G-Dragon
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G-Dragon

G-Dragon
G-Dragon on Infinite Challenge Yeongdong Expressway Music Festival - 4 (cropped).jpg
G-Dragon on Infinite Challenge Yeongdong Expressway Song Festival 2015
Native name
Born Kwon Ji-yong
(1988-08-18) August 18, 1988 (age 30)
Seoul, South Korea
Other names GD
Occupation
  • Singer-songwriter
  • Rapper
  • Record producer
  • Entrepreneur
  • Fashion designer
Net worth $40 million USD[1]
Musical career
Genres
Instruments
1994-present
Labels YG Entertainment
Korean name
Hangul ???
Hanja ???
Revised Romanization Gwon Ji-yong
McCune-Reischauer Kw?n Chiyong
Website ygbigbang.com/gdragon
Signature
G-Dragon signature.png

Kwon Ji-yong (Hangul; born August 18, 1988),[2] also known by his stage name G-Dragon, is a South Korean singer-songwriter, rapper, record producer, entrepreneur and fashion icon known for penning chart-topping singles and his stage presence that has garnered him the title "King of K-pop".[3][4][5] From age twelve, G-Dragon trained for six years at South Korean entertainment label YG Entertainment before debuting in 2006 as a member of the hip hop boy band Big Bang, which went on to become one of the best-selling boy bands in the world.[6]

His first solo album Heartbreaker and its title track of the same name, both released in 2009, were commercially successful and earned him Album of the Year at the 2009 Mnet Asian Music Awards. G-Dragon collaborated with Big Bang bandmate T.O.P to release the album GD & TOP in 2010. His first EP One of a Kind (2012), was critically acclaimed and yielded three singles: "One of a Kind", "Crayon", and the chart-topper "That XX". The EP became the best-selling album by a Korean soloist, breaking his previous record with Heartbreaker, and earned Record of the Year at the 2013 Seoul Music Awards. In 2013, he embarked on his first worldwide tour as a solo artist, making him the first Korean soloist to tour Japanese dome arenas.[7] G-Dragon was awarded Artist of the Year at the 2013 Mnet Asian Music Awards following the success of his second album Coup d'Etat (2013). His 2017 EP, Kwon Ji Yong, yielded the number one single "Untitled, 2014", and the supporting concert tour Act III: M.O.T.T.E became the largest tour ever conducted by a Korean soloist.[8]

Widely recognized for his influence on youth culture, fashion trends, and music in South Korea,[9] G-Dragon was named by Forbes in 2016 as the most influential person under 30 in Asia's entertainment and sports.[10] Producing not only for his band but also for his and his bandmates' solo releases, G-Dragon has written or co-written 23 number one songs on the Gaon Digital Chart (equivalent to the Billboard Hot 100), most of which he has also co-produced.[11][12]

Life and career

G-Dragon at MTV Fast Forward, Thailand, 2007

1988-2008: Early life and debut with Big Bang

Born and raised in Seoul, South Korea, Kwon Ji-yong began his career at age six as part of the group Little Roo'Ra.[13] After releasing a Christmas album, the group's contract was terminated by their record company, which came as a "shock" to G-Dragon. Although he vowed to his mother that he "wouldn't [try to become a singer] again," he was scouted by SM Entertainment while on a ski trip with his family.[14] He was a trainee under the record label for five years (from 8-13 years old), specializing in dance before he left, unclear about what he wanted to do.[13]

In third grade, Kwon was introduced to the American rap group Wu-Tang Clan by a friend. Inspired by their music, he developed an interest in rapping and began taking classes.[13] Under People Crew's[15] tutelage, he participated in the release of the Korean hip-hop album Flex in 2001, becoming the youngest Korean rapper at 13 years old. Although he wrote his own lyrics, he admitted that his English was weak and the story behind the lyrics was just another typical "I'm young, but I'm the best" story.[13] Additionally, he and future fellow Big Bang member Choi Seung-hyun were "neighborhood friend[s] from middle school" and would often dance and rap together before Kwon moved away.[16] Catching the interest of Sean of the hip-hop duo Jinusean from YG Entertainment, Kwon was recommended by him to Sean's record label's CEO Yang Hyun Suk. After signing a contract with the record label, Kwon spent the first year cleaning the studio for the other artists in the record label and fetching them water bottles during dance practice.[13]

Kwon and another trainee, Dong Young-bae, originally planned to debut as the hip hop duo GDYB, with Kwon choosing the stage name of G-Dragon ("Ji" is pronounced like "G", and Yong is Korean for "dragon").[14] He made several featured appearances on other artists' albums and even released several singles with Dong under the name "GDYB." After YG Entertainment scrapped the plan and opted for a boy band instead, Kwon contacted Choi, who auditioned in.[16] G-Dragon, Dong (who chose the stage name Taeyang), and Choi (who chose the stage name T.O.P), were paired with three other members (Jang Hyun-seung, Daesung, and Seungri).

