This is the artist’s position: born strong and with the goal of achieving his own dreams, he won’t settle for less. All those who have only bad things to say about him and the way he tries to get to everything he ever wished, may remain in silence for never achieving even half of their own dreams.
It’s also on those tracks that we notice how Agust D doesn’t want to force himself to fit a pattern imposed by social politics (with quotes like “I never beg for anything, I ain’t greedy about what’s in your hand, whatever it is, **** that all those politics in the word “success”) and how he prefers anything than living as someone who regrets and makes up excuses for himself instead of fighting for what he wants.
In Tony Montana, the reference is to Al Pacino’s character on the movie Scarface, for being a extremely successful gangster. But, although he has ambition and desire to have even more, he shows the consciousness that “I want the money to chase me but I hope I don’t become the monster chasing only money”.
Strength, determination, revolt, arrogance and an unbreakable personality: those are the characteristics that Agust D shows us on those three songs.
Skit and Reflexions About Society
Pausing the high energy at the start of the mixtape, we have the track Skit – which is only a recording of Yoongi’s conversation with his brother. However, it leaves us something very important: how he is grateful for the support of his brother; of at least one person on his family when he was chasing his dream of working with music.
Not having your own family’s support to do what you desire is certainly discouraging. Yoongi expresses, in a few words, how support, even if a small one, might mean the world to someone else.
With 724148, the beat is lively, but the lyrics aren’t less critical: this time talking about the experience of chosing his career and moving to a different city. The beginning of the lyrics talks about the criticism and disapproval of almost everyone around him when he decided to work with music as well as a lack of perspective, while the rest of the song talks about financial inequality between him and his school colleagues.
Agust D brings the resentment of working part time jobs with low salaries in order to survive in the city even if he was to exhausted to go to school, while his colleagues wasted money on drinks and parties but saying right after they had no money.
“I knew the world was unfair but there’s someone living in a 15 bucks two room with 10 people while there’s someone driving a foreign brand car right after graduating.”– 724148, Agust D
The disconnexion with real life and with what other go through to have the minimal comfort that most people who are born with a privileged life show isn’t a localized phenomenon – anywhere, we will find revolting situations of social inequality.
It’s this resentment and frustration that is made clear: while some exhaust themselves and work more than they can only to pay their bills at the end of the month, others waste money and assume that the whole society has the same financial condition, not thinking they already have enough – also usually seeing themselves as victims and not recognizing the privileges with which they were already born.
In 140503 at Dawn, the mixtape goes from an external criticism to an internal criticism. It’s in this moment that Agust D starts to open his soul, talking about his own thoughts during a morning of no day in particular. The lyrics talks quickly about how he choses to wear a mask on a daily basis to hide from people, as well as showing the first indications of sociophobia (social anxiety) that develops until cutting the artist’s human interactions.
Meanwhile, he hides behind the image of someone who has everything under control; of someone strong that can cope with everything. And ties it up with the metaphor of being an island in a vast ocean – which reminds me a lot of a concept by Amós Oz, Israeli writer, that all humans are peninsulas.
“(…) I believe that each of us is a peninsula, half island. I think it’s right for us to always remain a peninsula: half connected to the continent, which would be family, society, comunity, religion, country and heritage. But the other half of us should be isolated, alone, facing the elements which are the sea, the mountains, solitude, death, ambition, desires.
Never trust in those prophet people and theologists that say you don’t need to be anything more then a molecule of Earth, of continent, country, religion, whatever it is. But you will trust the prophets that say that each of us is a lonely island who lives in a perpetual war with the rest of the archipelago? For me, at least, human condition is being a peninsula, and not an island.”– Amós Oz, for the conference “Meus Livros, Meu País, Minha Política“ (translated from Portuguese)
If Agust D read the works of Amós Oz, I can’t tell. But, going through a condition similar to his, I can say I agree with both the musician and the writer.
Dreams and Realities
Lastly, I’m going to talk about the songs that are most important to me in a personal level.
The Last is a song with a certainly darker and heavier tone than the others – both musically and lyric wise. Agust D talks about depression, self hatred, social anxiety, obsessive compulsion, doubts and insecurities that take his mind on a daily basis.
Mental health issues definitely aren’t easy to deal with. Generally, there’s a daily struggle between the will to move on – with the conciousness that you aren’t the way you find yourself – and the terrible doubt that the person that you find yourself as is really who you are. The lyrics talk about this type of struggle – and how, little by little, a shadow grows in your own mind, apparently corrupting everything that was once pure and innocent, remaining only something monstrous at the end.
