Do you want to know about the king of K-pop?

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It is indisputable that G-Dragon is the answer to the question of who is the king of K-pop. He is the greatest fashion icon, artist, producer, musician, singer-songwriter, rapper, designer, model, and businessman the K-pop industry has ever seen. At 34 years old, he already has a career spanning over twenty years and possesses both a musical and artistic legacy that has inspired two entire generations. For this reason, he is considered a celebrity among celebrities, and if we talk about K-pop, it is essential to talk about him. 

For all of the above and because he will soon be back with new music, I decided to make this blog, in which you will find a brief biography and the contributions to the industry that have made him worthy of the title of King of K-pop.

G-Dragon at the Grand Palais Éphémère in Paris from CHANEL Spring-Summer 2023

BRIEF BIOGRAPHY

Kwon Ji-Yong (Hangul: 권지용), better known as G-Dragon, GD, or PEACEMINUSONE, was born on August 18, 1988, in Seoul. He first appeared in the entertainment industry through MBC’s children’s program Bbo Bbo Bbo Bbo and later, at the age of six, became a member of the children’s group Little Roo’Ra. Sometime later, after being discovered by none other than Lee Soo-Man on a family trip, GD became an apprentice at SM Entertainment at the age of eight, and five years later, after majoring in dance, he left the company.

Over time, GD eventually developed an interest in rap and hip-hop music, thanks to a friend introducing him to the American rap group Wu-Tang Clan. Subsequently, and under the tutelage of the Korean hip hop group People Crew, he participated in the album titled 2001 South Korea Hip Hop Flex (대한민국 힙합플렉스 2001), becoming the youngest rapper to have debuted at the beginning of the decade. This collaboration led him to be recognized by Sean of YG Entertainment’s (YG) hip hop duo, JINUSEAN, who recommended him to CEO Yang Hyun-sik, with whom he ended up signing a contract as an apprentice at YG Entertainment.

G-Dragon

During his years at YG, he spent his time practicing, honing, and polishing his musical and rapping skills. But he also spent time cleaning the practice room and studio for his superiors, collecting water bottles for them during their dance practices, and being a backup dancer for any performance that needed his presence. In these same years, he met his bandmate and best friend: Dong Young-bae, known worldwide as Taeyang. 

The long-awaited debut came after more than ten years as an apprentice, and finally, on August 19, 2006, he debuted as a leader and rapper in the successful and world-renowned K-pop group BIG BANG.

Taeyang and G-Dragon

THE MUSICAL GENIUS

He made his first musical debut at the age of 13 as G-Dragon, participating in the 2001 album South Korea Hip Hop Flex (대한민국 힙합플렉스 2001). At the time, the album’s producer expressed himself about him, saying that the kid had rap notes and a well-established notion of hip hop, as well as using expressions in his lyrics that were not at all those of a beginner or amateur. All this while he was still an elementary school student. 

After debuting with Big Bang, it didn’t take so long for GD to make his talent as a musician known, and this happened when LIES, LAST FAREWELL, and HARU HARU HARU were released to the world. These were the three defining songs for the success of the Big Bang group, which became mega hits and became anthems of the second generation of K-pop. They were written and produced by him, at a time when it was not customary for idols to write and compose their own songs. Because of that, GD started to gain a reputation and was named the “Idol Producer” a title that added to his already acquired “Rapper Idol” thus being recognized as a musician and not simply as an idol. It is worth mentioning that, in those days, idols were not considered musicians, but quite the opposite, as there was a stigma that they were manufactured and packaged by the companies, forced to follow orders, and not involved in the process, so they were considered as mere interpreters of the music.

G-Dragon was also named the “Idol with the best future” and became the best composer of the year, beating the industry’s renowned producers such as Seo Taeji, JYP, and Brave Brothers. Sometime later, The Korean Times named him a “genius singer-songwriter.”

G-Dragon in the estudio

GD’s music is characterized by unique, catchy, and youthful melodies. Spin magazine said his music was daring by K-pop standards, and wildly innovative by any standards. Her main genre is hip-hop, but she has dabbled in pop, trot, EDM, dance-pop, R&B, and even rock, and it is said that there is no genre she cannot master. His songs are unique in sound and lyrics because, in addition to addressing different and varied topics, he is recognized for his meticulous production and agile and intelligent use of words. This has made him the standard of K-pop and a role model for many (e.g. Hongjoong of ATEEZ, J-Hope, and Jungkook of BTS, Rapper DInDin, Zico of Block B or Bambam of GOT7), as he inspired several idols to want to make their own music and in response, companies started to give more creative freedoms and allow idols to be involved in the production process of comebacks.