The formation of the group was documented on television,[17] but prior to their official debut, Jang was dropped.[14] The now-quintet's debut was a moderate success, with their first album netting in sales of over 100,000 copies,[18] and included G-Dragon's first solo recording, a cover of the American alternative rock group Maroon 5's single "This Love".[17] The release of the EP Always in 2007 was a musical departure from their previous materials and saw G-Dragon's increased involvement in its production.[19] Several songs were composed by him, including the lead-single "Lies" (Korean: ; Revised Romanization: Geojitmal), which became the group's first number one hit. Their following EPs followed its predecessor's footsteps: Hot Issue yielded "Last Farewell" (Korean: ; Revised Romanization: Majimak Insa) while Stand Up spawned "Day by Day" (Korean; Revised Romanization: Haru Haru); both singles, composed by him, were chart-toppers.[20][21] Having produced the majority of Big Bang's materials, G-Dragon became involved with the production of Taeyang's debut extended play Hot (2008), after which he subsequently recorded a "Part Two" to the EP's lead single "Only Look at Me" (Korean?; Revised Romanization: Naman Barabwa).

2009-2011: Solo career development, Heartbreaker, and GD & TOP

In 2009, G-Dragon was featured on singer Lexy's song "Super Fly" for her album Rush alongside Taeyang and T.O.P. He later collaborated with the Japanese boy band W-inds. for their single, "Rain Is Fallin'/Hybrid Dream".[22][23] His first solo album, Heartbreaker, was initially scheduled to be released in April that year, but was pushed back to August[24] to coincide with his 21st (Korean years: 22nd) birthday.[25] Featuring collaborations with several artists, including Teddy of 1TYM, Taeyang, Kush, CL of 2NE1, and Sandara Park of 2NE1, the album marked a change in G-Dragon's appearance as he dyed his hair blonde to match its concept. Propelled by its lead-single of the same name, an electronic pop song that sold nearly five million downloads,[26] the album surpassed 300,000 copies sold[27] and went on to win Album of the Year from the 2009 Mnet Asian Music Awards.[28] Shortly after Heartbreaker's release, G-Dragon was accused of plagiarism by Sony Music when his tracks "Heartbreaker" and "Butterfly" were alleged to be similar to Flo Rida's "Right Round" and Oasis's "She's Electric", respectively.[29][30] However, EMI, the record label that distributed "Right Round" said that they saw no similarities between these two songs.[31]

On March 6, 2010, YG Entertainment announced that they personally contacted Flo Rida's representatives requesting that he feature in G-Dragon's live album, Shine a Light, to which Flo Rida accepted.[32] In support of his album, G-Dragon staged his first solo concert at Olympic Gymnastics Arena in December 2009. The name of the concert, Shine a Light, was derived from the lyrics to his song "A Boy".[33] The concert subsequently sparked controversy following complaints of obscenity[34] and suggestive content.[35] The Korean Ministry of Health, Welfare and Family Affairs later asked the government prosecutors to investigate if G-Dragon or YG Entertainment violated laws on obscene performances in his concert.[36][37] He was found innocent and was cleared of all charges on March 15, 2010.[38]

G-Dragon performing with T.O.P. in 2011

In November 2010, G-Dragon and T.O.P released their collaboration album GD & TOP.[39] Preceding the release of the album, the duo held a worldwide premiere showcase for their album at Times Square in Yeongdeungpo of Seoul,[40] which was also broadcast live on YouTube.[41] To promote their album, the duo released three singles: "High High", "Oh Yeah", and "Knock Out" (Korean; Revised Romanization: ''Ppeogigayo'').[42] All three singles preceded the release of the album and achieved commercial success: "High High" scored number one on several music programs[43] while "Oh Yeah" peaked at number two on the Gaon Digital Chart.[44] The album was released on Christmas Eve, and debuted at number one on the Gaon Album Chart[45] with pre-orders of 200,000 copies.[46]

G-Dragon also formed a duo with Park Myung Soo for the Infinite Challenge Seohae Ahn Highway Song Festival 2011. They released their song "Having an Affair (Korean)" featuring Park Bom from 2NE1 on June 2, 2011. The song later became the second most downloaded song on the Gaon Music Chart for the year 2011.[47]

Promotional activities halted after G-Dragon tested positive for marijuana.[48] Though a urine test back in August came back negative, a weak positive for marijuana was detected from testing the content of his hair in October. Since it was his first recorded offence with a minuscule amount of the drug, it resulted in an indictment and he was not charged.[49] He later claimed to have accepted a cigarette offered by a fan in Japan during a party back in May, but after realizing it was not a normal cigarette, threw it away.[50] Because he was not charged, he did not lose any endorsers and made his first public appearance after the scandal at the 2011 MTV EMAs with his group.

