In August 2016, BTS’s Suga released his first mixtape, Agust D. On it, the rapper-songwriter rawly reflected on his career and life, taking on the identity of Agust D and frankly sharing his musical identity as an individual with the world just as his band was at the precipice of its career. The following years found BTS make history with one record-breaking release after another. Now, he’s back four years later with the surprise release on Friday (May 22) of his D-2 mixtape.
Fronted by “Daechwita,” the collection crowns Suga as a king triumphant who has gone from nothing to the top of the global music game. Accompanied by a video that fittingly sees Suga ascend to the highest heights as a king of Korea, the 10-song mixtape spends its length sharing the artist’s viewpoint on his current place and perception of the world.
Throughout D-2, from the very start with the reflective, jocular, “Moonlight” to the wistful closing power ballad “Dear my friend” with Nell’s Kim Jong Wan, Suga’s second Agust D mixtape serves as a sonic reliquary for his present state of thoughts and emotions. Whether it’s posing the bellicose query of “What do you think?” at haters as he shrugs at the way others might try to see or use him, pondering the state of the world alongside fellow BTS rapper RM in “Strange” or ruminating on moving on from past regrets alongside MAX on “Burn It,” each song offers up a fresh take on what it means to be Suga in 2020.
Ahead of the release of D-2, Suga spoke with Billboard about the impending arrival of the mixtape and what it means for him and his identity as an artist.
It’s your first time reviving your Agust D persona for a solo release since your first mixtape in 2016. How does it feel to revisit this side to yourself and share new music with the world in 2020?
It’s fun. I hope everyone enjoys the documentation of myself from 2016 onwards.
You’ve mentioned this mixtape’s release in the past, why is now the right time to release D-2?
I found time to work on my music since self quarantine and I was able to compile 10 full tracks for the mixtape.
Do you feel you’ve grown as an artist since the release of Agust D and your return with D-2?
I think that’s up to listeners to decide. I’ve tried a lot of things, and hope they’ll enjoy it.
How, if at all, has your approach to song creation changed since your prior mixtape?
It’s all more relaxed. I was a bit intense back in 2016. Everything was at full force, full strength. I actually listened to my previous mixtape again while working on the new one, and if I were asked to do it again, I can say I wouldn’t be able to. I’m very glad that it’s documented as it is. My previous mixtape focused more on being better at rap, better at making music, sound, mix, master and so forth. I’ve worked on a lot more projects since then and didn’t really try to become perfect. Perfection is an elusive term. I simply just did my best.
Is there a meaning behind the album’s title D-2 beyond it being the second Agust D release? It almost feels like a countdown, which is how it was promoted on social media.
I like surprises, so I came up with the release promotion myself. I didn’t want to release it on D-DAY, and also wasn’t satisfied with just Agust D 2. So I wanted to release it on D-2 to surprise the people who were waiting for it to drop on D-DAY.
From start to finish D-2 is an intensely emotional experience that shares both your thoughts about yourself and your thoughts on the world. What do you hope listeners take away from the overall experience of the mixtape?
“This is how I’ve lived since August 16th, 2016.” If the previous mixtape focused on telling the past, the new one is about the present.
Where did you find inspiration musically for this album?
The answer to this question is always the same: every moment and every incident. It’s a habit of mine to record and take notes, so sometimes, I get a pleasant surprise when I dig through and rediscover lyrics. Some of the lyrics I scribble without thought have, at times, become real precious.
Do you feel there’s a difference between Suga and Agust D, and also these two with Min Yoon Gi?
You could say there is and there isn’t a difference]. “Me” and “Me” and “Me.” They are different and the same.
The lead track on this mixtape is “Daechwita,” during which you incorporate traditional Korean military instrumentals along with pansori into modern hip-hop sounds, and describe yourself as a tiger, the historic representative creature of Korea. These are themes that many BTS songs have also incorporated re traditional Korean music elements and references to Korea’s identity and your identity as Korean. Why do you keep returning to this narrative in your songwriting, and what about daechwita made you want to incorporate it into this song and album?
It all started with the ceremonial walk of the King. Daechwita is played during the military march and I was inspired to sample its beat, and since the track includes a lot of traditional Korean musical elements, it made sense to also shoot the music video on Korean historical filming sites. It wasn’t necessarily my intention to purposefully include Korean aspects. It was more a natural process that had interesting ideas spring up along the way.
You worked with several artists on this album, namely RM, NiiHWA, MAX, and Nell’s King Jong Wan. What was the overall experience like?
It was a fun experience. I actually wanted to collaborate with a lot more artists but some were unavailable due to personal circumstances. Hopefully, I’ll be able to work with them next time. One of the artists I did get to collaborate with was Kim Jong Wan of Nell, who let me know he enjoyed my mixtape from 2016. I appreciated it a lot since he was my idol when I was young.
What is a line or thought you share on D-2 you want listeners to be left thinking about?
“So what, if we live like that, so what
My distinction is your ordinary
My ordinary is your distinction” – “People”