Finally, his performance has a whole range of styles. GD is known for his commanding stage presence, highly expressive and irrepressible, for every time he is on stage, he lets out that explosive supernova energy that outshines everyone. His singing style is also unique, and just by singing one note, you can recognize that it is him. In addition, his voice is very versatile, as he is able to rap a verse one second, and the next sing in falsetto sotto effortlessly. He perfectly captures the charm of K-pop.

G-Dragon in the MADE WORLD TOUR

FASHIONISTA BOY

Basically, GD popularized the street look (in pure hip-hop style), along with a long list of other styles of clothing and hairstyles that are still trending in Korea today. His style is edgy, elegant, and dramatic. She tends to wear baggy clothes, tweed jackets with pearls, long necklaces, rings, earrings, and piercings. She uses diverse accessories and an infinite range of colors. He is not afraid of designs, textures, or prints, and what is most striking is that at the beginning of the 2010s, he began to blur the line between women’s and men’s clothing, combining garments and accessories considered “only for women” in his everyday looks and for presentations. If we talk about the non-hegemonic expression of diverse masculinity when dressing, he is the living representation.

He is also known for his androgynous appearance, and his fluid and experimental style. Vogue magazine stated that his androgynous appearance challenges a “society that upholds traditional, patriarchal values with a remarkable adherence to manufactured ideals of beauty” (2017). Her fashion is described as “quirky and experimental” by Rushali Pawar (2015) of the International Business Times, while Taylor Glasby of the British magazine Dazed and Confused characterized her style as “fluid and wide-ranging,” calling her a “natural style chameleon” (2015). Likewise, Monica Kim of Vogue magazine admired his “uncanny knack for a larger-than-life style that’s still cool” (2016). While Joe Coscarelli of The New York Times calls him “a style icon, a chameleon who often makes Lady Gaga look serious” (2017). Thanks to his style he has covered several issues of W, Dazed, Hypebeast, Elle, and Vogue and has appeared in editions of Harper’s Bazaar, and Esquire, among other Asian magazines.

Taken from Instagram

In addition, GD was the one who started dyeing her hair every color and trying all kinds of hairstyles, and that’s the reason why every comeback idols have to reinvent themselves and show a new and fresh hairstyle and outfit. The looks for their performances have always gone above and beyond, and have been ahead of the times, setting trends and raising the bar for comebacks. In that way, GD ended up becoming the standard of appearance within K-pop.

Some of his hairstyles

Since his style was noticed, he was the founder of the so-called “Airport fashion”, because when he was photographed at airports, he was so well styled that the way he walked to the terminal to board the plane looked like a fashion runway. From then on, the idols began to show their own style every time they were going to take a plane and the press was waiting for them.

GD at the airport

He is also known as the “Sold-out man” because every garment, accessory, jewelry, or shoe he wears ends up selling out immediately. He was also the first muse of Asian origin for the luxury brand GIVENCHY and the first Asian to be invited to the CHANEL Haute Couture in Paris, France, a brand of which he is, by the way, the official ambassador, personally chosen by Karl Lagerfeld. Thus, GD became the reason why Asian celebrities are now considered at fashion shows around the world, and the determining factor behind the success of many luxury brands in Korea.

G-Dragon with the "Valentine's Day" Air Force 1 increased its price to double after publishing online that it had received them

THE ARTIST

It all starts with his stage name, which is already a sign of his creative talents. G-Dragon comes from his real name, Kwon Ji-Yong, from which he takes the word “Ji”, which sounds like the letter “G” in English, and joins it with “Yong”, which means “dragon” in Korean. Put it all together and in English, and the result is G-Dragon.

Another name by which it is known is Peaceminusone, which comes from GD. To represent the acronym of his name, he uses the “peace” symbol, from which he removes the dash on the right side and the symbol ends up reading at the end as “Peace-minus-one”. Similarly, another meaning of this name is that of a clock that strikes 8 o’clock (his lucky and favorite number) on the dot and as a result forms GD.