2012-2013: One of a Kind, world tour, and Coup d'Etat

G-Dragon performing on Alive Galaxy Tour in September 2012

While working on new solo materials, G-Dragon made an appearance in the Japanese version of Pixie Lott's album Young Foolish Happy, along with T.O.P.[51] His first extended play One of a Kind was released on September 15, 2012,[52][53] drawing positive reviews, placing first on the Billboard World Album Chart and entering the Billboard 200 Chart at 161.[54] Three singles were released to support the album: the top-five hit "One of a Kind,"[55][56] which earned him the Best Hip Hop and Rap Song of the Year awards from the Korean Music Awards and the Rhythmer Awards respectively; the number one "That XX" (Korean XX; Revised Romanization: Geu XX);[57] and the top-three hit "Crayon"[56] that was ranked by Spin Magazine as the best K-Pop single of the year.[58] The album sold over 200,000 copies, making it the highest selling solo album in Korea since the release of his debut album Heartbreaker in 2009.[59] For his effort, he won "Best Male Solo Artist" at the 14th Mnet Asian Music Awards and "Record of the Year" for One of a Kind at the 22nd Seoul Music Awards. G-Dragon also embarked on the One of a Kind World Tour in 2013, becoming the first Korean solo artist to hold a four-dome tour in Japan[60] and the second Korean solo artist to have a world tour (the first being Rain). The production of the tour cost $3.5 million, making it the largest scale in Korean history at the time.[61] The tour was held in 8 countries, visited 13 cities for a total of 27 concerts gathering 570,000 fans.[62]

After touring extensively, G-Dragon went back into the studio to record his second studio album. YG Entertainment later announced that Grammy Award-winning musician Missy Elliott will be featured on the album.[63]Coup d'Etat (2013) was released in two parts online, with the full album released physically on September 13, featuring collaborations with Diplo, Baauer, Boys Noize, Sky Ferreira, Siriusmo, Zion.T, Lydia Paek, and label-mate Jennie Kim. G-Dragon and Missy Elliott performed the song "Niliria" (Korean; Revised Romanization: Nililiya) at the KCON 2013 in Los Angeles. Six tracks from Coup d'Etat placed within the top 10 of the Gaon Digital Chart, including the number one "Who You?" (Korean? ; Revised Romanization: Niga Mwonde).[64] The best-performing single of the album was "Crooked" (Korean; Revised Romanization: Ppiddak-hage), with over 1.8 million digital downloads,[65] which was his first solo music video to surpass 100 million views on YouTube.[66] The title track "Coup d'Etat" (Korean: ; Revised Romanization: ''Kudeta'') was chosen by Billboard as one of the game-changing EDM tracks of 2013.[67] The album entered the Billboard 200, making G-Dragon the first Korean act to have multiples entries on the chart.[68] The success of Coup d'Etat led to G-Dragon winning a total of four awards at the 15th Mnet Asian Music Awards: Best Male Solo Artist, Best Music Video for "Coup d'Etat", Best Dance Performance for "Crooked", and the highest award, Artist of The Year.[69] He later took home the World's Best Entertainer and World's Best Album at the World Music Awards.[70]

G-Dragon participated in the Infinite Challenge music festival again for the second time on October 17, 2013 in Imjingak, composing and performing the song "Going to Try" (?) with comedian Jeong Hyeong-don.[71]

2014-2016: Collaborations and music producing

G-Dragon became a face of Airbnb for Asia in 2015

In 2014, he wrote and produced for other YG artists, penning the track "Good to You" from 2NE1's album Crush. He also worked with Taeyang on his second album Rise, writing and producing the lead single "Ringa Linga" and "Stay With Me", featuring on the latter track.[72] In November 2014, G-Dragon and Taeyang formed a duo to release the single "Good Boy", which debuted at number one on Billboard's World Digital Songs chart, the third time a Korean act topped the chart after PSY and 2NE1.[73] The single had over 1.2 million downloads in South Korea,[74] while its music video surpassed 100 million views on YouTube, making Big Bang the first Korean male group to have three 100 million YouTube hits under its belt.[75] In December of the same year, G-Dragon collaborated with Skrillex and Diplo for the song "Dirty Vibe", which also features labelmate CL. The single charted at number 15 on Billboard's Hot Dance/Electronic Songs and 21 on Dance/Electronic Digital Songs, making them the first Korean artists to land on the chart.[76][77][78] In 2015, he wrote and produced a song for YG Entertainment's new rookie group iKon for their debut album Welcome Back.[79]

G-Dragon spent the majority of 2015 and 2016 touring with his band for their third Korean album, performing for over 3.6 million fans in two years.[80][81][82][83][84] He participated in the 2015 Infinite Challenge music festival for the third consecutive time, and the first with bandmate Taeyang. The duo teamed up with ZE:A's Hwang Kwanghee and released the single "Mapsosa", which peaked at number two on the Gaon Digital Chart,[85] and sold 1.1 million copies by the end of the year, making it one of the best-selling songs of 2015.[86] He appeared on the same show again the following year, for the Muhan Company special, which was a two-episode thriller movie, where he acted for the first time.[87][88] Additionally, he featured in Baauer's song "Temple" from his debut album Aa (2016) along with British rapper M.I.A.[89] The song charted at number 36 on Billboard's Dance/Electronic Digital Songs and number 26 on Hot Dance/Electronic Songs, making him the first Korean male artist to chart twice on both charts.[90]