“Min Yoongi is already dead (I killed him)” – how many times we have to kill the pure person we are in order to survive, as if we are in a situation of extreme danger, because life throws us a burden that seems impossible to carry?
The pain becomes apathy, with desires and dreams that die little by little, leaving only an unrecognizable shell – both for those close and for the own person going through those issues. Agust D doesn’t filter those themes, even leaving implicit the possibility of suicide attempts because of those issues.
All his revolt and reckless attitude are, at the end, only a coping mechanism, so he won’t show all his weaknesses behind it. The success he thought one day would compensate for everything, ended up becoming a suffocating prision that everyone forced him to accept – once he searched for it.
And all that culminates with an exacerbated self blame, taking the responsability for all he has to cope with, even if it was outside his own control. How many doesn’t go through the same depression arc described?
Despite all this, The Last rises in an ending with epic tones, from the strength of the very soul to take the pain and endure any trial. When stopping to ignore his own nature, seeing his greatness and qualities in himself, Agust D puts himself back on his feet again, respecting himself and taking pride on who he is. The difficulties which he went through are only memories, that made him who he is nowadays.
For those of us that still didn’t manage to get to this phase, we have Agust D’s lesson: hang on, keep trying and respecting yourself, knowing you’re always better and you have more abilities than you think.
At last, So Far Away brings us the emptiness of not having a goal to pursue and the importance of remaining strong in your dreams throughout life.
The reality of not having a dream you wish to achieve can be distressing and usually causes depression. Not having a goal in life makes it hollow and meaningless, bringing a feeling of numbness to the things happening around you. This reality can be frustrating, apart from exhausting – many times leading to self destructive coping methods, like discounting everything on alcohol.
The constant feeling of being stagnant makes everything even lonelier – bringing meaninglessness to waking up, living and trying to talk about those issues with someone else, because usually there aren’t anyone you can talk to. The constant desire is to disappear and make everything disappear with yourself.
Yoongi doesn’t filter those thoughts and realities in So Far Away. But, on the riff, the song brings a shard of hope, a light at the end of the tunnel, to which all those who are going through the same internal remarks can cling to:
“Dream, I will be there for your creation until the end of your life. Dream, wherever you might be, it will be lenient. Dream, you will fully bloom after all the hardships. Dream, your beginnings will seem humble, so prosperous will your future be”.– So Far Away, Agust D
Even with pain, emptiness, the desire to disappear and lack of perspective, Agust D encourages us to dream. Because those dreams will make us bloom and find the peace and prosperity we so need to comfort our souls so proven by the silent suffering of a mental illness and internal insecurities.
From Music to Life
I think the first thing that made me like Agust D so much was to notice that all the feelings, revolt, resentment, strong personality, challenge to the authorities and an unbreakable will that burns like fire on the most profound part of the being didn’t exist only in me – in this huge world we live in, there’s another soul that shares and understands those things; There’s Agust D.
By showing his feelings in such a sincere and raw manner, direct and many times painfully throughout the mixtape, I’m certain Yoongi’s intention was more of externalize his own feelings and free this stagnant energy inside him than creating something which people would be able to identify with and find comfort.
Nevertheless, it was something that happened – and, on that issue, I’m talking at a personal level. Upon reading the lyrics and hearing the songs, I immediately identified with the artist – which gave me a strange feeling of complicity and comfort in knowing that at least someone understands and lived those situations.
Agust D was by my side in moments of hoplessness and despair. It was he who cried with me about the pains of the darkest sides of the soul. It was he who reached out his hand and made me get up. It was he who gave me strength and energy to keep my head up and keep trying, the best I could. It was he who reminded me that I shouldn’t give up on my dreams, because we shouldn’t accept less then what we aspire to – that all pain, someday will be worth it.
In an extremely personal and unpretentious mixtape, Agust D brings much more than just an excelent rap packed with agressive melodies – it also brings the strength and resilience that many may find inspiration in and use as a support on the cruelest days when all hope seems completely lost.
And that’s why the only words that are left for me to say about everything that this musical voyage provides us is: Thank you so much, Min Yoongi.
Lune Records: More Mixtapes
I wasn’t the first one to bring a mixtape to Lune Station: Hekate commented about the work of another member from BTS, RM, in an excelent post! If you’re interested about it, I’ll leave the link below so you can check it out and get to know more good music: