Suga Ends His Agust D Trilogy With An Existential Bang
In his best solo work yet, the rapper tackles liberation and the truths of life through passionate, meaningful storytelling.
You don’t get a chance to breathe before “D-Day” begins. The album’s eponymous track is an instantly ignited flame that explodes in the first few seconds. Maybe that’s what Agust D, the alias of BTS’ Suga, wants fans to experience after all.
D-Day isn’t Suga's first rodeo under his moniker Agust D, but it is his first official full-length solo album preceding his upcoming 20-stop world tour. With BTS on hiatus as his fellow members enlisting to serve their mandatory two years in South Korea’s military, it makes sense that he wants to go out with a bang — and a bang, it is.
The 10-track album D-Day serves as Agust D’s full foray as a soloist and the finale of his three-part mixtape series (he released Agust D in 2016 and D-2 in 2020). The charismatic multihyphenate boasts his skills as a musician, songwriter, and producer through a diverse range of sounds from boom-bap to coats of autotune, alternative rock, and even a piano sample from the late renowned producer Ryuchi Sakamoto. Rather than teetering along vague lines, he dives straight into its overarching theme of liberation, emphasizing a desire to live in the present moment in a world being barraged by an excessive amount of information. Each track encourages listeners to concentrate on focusing inward, instead of looking to the past at regrets or at the future with fear.
The rapper first introduced Agust D back in 2016 during the septet's promotions for The Most Beautiful Moment in Life: Young Forever and arguably the height of the group’s career. Initially available only on Soundcloud, he wanted to prove his worth outside of the K-pop label and free himself of the industry’s constraints through his alias. 2016’s Agust D brimmed with anger as he targeted those who insulted his career, even coming from those he once looked up to. By the time D-2 came out during lockdown, he was reflecting on the chaos of the world, referencing topics like capitalism to the concept of growing up. Now, on D-Day, he’s dug deeper into his philosophical and existential musings while letting go of all of his previous concerns, a testament to growth and healing.
The 30-year-old kicks off the album with, to say the least, a lighted torch. “D-Day”’s distorted guitar instrumentals build up for a few seconds before launching straight into an intense trap flow. “The future’s gonna be okay,” he raps in English, before heading into a whirlwind of thoughts that many can relate to, including feelings of frustration of not wanting to be tied down to his past. “In a world full of hate/ Hatе is even more unnеcessary/ Lotus flowers bloom brilliantly even in mud,” he spews, before adding “Don't regret the past, don't be afraid of the future/ I hope you can avoid getting hit and hurt enough.”
“Haegeum” follows, a standout, heavy hip-hop song with elements of the Korean traditional string instrument haegeum. The wordplay in the title lies here, as haegeum is not only the name of the two-stringed fiddle, but is also used to mean “liberation,” and, specifically on this song, to advocate for freedom in a reality built on unspoken societal expectations and restrictions echoed in today’s online culture. With his signature rasp, he asks listeners in Korean to question themselves when it comes to their own liberation and the role we play in each other’s as well. Are we the reason for other people’s suppression, and our own? “Freedom of expression/ Could be reason for somebody’s death/ Could you still consider that freedom?”
As one of music’s biggest stars, Suga likely doesn’t experience much liberty in expression, and perhaps the more conservative norms of idol culture serve as even more of a restraint. It’s why it seems he struggles to see past divisiveness clearly, as he writes on “Polar Night”: “Between so many truths and so many lies/ Are we seeing this world right?”
What sets this album, and Suga, apart is his unapologetic approach to deep and existential topics and a passion for his artistry that shows through his lyrics. He contemplates topics like mental health and other worldly concerns — things we generally don’t hear from other idols. In an interview with Billboard, he spoke about wanting to be as vulnerable as possible in his work, saying, “People might see me as someone who wouldn’t have any concerns or worries or that I don’t feel any agony, but I feel those emotions too. I’m trying to find a way to fight those and overcome those too.”
On “Amygdala,” he raps about his own physical injuries, his mother’s heart surgery, and his father’s liver cancer. “People Pt.2,” the sequel to D-2’s “People,” delves into the aspects of human life that seem fleeting and futile but are still repeated, like love and separation, fear and sorrow. “This thing called love/ Maybe it's just a momentary list of emotions/ It's conditional, what is it that I love?/ Wasn't loved enough as a kid/ That's why I'm the cautious type,” he raps, a startlingly naked admission.
The album closes on “Life Goes On,” a reinterpretation of BTS’ 2020 song “Life Goes On.” As it concludes the album and Agust D’s solo trilogy, it functions like a goodbye to an important chapter in his life. But the future looks promising, and as he talks about the last decade in BTS he reassures fans of his return: “The place where I passed for ten years/ With countless wounds and glory/ Looking back, each moment of memories/ I've been running like it was the last time but I'm still scared/ I know this place right now, A place that will soon become a memory/ Don't be afraid until the end of my life, Because life will go on forever.”
Existentialism is a theme not just on D-Day but throughout BTS’ discography, and it’s no wonder they do it so well. Music for Agust D isn’t just about the rapper hype, he prides himself in articulating meaningful storytelling. In his best solo work as of yet, the musician sets a new tone and establishes his territory as the industry’s most versatile trailblazer. Fans can see he rejoices in the path least taken, one that has led him to become a record-breaking artist through humble brags and simultaneously giving words of solace to listeners.
By the end of the album, he blows out the flames and what remains, like ashes, is a scorched and honest self-reflection of his journey not just as a musician, but his life as well. While some BTS members speak through hyperboles and metaphors, Suga is one to directly address his concerns in his songwriting. He signs off his thoughts with a desire to overcome, and encourages fans to do the same.