2017-present: Kwon Ji Yong, second world tour, and mandatory military service

G-Dragon was featured on Zion.T's song "Complex" for his album OO (2017),[91] which peaked at number two on the Gaon Digital Chart.[92] He also served as a guest rapper for IU's lead single "Palette," off her album of the same name[93] which topped the Gaon Chart for two consecutive weeks.[94] After the promotional activities with his band wrapped up, G-Dragon began preparing for the release of his new album, along with a solo concert tour.[95]

The single "Bullshit" was set to serve as the lead single to precede the release of his second self-titled EP.[96] Amid bandmate T.O.P's marijuana scandal and the prior single's provocative name, "Untitled, 2014" was serviced to radio instead to avoid further controversy for the artist's record label.[97] Forgoing the traditional method of CDs, Kwon Ji Yong was released in USB flash drive format on June 8, drawing criticism from Gaon and denied being regarded as an official album. Gaon reversed its decision later that year, acknowledging the format.[98] The release saw him topping iTunes charts in 46 countries, the most by any Korean album, including the US iTunes chart. Kwon Ji Yong also topped the iTunes worldwide album and European iTunes charts making him the first Korean soloist to do so.[99] In the United States, Kwon Ji Yong became his best-selling album in just one day and his third entry on the Billboard 200 and first number one on the Heatseeksers Albums. Additionally, the EP became his third chart-topper and the first by a Korean soloist to spend multiple weeks atop the Billboard World Albums.[100][101] In China, the album surpassed 760,000 digital units sold in a day on QQ Music, the biggest music site in the country.[102] Six days after its release, it surpassed one million copies sold, becoming the fastest album to do so and the best-selling album of the year so far.[103] His second world tour, Act III: M.O.T.T.E, began at Seoul World Cup Stadium on June 10, 2017[104][105] and visited 29 cities across Asia, North America, Europe and Oceania.[106][107] The tour is the largest tour by a Korean artist in the United States and Europe, and is the largest concert tour ever conducted by a Korean solo artist, it was attended by 654,000 people worldwide.[108][8][109]

G-Dragon began his two-year mandatory military service on February 27, 2018 by entering the 3rd Infantry Division's boot camp in Gangwon province as an active duty soldier, where he is set to be discharged on November 27, 2019 after completing the requirements.[110] On May 17, 2018, G-Dragon was reported to have undergone surgery to his right ankle due to previous injuries. He returned to his military base a few days later.[111] However, on June 25, 2018, South Korean media outlet, Dispatch, reported that the artist was receiving special treatment in Yangzhou Armed Forces Hospital during his stay. He was said to be resting in a hospital room dedicated to Colonels although he is only a Private First Class.[112] Later on, his music label, YG Entertainment, as well as the Ministry of Defense released statements claiming that the allegations were false and that he was not receiving any special treatments.[113] In the midst of the rumors, a petition has been set up in the government's website to shut down Dispatch due to the belief that the company was releasing fabricated articles in attempts to entertain people without any regards to the validity of the news as well as how the news would affect the person or people involved.[114]

Artistry

Music

Inspired by the music of Wu-Tang Clan and citing American singer Pharrell Williams as his "musical hero",[116] G-Dragon's production discography is predominately hip hop.[117] He has also listed Jinusean, Fabolous and Kanye West as influences.[118] At the age of 12, he participated in the annual hip hop Flex album in an attempt jumpstart his career as a hip hop artist.[13] When Big Bang first debuted, G-Dragon produced mainly hip hop songs for their albums before the quintet branched out and experimented with electronic music, setting it as the new music trend in Korea.[119] While the band continues to incorporate a diverse range of genre into their materials, G-Dragon focuses mainly on hip hop for his solo efforts and the two sub-units he is a part of (GD & TOP, GD X Taeyang) to contrast Big Bang's sound.[120][41]

He first album Heartbreaker was a mix of dance, hip-hop, and R&B[121] while acoustic, hip hop and electronic music influenced GD & TOP.[41] The song "Crayon" from the EP One of a Kind is a mix between hip-hop and electronic music[122] whereas "One of a Kind" is hip hop and pop-rap song.[123] G-Dragon's second album, Coup d'Etat, is noted for being an eclectic mix of hip-hop, dubstep, rock, electro, and pop,[124] with Jessica Oak from Billboard magazine describing the album's title track, which was co-produced by American DJs Diplo and Baauer, as a slow tempo trap influenced song.[125] The song also samples Gil Scott-Heron's "The Revolution Will Not Be Televised."[126] Meanwhile, "Crooked" was described as a "synthed-up, deliriously catchy pop-punk" with a "neon-bright" sound,[127] fusing "heavy drumbeats and metal guitar riffs"[128] and featuring a "heavy bass line and fully amplified sound at the chorus."[129] In the track, G-Dragon also mixes rap with singing.[128] "Niliria" was noted for sounding ethnic and surrealist.[130]

