If I had to describe the “Agust D” mixtape in one sentence, I’d say it represents the yin-yang of strength and vulnerability. It’s interesting how the mixtape cover also includes the same pattern of black and white within one another.
The “Agust D” mixtape is a journey into the mind of an outwardly successful but inwardly struggling artist. Someone who is discovering the holes in his armor and finding the strength in vulnerability.
We start off with boastful, aggressive songs (Agust D and Give It To Me) that portray him as a rich, successful man looking down on his peers. Without an ounce of sugarcoating (his name in the BTS group is SUGA lol), he revels in his achievements and insults others’ talents (or lack thereof) in his now-classic spit-fire style.
He wants to show he’s cool and too busy to be phased by all the hate thrown his way but as we go further into the songlist, we realize it’s just a front. Behind the bravado lies someone in deep pain.
This is quite clear in his lyrics in 140503 (song title): “Hiding my true self behind the defensive mask.” He also mentions it twice in The Last: “Behind a successful idol rapper, stands my weak self.” And, “I say I don’t care, all those words are to hide my weak self.”
Similar to his earlier hype tracks, he does not mince his words. He tears open the armor and lets us in. He shows us where it hurts, how much it hurts, and how we’re not the only ones with scars.
He straight-up tells us:
- He has depression, anxiety, OCD, and social phobia (Song: The Last)
- Every morning, he is scared to open his eyes and breathe. (Song: So far away)
- He’s only living because he can’t die (Song: So far away)
Through the “Agust D” mixtape, he has found the strength to break out of his “perfect” idol image and start conversations on issues typically brushed under the rug.
Here’s an excerpt from an Esquire interview:
“There is this culture where masculinity is defined by certain emotions, characteristics. I’m not fond of these expressions,” Suga tells me. “What does being masculine mean? People’s conditions vary day by day. Sometimes you’re in a good condition; sometimes you aren’t. Based on that, you get an idea of your physical health. And that same thing applies mentally. Some days you’re in a good state; sometimes you’re not. Many pretend to be okay, saying that they’re not ‘weak,’ as if that would make you a weak person. I don’t think that’s right. People won’t say you’re a weak person if your physical condition is not that good. It should be the same for the mental condition as well. Society should be more understanding.”
According to Suga, lyrics about the mental health of young people were mostly absent in Korean pop music.
As the mixtape goes from aggressive to soothing songs, we take the journey with him, from denying his (and our own) pain to understanding, accepting, and sharing it. And that was one of the goals.
Yoongi (his real name) has always talked about making music to comfort and encourage the listeners and a simple Google search will show you how songs like The Last helped people accept and deal with their own pain.
But here’s an interesting part. Along with helping people heal, the music has been a way for Yoongi to find his own healing.
A lot of the songs, especially the ones at the end, feel so personal, it’s like reading a private diary entry. He wasn’t trying to make viral songs with catchy hooks. He just authentically expressed himself.
That’s why the music composition, lyrics, and rap delivery feel so raw and vulnerable. It seems like this is his way of letting off steam, of having an outlet for all the angst.
As this excerpt from an NME interview shows:
I had [this] hate, [this] anger inside me […] I couldn’t control that anger.” …He used the alias as a vehicle to express those fiery emotions.
It seems to have worked. He (and his music) visibly changed after this mixtape, almost like he found a way to confront and channel the inner strife, and eventually find some form of peace.
As the interview says:
As we grow up, get older and experience more, we often learn how to control the fire that blazes in our gut and, in the intervening seven years since ‘Agust D’, Suga has gone on his own journey with that. You can trace it in the evolution of his solo music…The flames still burn at times…but there’s also an undercurrent of peace.
Most of his solo songs after the “Agust D” mixtape leaned toward being gentle and comforting (People, People Pt.2, Life Goes On, Dear My Friend, and Snooze).
He still made hype tracks (Daechwita, Haegeum, and Burn It) but they don’t carry the same angsty feeling. Even his emotionally charged songs like Amygdala have a stronger tinge of acceptance than anger.
In a video by Disney Plus Korea, he said so himself:
“I talk about my trauma or feelings that I need to overcome through my albums. And I think I feel more liberated by it. And feeling more liberated helps me grow a little more and it affects my next album or music a lot.”
That’s why it’s hard to “rate” music like this. The “Agust D” mixtape is not something you’d listen to for fun, but it’s quite powerful and transformative, both for the artist and the listener.
- This is my interpretation of the “Agust D” mixtape and not an official explanation. I have a degree in psychology and enjoy analyzing the deeper meaning of media but I’m not an expert. Everything I say is subjective and colored by my own views of the world.
- The journey I talk about is based on his lyrics, past interviews, and discography but we only know what he chooses to share. I do not know this person or his full story.
- I’m not Korean nor do I speak the language fluently. I have used translations from doolset, a well-known resource for fairly accurate and in-depth translations with context. However, some nuance may be lost in translation.