Min Yoongi released his third mixtape, D-DAY, under alter-ego Agust D on April 21st, 2023. This album, says Yoongi in companion documentary Suga: Road to D-DAY, marks the final instalment in the Agust D trilogy, preceded by Agust D released in 2016 and D-2 in 2020. In this three-part series, Agust D is seen to grow and evolve as an artist, from a young rapper who uses his music to channel his anger and frustration, to a mature musician who finds freedom through his art.
Yoongi is known most famously as SUGA, rapper and producer of the legendary K-pop group BTS. He has worked on more than 100 songs for the group since their debut in 2013, helping to craft the iconic BTS sound that is so popular today. However, if you think that his new album is anything like the bright and happy pop releases BTS is so loved for, you would be sorely mistaken. In D-DAY, Agust D returns in his truest form, serving us his darkest and most raw tracks yet.
The most distinctive characteristic of Agust D and his work is that he does not shy away from difficult or controversial topics, whether it be his own personal struggles or broader societal concerns. Core to his latest release, D-DAY, is his individual conflict with attempting to reconcile his numerous public and private identities - the world-famous Kpop singer SUGA, the dark and heavy rapper/producer Agust D, and the simple boy from Daegu, Min Yoongi. As he told Rolling Stone in an interview, “There was a heavy pressure to synchronize [the personas of] Agust D and Suga, and it took a toll on finishing the album.”
Now it seems that through the process of creating this album, Yoongi finally understands who he is, both as an artist and an individual, having been liberated by his work. In the opening track titled D-DAY, which shares its name with the mixtape itself, Agust D epitomises what he continues to explore throughout the album - that he has found freedom through his music, and he will continue to live genuinely and honestly as himself. “The past is gone, the future is far away,” read his lyrics. “What are you afraid of?”
Further, throughout the 10-track album, Yoongi does not hesitate to comment on wider societal issues, proposing that, perhaps, freedom can be found for everyone in music. Through lead single Haegeum, a double entendre referring to the Korean word for “lifting a ban” or “liberating”, as well as a Korean traditional string instrument, Agust D makes explicit commentary on the consequences of capitalism and overconsumption. In the heavy and intense hip-hop track, he raps “Slaves to capitalism, slaves to money / Slaves to hatred and prejudice,” exposing how society’s obsession with consumption has ultimately imprisoned us. Yet, he proposes “a new kind of haegeum” through the track, presenting music and expression as a form of liberation for all.
D-DAY truly showcases Yoongi’s versatility as an artist, combining dark and heavy rap tracks with softer, more emotional songs, all with a distinctive Agust D sound. The third track HUH?!, featuring fellow BTS rapper j-hope, highlights a more aggressive drill beat that perfectly accompanies the rappers’ anger as they demand, “What the shit do you know about me?”. Ensuing tracks, AMYGDALA, SDL and Polar Night showcase Agust D’s slower, more melodic feel, and lean further into the artist’s personal traumas.
AMYGDALA is a particularly heart-wrenching track, with the title referring to the part of the human brain that processes and responds to traumatic events. In his lyrics, Agust D recalls his own harrowing experiences - his mother’s heart surgery after he was born, his motorcycle accident, and receiving news of his father’s liver cancer while at work. By recalling these things through music, Agust D urges that one can be liberated from past traumas, but only if you have the courage to face them head-on.
The mixtape also features several collaboration tracks, wonderfully complementing Agust D’s purpose and message in this project. Aside from HUH?! featuring j-hope, Yoongi collaborated with acclaimed Japanese composer, Ryuichi Sakamoto, and the lead vocalist of Korean indie band The Rose, Kim Woosung, on the emotional track, Snooze. Legendary K-pop artist IU was another featured artist, lending her incredible voice to People Pt.2, which acts as a sequel to People from Agust D’s second mixtape, D-2.
The album wraps up with Agust D’s own rendition of BTS hit song Life Goes On. In an alternative, melodic hip-hop reinterpretation, Agust D urges liberation from the past, in a declaration that is both sad and hopeful – “life goes on, life goes on”.
D-DAY is the brilliant conclusion to a trilogy that has followed the evolution of an artist from anger, confusion, and struggle with himself, to understanding, acceptance, and ultimate freedom through music. Of course, Agust D’s is a taste that may not suit everyone, and some days the intensity of his music and lyrics might feel a bit too heavy. But in terms of a body of work that represents Agust D, in a complex blend of his multiple different identities and his pursuit of liberation, D-DAY can be considered nothing less than incredible.
Emma Peters is a second-year student at UNSW, currently completing a Bachelor of Media, majoring in Journalism. She is extremely passionate about all things related to pop culture and music, especially K-pop. You can most likely find her singing her heart out at a concert, or otherwise crying her eyes out while looking through concert videos.