Kwon Ji Yong continues to feature songs under the hip-hop and R&B genre, with the exception of its lead single, "Untitled, 2014", which is a ballad. Despite primarily being a rapper, the latter also has G-Dragon only singing over a "single piano accompaniment,"[131] with Jeff Benjamin of Fuse comparing the song to Adele's "Someone like You" for its simplicity.[132] The intro, "Middle Fingers-Up", features a piano riff with an underlying trap beat.[133] Act I. or "Bullshit" is a multi-layered hip-hop track characterized by a pulsating chorus and sudden beat and rhythm changes.[134] Act II. or "Super Star" is a slow jam fused with trap, filled with brassy drums, Middle-Eastern horns, lilting synths, and a backing chorus.[134] The outro, "Divina Commedia", is an experimental alt-R&B track which samples "Veridis Quo" from Daft Punk's 2001 album Discovery.[134]

"I have this disease-like need to try to create something new. When you're kind of being chased, and everything you do goes so well, you develop this sickness and a sense of need to constantly do something different."
-- G-Dragon[118]

Lyrics and themes

G-Dragon writes majority of his lyrics, explaining that "each feeling [in creating the music] is different",[135] using his emotions to direct the lyrical content and the composition of his songs.[136] Preferring to pen lyrics that "sound like an actual story,"[30] G-Dragon has said he injects throughout his songwriting process "a sense of eeriness" writing songs that resemble horror films, like "She's Gone", "Window" and "That XX".[124]Spin magazine wrote that G-Dragon's music is "daring by K-pop standards, wildly innovative by any standard" and that the rapper seems "unafraid of constantly pushing forward."[137]

The Guardian noted that his songs stand out for "more in-depth themes including self-destruction and narcissism."[138] The lyrics in his song "A Boy" was in response to the negative criticisms surrounding his 2009 plagiarism controversy, with the artist refusing to give up on his career despite the setbacks.[139] "Crooked" was created to express his natural punk attitude[124] by describing a man "full of angst and despair" that demands to be left alone as he spends the night "like a 'crooked-minded person,' because in the end, he's alone and doesn't need anyone's 'sugarcoated sympathy.'"[128] His use of explicit languages in "That XX" drew controversy for the artist, and the song was deemed unsuitable for listeners below 19 years of age, and compromised words were replaced by beeps in the music video.[140] Discussing "cheeky" themes such as money and fame,[123][141] "One of a Kind" from the EP of the same name is often view as one of his best work, with Ize magazine listing it as one of the most memorable songs written by G-Dragon, commenting that it raised his status as a hip-hop musician.[142] "Middle Fingers Up" from Kwon Ji-Yong discusses the diminishing number of his personal relationships and his ever-decreasing social circle[142] while "Bullshit"'s lyrics are self-referential, referencing "Crayon" by name while the canine onomatopoeia recalls the title track to his last album Coup d'Etat.[134] He takes on a more remorseful approach in "Untitled, 2014", with the rapper apologizing for "his past actions, asking for forgiveness and the chance to see his ex again even if it's just one more time or in his dreams" in what has been described as "a letter to a past lover"[132]

He also explored other themes as a producer for Big Bang: "If You" was inspired during a time when the artist was in love,[143] "Bae Bae" was inspired by the work of British artist Francis Bacon and the eroticism in his paintings,[144] while "Loser" was written in an attempt to humanize the group.[145] To distinguish himself from other artists and composers, G-Dragon admits to "giving twist and turn at every corner and evoking [a] different story" with each part of his music, acknowledging that although the chorus is the catchiest part of the song, he wants all the parts to his song to be remembered.[135] Aside from producing songs for his own band, G-Dragon has also produced for other artists, including bandmates Taeyang's,[146] Seungri's and Daesung's solo careers, and YG Entertainment labelmates iKon and 2NE1.[147] He is often described as a "perfectionist" who's very critical during recording sessions.[148][149][150]

Stage and alter ego

G-Dragon in stage outfit on Big Bang's Alive Tour in 2012

G-Dragon's stage presence and performances have been well-received.[151] In a review for his One of a Kind World Tour, Billboard claimed that G-Dragon was a "highly-energetic performer" and was pushing boundaries with this tour, which was described as "vibrant" and a "Michael Jackson-level affair".[152]MWave stated that G-Dragon showed that he's indeed one of a kind while "he burst forth in his own style and personality all throughout the concert." The critic concluded that the rapper "filled every corner of the stage perfectly with his solo presence."[153] His second world tour, Act III: M.O.T.T.E, received rave reviews from critics and fans and was noted for being more intimate.[154][155] In a review for one of his performances in Thailand, Riddhi Chakraborty from Rolling Stone India praised the singer-rapper for delivering "precise choreograph[ies]" with "unwavering enthusiasm [...] and brutal honesty"[4] while Kimberly Lim from The New Paper also noted how G-Dragon "performed gravity-defying and slick moves" at one of his concerts in Macau.[156]

Billboard K-Town describes his productions as large-scale, dramatic and infused with his personality,[157] often incorporating a live band alongside professional dancers, various costumes changes, manipulation of stage lights, and the use of pyrotechnics.[158][4] The singer-rapper's stage outfits have also garnered attention, with Dazed magazine noting that G-Dragon has the "rare ability to play loose and wild with his sartorial choices" to put together outfits that make the "ridiculous become sublime, [and] the impractical into the necessary."[159] G-Dragon explains that while his "[s]tage outfits are loud, outspoken, glamorous, [and] fancy", they are very different from his "normal day to day clothing", preferring to wear "loud and outspoken" clothes when performing compare to a more casual style off-stage.[159]

