Agust D’s ‘D-2’ is a poignant look at change and success


D-2 Logo/Big Hit Entertainment / Wikimedia Commons / Public domain

Rapper Agust D surprised his fans with the sudden release of his second solo mixtape, titled “D-2.”

May 22: Day D-2.

Agust D, the solo alias of BTS member Suga, dropped his second solo mixtape last week, to the surprise and anticipation of many fans. “D-2” is a departure from the hard-hitting rap of Agust D’s first self-titled mixtape, featuring stronger melodies and a more laid-back style of rapping. But despite this change, Agust D still manages to showcase his talents at lyricism and producing. 

In the lead up to the release, a series of cryptic, blurred images were released on Big Hit Label’s Twitter, sparking speculation across social media. Shockingly, the tape, along with a four-minute music video for the lead track, “Daechwita,” was released on the countdown D-2, rather than the expected “D-Day.”

Agust D explained to Billboard, “I didn’t want to release it on D-DAY, and also wasn’t satisfied with just [the title] Agust D 2. So I wanted to release it on D-2 to surprise the people who were waiting for it to drop on D-DAY.”

Daechwita is a genre of traditional Korean music, featuring a military band with wind instruments and heavy percussion. These elements are mixed with a hard-hitting trap beat in the energetic lead single. The lyrics are of a stereotypical diss track, with Agust D flaunting his rags-to-riches success while calling out his jealous haters. The lyrics, especially the chorus where Agust D simply repeats “Daechwita, Daechwita, play it loud, Daechwita,”* can be very monotonous after a while. However, the traditional instrumentation and interesting historical references prevent the song from being a generic, hip-hop diss track. In particular, his flow during the verses is varied and attention-grabbing. As a whole, it’s a great song to listen to casually to get hyped up. 

Big Hit Entertainment

The accompanying music video is intricate and well made, highlighting the best aspects of the track. Agust D takes on the role of a tyrannical king, as well as a lowly peasant out to destroy the king. Throughout the video, the viewer follows both versions of Agust D as he navigates the elaborate historical set, interacting with both courtiers and lower-class allies. In the behind-the-scenes, the artist reveals that the king embodies the self-aggrandizing old version of himself that was featured in his first mixtape, while the peasant represents the present version. 

In contrast to the lead track, the rest of the songs on the mixtape are much more mellow. The opening track, titled “Moonlight,” is a reflective transition between his previous mixtape and the newly released one. In the lyrics, Agust D contemplates his journey to success and his fears on where his talents and dreams can take him. The chorus reflects the constants in his life: “That moonlight that shines on me at dawn / It’s still the same as then / A lot changed in my life, but / That moonlight is still the same.”* The lyrics are candid and a bit self-deprecating, showing Agust D’s signature style and talent at writing. The music itself is very low-key, with upbeat horns and the trap beat accenting Agust D’s flow. It’s a good opener, but the transition from the intense and traditional “Daechwita” to this smooth, slightly jazzy track is a bit jarring. 

The third track on the mixtape is titled “What do you think?” This track is a more traditional hip-hop diss track, daring the media and his detractors to share their opinions. Fans of BTS will recognize references to BTS’s older songs, another element of Agust D’s style. Like “Daechwita,” this track is a bit cliche, and honestly, one of the more forgettable tracks in this mixtape. 

The next track, “Strange,” is the first collaboration of many on the mixtape. Agust D raps alongside fellow BTS member RM, discussing the peculiarity of societal norms. This track is one of my favorites, and the poetic commentary between the rappers elevates it to a whole other level. RM translates the sentiments of Agust D’s verse into English while adding his own perspective on the issues. Their pre-chorus verses are nearly identical, with RM’s later verse acting as almost an answer to Agust D’s questions. I would highly encourage listeners to look up translations, especially fan-made ones, to get a full understanding of the wordplay on hand. However, my favorite part is the soft, haunting piano that runs as an undercurrent to the rappers’ discussion, as its ambiance contributes to the abstract nature of the song. 