Taken from Instagram

G-Dragon is also a fan of art. He loves to paint and design. Among the highlights, he has designed is the successful collaboration with Nike with the “AF1 Para-Noise” and KWONDO. Also, as for his paintings, there was the “Untitled 2017” exhibition at Dopeness Art Lab in Taipei, which featured seven original pieces that G-Dragon painted before his military enlistment, which were printed on acrylic frames to be marketed.

G-Dragon and Nike

Already recognized as one of the most influential leaders of music and fashion in Korea, G-Dragon also gave birth to a new and innovative project called Peaceminusone. An art brand that refers to his hope for achieving peace, which he describes as a project that “transforms imagination into reality” (2017). Peaceminusone acts, essentially, as a functional extension of the singer’s image. A manifestation of the style and aesthetic that has earned the man tens of millions of fans in his home continent of Asia, and a growing fan base in the United States. 

The brand has grown so much that it has even made an appearance at Paris Fashion Week 2017, where Peaceminusone hosted a pop-up store and exhibition in collaboration with +82, which included clothing, accessories, sculptures, and video projections. Plus, an iconic party with Bella Hadid and Haider Ackermann.

Gdragon's PeaceMinusOne Paris Launch

G-Dragon’s artistic experimentation is not limited to fashion and painting, it also extends to his videos and music concepts. These often push the boundaries of the imaginable and challenge what we know as art. An example of this is the music video for COUP D’ETAT from 2013, a video with a singular and attractive aesthetic that is full of metaphorical images referring to the artist’s life.

Taken from Pinterest

ONE OF A KIND

In case there’s still any doubt about what he’s done, and his impact on Korean and global pop culture, here are some fun facts that make GD one of a kind.

  • He is the only artist to win “album of the year” at the 2009 Mnet Asian Music Awards (MAMA), as a solo artist, for his work Heartbreaker, which became the biggest male debut in K-pop history.
  • He has a successful musical career as part of the group BIG BANG, in the sub-units GD & TOP and GD X TAEYANG, as a solo artist, and as a producer for other groups.
Taken from Pinterest
  • He was the first K-pop artist to collaborate with a Western artist. This happened in 2009, by inviting FloRida to the Heartbreaker remix.
  • He was named by Forbes in 2016 as the most outstanding person under 30 in Asian sports and entertainment.
  • He has written and co-written 23 number-one songs on the Gaon Digital Chart, most of which he has also co-produced.
  • The Korea Music Copyright Association currently lists over 180 songs under the G-Dragon name.
  • He designed the first K-pop lightstick in 2006, which was called Bang Bong, a design with a golden crown that became popular and inspired other groups to design their lightstick.
Taken from Pinterest
  • He set the standard for live performances, proof of this is the MAMA, where his powerful attitude always made the event a total show.
  • The opening and the impressive change of look at MAMA 2012: G-Dragon surprised everyone at the opening of the gala with an improvised rap, where he invited all the new rappers who were beginning to make their way, copying the style of he. The rap was only the first part because the biggest surprise was when, sometime later, G-Dragon (who had arrived blonde at the awards ceremony), went on stage with fiery red hair for his presentation with BIG BANG. That night, the only thing that was talked about was G-Dragon, his hair, and his rap.
Taken from Pinterest
  • There couldn’t be anything more iconic than G-Dragon exposing Mnet and MAMA on the very stage of the awards gala in 2014. Right before Good Boy’s performance, G-Dragon took the stage, delivering a brief but powerful diss, in which he spoke about how the prizes hand out the prizes.
  • In 2015 he opened an art exhibition titled Peaceminusone: Beyond the Stage, which featured 200 works of art by twelve artists from around the world, including Michael Scoggins, Sophie Clements, and James Clar. The exhibition, which was held at the Seoul Museum of Art from June 6 to August 23, 2015, required almost a year of work, as GD wanted to combine modern art and pop culture to introduce new artists to the public.
  • G-Dragon has been called the “King of K-Pop” by various media publications, including Rolling Stone, Dazed, and Vogue. That’s because his artistry, multi-hyphenate career, popularity, and level of influence have all been compared to that of American singer Michael Jackson.
Taken from Instagram

Obviously, there is nothing to disprove his title as “King of K-Pop”, since he has earned it hard; the result of years and years of effort, sacrifices, sweat, blood, and tears. Something that should not be forgotten is that he has been in the industry for longer than outside of it, and his legacy is not going to disappear, because he has already become a living legend.