While promoting his EP Kwon Ji Yong, G-Dragon revealed that he originally created the alter ego G-Dragon to keep his stage persona separated from who he really is. Seoul Beats have described G-Dragon as "glamorous, cocky, [and] energetic", compared to his real-life "humble [and] understated" personality.[160] In a 2017 interview with Elle, he described G-Dragon as someone who is "full of self-confidence" and is "a fancier and stronger person" while Kwon Ji-yong is an "introvert[ed] guy" with "many thoughts in his mind."[161] After the release of Kwon Ji Yong and while touring for Act III: M.O.T.T.E , G-Dragon expressed a desire to distance himself from his alter ego,[162][156] explaining to his fans that for the past few years he has been "living as G-Dragon, but now I want to live as Kwon Ji Yong." Rolling Stone India noted how during the third act of the concerts, fans were able to witness "the rather menacing G-Dragon melt away into the shy Ji Yong."[4]

Public image

"There are too many references and ideas, colors and shapes -- yet on him, they feel just right. Where there's a constricted idea of masculinity in society, G-Dragon exploded the paradigm for how a man could be. He was like Prince, only less interested in making his body a sexual object. In G-Dragon's world, fashion could be a fun, playful, and joyful, rather than exacting and serious. Clothes could be an expression of your core identity, or they could just be something you're trying out -- a mood, a whim, or an idea. He was postmodern in the best sense of the word. He proved that you could, in some way, be anything and everything." -- E.Alex Jung from Vulture[163]

G-Dragon maintains tight control over his career, publicly opposing the idea of singers as "products" of the entertainment industry and criticizing agencies who does not give their artists creative control.[164] Known for reinventing his image and style throughout the years, the singer-rapper is often described as the "most fashionable" member in Big Bang.[165] While promoting Heartbreaker, his change in hairstyle by dyeing it blond gained popularity among his fans and became one of the top hairstyles of the year.[166] He has consistently altered his hair throughout the years, ranging from various shades of colors to different cuts.[167] Additionally, his constant sporting of triangular scarves during promotions for Big Bang's EP Always became a trend among teenagers and were later nicknamed the "Big Bang scarves."[168]

G-Dragon is noted for his androgynous appearance,[169][170] with the Korea JoongAng Daily calling him "a notable star fashioning genderless style", noting how his image deviates from the fixed gender type of men and women.[171]Vogue Magazine stated how his androgynous or gender-bending appearance defies a "society that maintains traditional, patriarchal values and a noted adherence to manufactured beauty ideals."[172] When he collaborated with Italian footwear designer Giuseppe Zanotti to launch a limited-edition collection of men's and women's shoes, he stated that "it's not just girls or women who get excited and worked up over pretty shoes. [...] [G]uys can feel that way, too."[173][174] G-Dragon's fashion has been described as "quirky and experimental" by Rushali Pawar of the International Business Times[175] while Taylor Glasby from the British Magazine Dazed and Confused characterized his style as "fluid and far-reaching," calling him a "natural style chameleon."[176] Monica Kim from Vogue Magazine admired his "uncanny knack for larger-than-life style that remains wearably cool."[177] Joe Coscarelli from The New York Times calls him "a style icon, a chameleon who often makes peak-era Lady Gaga seem staid."[178] He has covered various issues of W, Dazed, Hypebeast, Elle, Vogue, and landed editorials in Harper's Bazaar, Esquire, among other Asian magazines.[179]

G-Dragon stated that he was initially self-conscious of his role as a musician, noting how he had "changed many things including the tone of my voice because I was conscious about my job when I was in front of others."[180] Aware that his public image is important when promoting his materials, G-Dragon notes that "what the public perceives of [me] is my doing so it's my fault if I give off the wrong intention."[180] In recent years, he has become more relaxed, stating that now he doesn't "do music or dress up in order to impress people around me. I don't try to be conscious [about music and fashion]."[181]

G-Dragon was chosen by The Chosun Ilbo as the Best-Dresed Celebrity of 2012,[182] while in 2014, he was chosen as one of the Best-Dressed Street Style Stars of the year by New York.[183] G-Dragon was included in the 2015's and 2016's Business of Fashion's 500 Global Fashion Leaders list, making him one of the five Koreans on the list, and the only K-Pop act to have made the cut.[184][185] He was also the only Korean in Hypebeast's 100 Innovators list.[186]

Other ventures

Business

In 2012, G-Dragon built a pension hotel as a gift to his family; fans can also stay at this hotel which is now run as a business by his parents.[187] On October 20, 2015, G-Dragon officially opened his first cafe on Jeju Island, under the name of "Monsant Cafe".[188][189] The South Korean indie band Hyukoh was the first artist to play at the café in September 2015.[190] In 2017, his second cafe named "Untitled, 2017", inspired by the title of his most recent single, was built, alongside with a bowling alley both designed by G-Dragon. It is located within YG Entertainment's YG Republique building complex YG Town of Jeju Shinhwa World resort, for which he is an ambassador.[191]