“28” is another collaboration track, this time with soloist NiiHWA. Like “Moonlight,” the lyrics of “28” reflect on Agust D’s fear of the future and growing older. This track is more melody-reliant, with Agust D both singing and rapping. Skimming through NiiHWA’s discography, his style of R&B singing makes him a perfect fit for this particular track. However, his vocals are underutilized, acting as more of a backing vocal to Agust D’s singing rather than a full feature. Another criticism of this track is that its hook isn’t particularly strong; it’s hard to recall this song compared to the more emotional tracks in the mixtape. 

American pop artist MAX is featured on “Burn It,” the sixth track of the mixtape. Agust D again ventures away from his traditional base of hip-hop to explore rock-style instrumentation. The track opens with MAX soulfully belting the chorus: “I see the ashes falling out your window / There’s someone in the mirror that you don’t know / And everything was all wrong / So burn it till it’s all gone,” echoing similar sentiments to the music video of “Daechwita.” Agust D raps about the destruction of his former, insecure self, particularly the one showcased in his last mixtape. Fans have also discovered lyrical references to the BTS song “Outro: Tear,” which also discusses the destruction of toxic relationships. 

The seventh track, “People,” is another one of my favorites. It’s more upbeat compared to the last couple of tracks but still contains a slightly bittersweet note. Again, Agust D reflects on the nature of change but discusses it with a lighter tone, asking the listener, “Why so serious?” Another refreshing change in this track is the female backing vocals (believed to be Big Hit producer ADORA) that brighten Agust D’s mellow tone. My favorite bit is the phonetic wordplay; the words “person,” “live,” and “love” sound similar in Korean, and the repetition accents the light marimba that runs throughout the track. 

The mood slows down with the track “Honsool,” which is slang for “drinking alone.” The song begins with sluggish, distorted vocals, presumed to be the artist describing the alcohol he is consuming. Agust D contemplates his lifestyle as a K-pop idol, at first examining his intense schedules, then taking a darker turn, questioning his success and mental health, all while slowly getting more drunk. It’s a heartbreaking song that sets the tone for the final tracks of the mixtape.

The interlude of the tape is titled “Set me free.” As he was working on the mixtape during the global shelter-in-place, this could be both a metaphorical and literal cry for freedom. The spacey instrumentation and light twittering in the background are a palette cleanser after the stagnant atmosphere of the last track. Unlike the other songs in this mixtape, this is a pure showcase of Agust D’s vocals; although not perfectly in tune, the roughness adds texture to the smooth instrumental and keeps the track cohesively within Agust D’s coarse, unpolished style. The structure of this mixtape is similar to his last, with an interlude right before a final ballad track.

“D-2” ends on a heart-wrenching ballad titled “Dear my friend,” which features Kim Jong Wan, the lead vocalist from the Korean alternative rock band NELL. The Korean title of this song, directly translated as “What would it have been like,” hints at the melancholy lyrics. Agust D tells an intensely personal story about a childhood friendship that has grown apart. He details his friend’s downward spiral, who lands in jail, and the accompanying drastic personality change. He bitterly reflects on whether he could have helped his friend, while nostalgically discussing their dreams and memories. Kim emphasizes poignant musings with his crooning vocals in the chorus: “To this day I still / Miss and miss you / To this day I’m still / Encircled by the memories of us together.”

Overall, I think this mixtape is an excellent snapshot of Agust D’s growth as a musician. Listening to his first mixtape, where he brags about album sales and global touring, D-2 shows a clear maturation from his previous shallow bluster. Although he continues to call out the haters, the playfulness of the diss tracks on this album shows that he no longer looks for outside validation. Instead, he focuses the majority of the album on himself, examining his progress as a human rather than as a celebrity. 

Examining the tape musically, some of the lyrics were a bit repetitive and cliched, and the trap beats started to sound the same after a couple of tracks. However, the emotional verses and subtle instrumentals added enough variety to the tape to balance out the repetitive rhythms. I really enjoyed the mixtape, and I’m looking forward to seeing what else the rapper puts out. But, it’s up to you to listen and decide.

As Agust D put it, “What’s good is good, and it’s up to the listeners to judge. I just do what I want to do.”

[star rating = 4]

*Lyrics taken from the Genius English translations of the original Korean lyrics