Did you like the blog? Tell me what has caught your attention the most about him. I really like his sense of seeing art and life, and how he reflects it in his songs and in his art in general.

Written by: Marisol Montiel

Reviewed by: Luisa Quintero

References

Wikipedia. (s.f.). G-Dragon. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/G-Dragon

Wikipedia. (s.f.). G-Dragon. G-Dragon – Wikipedia, la enciclopedia libre

Wikipedia. (s.f.). List of awards and nominations received by G-Dragon. List of awards and nominations received by G-Dragon – Wikipedia

Kpop Merch. (s.f.). ¡4 RAZONES POR LAS QUE G-DRAGON DE BIGBANG ES EL REY INNEGABLE DEL KPOP! ¡4 razones por las que G-Dragon de BigBang es el rey innegable del KPOP! – Mercancía oficial de Kpop en línea (kpop-merchandise-online.com)

Xiana Siccardi. (enero 23, 2022). G-Dragon: las claves creativas de la mirada más astuta del k-pop. https://xianasiccardi.com/2021/01/23/g-dragon-bigbang/

Laloohd. (noviembre 08, 2019). 7 cosas que extrañamos de G-Dragon durante su servicio militar. Soompi. 7 cosas que extrañamos de G-Dragon durante su servicio militar | Soompi

Elizabeth Peng. (julio 31, 2017). G-Dragon, the Undisputed King of K-Pop, Takes New York. Vogue. G-Dragon, the Undisputed King of K-Pop, Takes New York | Vogue

Nick Remsen. (julio 21, 2017). G-Dragon lands in Miami at Alchemist. Vogue. The Korean Pop Sensation G-Dragon Pops Up at Miami’s Alchemist Boutique | Vogue

Maya Rudolph. (October 08, 2015). The Art of Swag: PEACEMINUSONE. Web Exclusive. The Art of Swag: PEACEMINUSONE – 艺术界 LEAP (leapleapleap.com)

S. Nam. (agosto 05, 2019). YG Entertainment Explains Details Regarding G-Dragon’s Art Exhibit. Soompi. YG Entertainment Explains Details Regarding G-Dragon’s Art Exhibit | Soompi

Numéro. (febrero 01, 2017). G-Dragon’s and his crew – Paris Fashion Week’s hottest ticket. G-Dragon latest exhibition “Peaceminusone” in Paris (numero.com) G-Dragon latest exhibition “Peaceminusone” in Paris (numero.com)

DKDKTV. (enero 05, 2022). Every Kpop Idol looks up to this Legendary Artist [G-Dragon]. [Video]. YouTube. (834) Every Kpop Idol looks up to this Legendary Artist [G-Dragon] – YouTube

KOOKIELIT. (septiembre 20, 2022). The EXACT Moment G-Dragon Changed KPOP.  [Video]. YouTube. (834) The EXACT Moment G-Dragon Changed KPOP – YouTube

Juanqui. (junio 14, 2021). Los modelos a seguir de las nuevas generaciones. NORAE MAGAZINE. DE IDOL A LEYENDA: 10 ‘SENIORS’ QUE SE HAN CONVERTIDO EN MODELOS A SEGUIR – NORAE MAGAZINE

Taylor Glasby. (julio 16, 2015). “How K-pop star G-Dragon took over Paris couture”. Dazed. How K-pop star G-Dragon took over Paris couture | Dazed (archive.org)

Kim, Monica (January 16, 2016). “6 Times G-Dragon Was the Best Dressed Man at Chanel”. Vogue. G-Dragon at Chanel Couture Spring 2016 – Vogue (archive.org)

Coscarelli, Joe (July 19, 2017). “Catch G-Dragon at Barclays Center While You Can”. The New York Times. Catch G-Dragon at Barclays Center While You Can – The New York Times (archive.org)

Taylor Glasby. (febrero 8, 2017). G-Dragon: “There’s no right answer in fashion”. Dazed. G-Dragon: “There’s no right answer in fashion” | Dazed (dazeddigital.com)

Emilie de Jaeger. (enero 28, 2017). “PEACEMINUSONE” : At the heart of the new G-Dragon project. VIEWS FRANCE. “PEACEMINUSONE” : At the heart of the new G-Dragon project – Views

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