Endorsements

G-Dragon along with Big Bang are Korea's highest paid celebrities over endorsements, reportedly having an asking price of $1-1.5 million USD per endorsement in 2011.[192] In August 2015, he became the face of Airbnb in the Asian market.[193] In 2016, G-Dragon started endorsing Shinsegae, the largest retailer in South Korea and his merchandises were reported to take up over 49% of sales in the YG store.[194] He also endorsed the Italian sportswear label Kappa as a part of their 100th anniversary and it was reported that he earned $1.9 million USD from the brand.[195][196] He was selected as the face of Hyundai's Verna concept vehicle, appearing at an auto show in Beijing which saw 10,000 fans gather to see him in person.[197] In 2017, G-Dragon endorsed Vidal Sassoon in China,[198] he also joined Nike's Air Max Day global campaign and endorsed the Vapormax shoe, causing instant sell-outs across online stores in South Korea.[199][200] The same year, he was announced as the official ambassador of luxury resort Jeju Shinhwa World, located on Jeju Island.[201] In 2017, G-Dragon was chosen as the brand ambassador of Jeju Island's first premiere resort complex Jeju Shinhwa World, G-Dragon directly participated in the development, designing and planning the concept of the resort complex.[202]

Fashion and art

In 2013, G-Dragon partnered with Ambush for a special collaborative release which includes apparel and accessories. The collection highlights G-Dragon's signature crest by utilizing the design throughout the entire release.[203] In 2014, G-Dragon partnered with Chow Tai Fook Enterprises jewelry and launched a collection designed by himself.[204][205] G-Dragon opened an art exhibition in 2015 under the name Peaceminusone: Beyond the Stage.[206] The exhibition features 200 works of art from 12 domestic and international artists including Michael Scoggins, Sophie Clements and James Clar.[207] Having worked on the exhibition for over a year, its aim is to bring the modern art and pop culture together in order to "introduce domestic artists to the public, who are unfamiliar with art or who find art unapproachable."[206] The show was held at the Seoul Museum of Art from June 6 to August 23.[208] He also launched a collaboration with Giuseppe Zanotti and designed two unisex shoe styles.[209]

Peaceminusone logo

In 2016, he collaborated with the brand 8 Seconds, part of the Samsung C&T Fashion Group, designing his first street fashion collection. The collection featured innovative "genderless" designs, suitable for both men and women.[210] In October the same year, G-Dragon launched his personal fashion brand, Peaceminusone, with his long time stylist Gee Eun as an online store, with a collection that includes tees, caps, jewelry, and in-ear headphones.[211] Later, the line was launched as a physical store at the Dover Street Market in London and in Seoul.[212][213] His brand, Peaceminusone, collaborated with Ambush in November for a capsule collection of denim pieces, marking his third collaboration with the label.[214] The same year, he starred in the official campaign for Seoul-based fashion label Juun.J's FW16 collection with Taeyang.[215] He also became a brand ambassador for French fashion house Chanel,[216] and starred in the label's Gabrielle bag campaign during 2017, alongside industry legend Pharrell.[217][179]

In 2017, G-Dragon began doing pop-up shops for his brand Peaceminusone which started in Seoul. He then teamed up with the boutique called Alchemist to launch a six day pop-up in Miami.[218][219] While on his second world tour (Act III: M.O.T.T.E) he continued to make pit stops, to do pop-up shops in places like Osaka and Hong Kong.[220] Later that year he collaborated with Vogue to do another pop-up shop in Seoul, selling limited edition Peaceminusone X Vogue apparel.[221] He also launched collaboration with French retailer Colette which was made available to purchase on his online store.[222]

Philanthropy

G-Dragon has shown support for numerous charity organisations over the years. Notably, the final concert of his world tour in 2013, a booth was erected where fans could donate to building a fishery in Haiti, as a collaboration with YG Entertainment's With Campaign, which he previously worked with to help build a school in Nepal.[223] At the same event, he and his fans from 14 different countries around the world donated 9.9 tons of rice, which was sent to help malnourished children, elderly living on their own, and other people in need.[224][225] He's reportedly donated ?81.8 million ($80,000 USD) every year on his birthday.[226] G-Dragon donated ?50 million ($43,400 USD) in 2011 (when fans donated under his name) and in 2012 (privately by himself) to Seoul National University Hospital to help children with diseases get treatment, it was revealed accidentally in 2017 as his name was engraved on a plaque honoring those who had contributed ?100 million or more.[227]

G-Dragon has used his image to raise awareness for multiple causes, including the UN Refugee Agency[228] and the Red Campaign to fight AIDS.[229] Additionally, in May 2017, a citrus tree forest was officially opened in the city of Seogwipo on Jeju Island, named after G-Dragon's real name, Kwon Ji-yong. The fruit harvested from the forest will be donated to charity events.[230]

