South Korean musician Min Yoongi is no stranger to the pain of struggle.
He has felt it through the pangs of hunger, knowing the pain of it when he was cheated of the profits of his music-making as a teenager in his hometown of Daegu. And even when he left for Seoul to take on the role of Suga, a member of the world’s biggest group, BTS, Min’s struggles would not only persist but also take different forms: such as accusations of selling out from his former peers in the underground rap scene and allegations of mass-buying stirred up by netizens.
Yes, Min Yoongi knows the shape of struggle from the depths of his heart, but he is also familiar with the peace that can only come from surrendering to it. These concepts are explored heavily in D-2, Min’s second mixtape under his solo alias Agust D. For most people, struggle and surrender are polar opposites that exist only after the other. Min shows that they are overlapping threads in a tapestry with every story that he weaves, bound to cross over each other in an endless cycle.
In the mixtape, Min tackles the proverbial bruises he’s sustained with stinging rawness. These aches result in a surrender that feels numb and dull, a sensation that he bitterly acknowledges will never cease. He had once said that he could remain a boy as long as he could dream, but in the moody “28” he grieves over losing the ability to dream when becoming an adult (“I can’t remember/ What are the things that I hoped for/ Now I’m scared/ Where did the fragments of my dream go?”). He then realizes that to wonder may be all for naught: “The life I wished for, the life I wanted, a so-so life/ Whatever it is, it doesn’t matter anymore.”
This feeling of helplessness is also prominent in “Honsool”, which is an abbreviated Korean term referring to alcohol that one drinks alone or the act itself of drinking alone. Min, exhausted from a day of work, dwells on the fears that stem from his high status (“Money, fame, wealth/ Trophies and stadiums/ Sometimes I’d get scared of them/ and would want to run away”). He concedes, almost unfeelingly, that this is all part of life: “Well, it doesn’t matter anyway/ Tomorrow will come and go again/…/ we just endure through the day, I guess.”
Perhaps this painful surrender is captured best in “Interlude: Set me free”, whose dreamy arrangement belies a sad acceptance of life as an endless cycle of suffering. He mourns, “These days, I feel melancholy for no obvious reason/ One day, I crawl on the floor/ On another day, I fly high in the sky/ Why, why?” And yet he intones repeatedly, almost like a prayer: “Set me free, knowing that it won’t go the way I want/ Set me free, knowing that it’s not what I want.”
Min has truly never hesitated in expressing the helplessness that racks his soul — but he embraces hope and peaceful surrender arguably with more fervor. He had explored this mindset with his bandmates in their latest album, Map of the Soul: 7, which manifested an acceptance of both their lights and shadows. By surrendering to such a fate, perhaps Min believes that one can go through life much stronger. He said in an interview with Elle Magazine, “Life is tough, and things don’t always work out well, but we should be brave and go on with our lives.”
First track “Moonlight” affirms this through Min’s recounting of his personal history. That moment of struggle is still present as he ponders on ambition (“The emptiness that I feel after flying fucking high/ Although it’s been more than 10 years since I started in Namsandong,/ it’s the same that my head is a mess”). Despite this pain, he’s come to accept that one just has to roll with the punches, saying, “Changes are fated to happen to everyone/ Perhaps, how we change is what our undertaking is about.”
He acts on this thought with the riff-heavy “Burn It”, where he confronts his past self and realizes that he was weighed down with the anger (“The weakness, hatred, loathing, and even rage/ …/ Perhaps, yeah, those are used as a hostage/ to pressure you to be passionate”). And so Min sets his past figuratively on fire, declaring, “Whether it would become a blazing sun/ or the ashes left behind after being burnt/ always, the choice and decision is yours to make.”
Min takes a lighter turn with “People”, musing on life’s challenging and transcendent nature. “Flow along the way the water flows/ Maybe there’s something at the end/ A special life, an ordinary life, each of them on their own/ It’s all good,” he says, reassuring that everything will be fine despite the sticks and stones that life constantly throws our way.
But it’s the mixtape closer, “Dear my friend”, that perfectly exemplifies this peaceful surrender. The lyrics say nothing of the sort; Min addresses a friend that he could no longer recognize because of substance abuse and harbors regrets on what could have been. However, the song itself is a manifestation of acceptance, a glowing hope in being able to address such a gaping pain. And while the pain may come and visit from time to time, there is peace in knowing that he is strong enough to face it.
Through its reflection on the coexistence between struggle and surrender, D-2 is an honest introspection on the paradoxical nature of human life. Min doesn’t mince words, surgically slicing through haters with “Daechwita” and “What Do You Think?” (a previous version of which had controversially sampled a Jim Jones speech). Nor does he succumb to any cliché romanticization: his feelings are expressed straightforwardly, his lyricism dry in his signature style. But he does assure, steady as a rock, that there’s always a tomorrow no matter what happens — and it’s the beauty of this knowledge that makes his music so powerful.
Mariel is a full-time business writer bravely balancing her side job as an ARMY. She also loves listening to music, watching video game playthroughs, and reading fiction, historical non-fiction, and graphic novels. Tweet her what you think @ohwellmariel (and if you play your cards right, she just might drop you her stan account).
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