Awards and achievements

G-Dragon has won two Golden Disc Awards, two Korean Music Awards, two MBC Entertainment Awards, two World Music Awards, seven Mnet Asian Music Awards, six Melon Music Awards among several other awards. In 2008, G-Dragon was honored with the award for Most Influential Men of the Year sponsored by Arena magazine,[231] and in 2013, he was awarded the Style Icon of the Year award at the Style Icon Asia, being the first solo singer to win the award undivided.[232] He was chosen by GQ Korea as their Man of the Year in 2015.[181] Additionally, G-Dragon was honored at the 2016 Pop Culture & Arts Awards, held by the Korean Ministry of Culture, Sports and Tourism, being recognized for his influence and success on music and fashion.[233]

Legacy

Described as a "genius singer-songwriter" by The Korea Times,[30] G-Dragon's role in producing many of Big Bang's materials so early in their career was considered "unusual" at the time, as most K-pop bands are manufactured instead of self-produced.[234] His involvement has shaped how new idol groups interact with their music, with The Korea Times acknowledging that his "unprecedented popularity" and recognition "has inspired many young idol-wannabes to become singer-songwriters."[235] Artists that have cited his work as an influence include Zico,[236]Got7's BamBam,[237]Seventeen's S.Coups,[238]Jaden Smith,[239]Younha,[240]One,[241]Lee Seung-hwan,[242]Kim Eana[243]DinDin,[244] and Grimes, who states that K-pop, in particular G-Dragon, has influenced her musical style "more visually than anything else."[245][246]BTS's Jungkook also revealed that it was G-Dragon's song "Heartbreaker" that made him wanted to become a singer[247] while Mix Nine's winner Woo Jin Young stated that G-Dragon's "This Love" inspired him to be a rapper.[248]

His music has gained appreciation from critics. The song "One of a Kind" is listed in Korean music critic Kim Bong-hyun's book of most influential Korean hip hop songs from 1989 to 2016, naming it one of the 28 tracks that shaped the genre.[249] It was also the only song by a solo artist to be included in The Dong-a Ilbos 2016 list of the best male idol songs in the past 20 years.[250] Meanwhile, Spin named "Crayon" the best K-pop single of 2012, with David Bevan commenting that the track "almost felt too big for the occasion, too brash to have come from the leader of a boy band."[251] In 2013, "Crooked" was voted as MTV Iggy's Song of the Year, with the website commenting that "G-Dragon made a big splash in the world of K-pop and beyond with his solo album Coup d'Etat. 'Crooked' from that album was the endlessly playable sound of him breaking big."[252] The Korea Music Copyright Association lists over 160 songs under G-Dragon's name[253] and in 2015, G-Dragon's annual earnings from song royalties was estimated to be over $700,000 a year.[254] He was the highest paid touring singer-songwriter in Korea, as well as the youngest to be mentioned on a list of South Korean composers earning the most from songwriting royalties in 2012.[255] In 2018, he tied with YG Entertainment producer Teddy Park for the most earned royalties for lyrics writing and song composition within the field of popular music from the Korean Music Copyright Association.[256]

G-Dragon was highlighted as one of the "50 Reasons Why Seoul is the Best City" by CNN in 2011[257] and topped the list of the "Most Influential Entities of K-Pop" by Ilgan Sports in 2013.[62] That same year, collaborator Diplo declared that G-Dragon is a "phenom, [he's] bigger than the K-pop scene."[258] The rapper has made Forbes Korea's list of "Korea 2030 Power Leaders" for three consecutive years, most recently in 2014.[259] In 2018, 35 executives from 35 companies in the South Korean music industry chose G-Dragon as the best soloist in Korea[260] while ABS-CBN lists him as their favorite K-pop idol leader, citing his creativity, dedication, and hard-work.[261] G-Dragon has been called the "King of K-Pop" by various media publications including Rolling Stone, Dazed and Vogue.[4][5][172] His artistry, multi-hyphenate career, popularity and level of influence have drawn comparisons to American singer Michael Jackson by Billboard,[262]Vogue,[172] and i-D, who hailed him as "the millennial Michael Jackson".[9] Despite his success as a solo artist and leader of Big Bang, G-Dragon has admitted that he didn't realize how famous he was until he went on Big Bang's first world tour.[117]

Personal life

G-Dragon enrolled at Kyung Hee University in 2008 to study post-modern music. He later dropped out due to his busy schedule and chose to major in Leisure Sports Studies at Gukje Cyber University instead, obtaining his Bachelor's degree in 2013. G-Dragon graduated in 2016 with his Master's degree in content and retail distribution at Sejong University. Plans for a doctoral degree have been delayed to accommodate his military enlistment.[263] In 2018,The Gazette Review estimated that G-Dragon's net worth is $40 million.[264]

G-Dragon began mandatory military service on February 27, 2018. After his basic training at South Korea's 3rd Infantry 'Skeleton' Division in Cheorwon, Gangwon Province, he was assigned as a regular soldier. G-Dragon is scheduled to be discharged on November 26, 2019.[265] During his enlistment, numerous fans sent him letters, causing disruptions and leading to YG Entertainment to publicly request fans to refrain from doing so.[266]

Discography

Filmography

  • ? (Muhan Company) [as Executive Director Kwon] (2016)

Tours

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