[BIBIMBEATS] Track-By-Track: G-Dragon, ‘Coup D’etat’ – Why GD’s Most Polarizing Album Is His Most Important Yet

Back in March at a press conference for his ‘One Of A Kind’ promotional tour, G-Dragon created media buzz for his controversial response to a question asking how he’s changed over the past four years. Four years ago, upon the release of debut solo album ‘Heartbreaker’, G-Dragon considered himself an idol – someone with ‘cute, adorable and varied looks’ who still had a lot to learn. Fast-forward to 2013 and he’s very much an artist, putting more thought into the creative process in hopes of reinventing K-Pop as a whole. It’s with this in mind that the title for his second full-length effort ‘Coup D’etat’ is fitting. Pairing a wide variety of genres with a cynical undertone, G-Dragon puts the limitations of Hallyu under a punk sense of scrutiny. And with a list of guest collaborators that reads as something of a ‘Who’s Who’ in rising talent, ‘Coup D’etat’ will easily be the album that takes G-Dragon from a Korean idol to a global music star.

“COUP D’ETAT”: ‘Coup D’etat’ opens up with the greatly anticipated title track of the same name, a thickly layered trap-and-bass created in collaboration with Mad Decent producers Diplo (MIA’s “Paper Planes”, GD&TOP’s “Knockout”) and Baauer (“Harlem Shake”). The overall low-tempo creates a stark and declarative contrast to the steady stream of party anthems GD started with “Crayon” and “One Of A Kind”. While it didn’t fare as well on live music charts as other tracks on ‘Coup D’etat, Pt. 1’, it is by far the most important track in that section of the album. It’s a song that takes G-Dragon out of his safety zone as an idol and projects him directly into artistry. Is it a good K-Pop song? No, not really. But GD seems to have never considered it to be one. Classify it as a bold EDM track, and it introduces the audience to something a bit more challenging and outside of the box. It catches attention and allows the listener to take it from there.

“NILIRIA” featuring Missy Elliott: The next track “Niliria” puts GD and hip-hop veteran Missy Elliott together in something of a Hype Williams dream collaboration. Tribal beats paired with futuristic instrumentation were always something of Missy’s trademark, but throw in G-Dragon’s flair for inflection and the track is taken to a whole new level. During GD’s verse, he announces that “Niliria” is not only just a collaboration but ‘an international diplomacy through rap’, leaving his audience only anticipating more global hip-hop stars to step up next. (Earlier this year, both G-Dragon and rapper Ludacris’ camps confirmed a collaboration single was recorded for future release, although it didn’t make it to the final stages of production.)

“R.O.D” featuring Lydia Paek: Lydia Paek is no new name to YG Entertainment superfans. She’s written songs for a number of artists on the label’s current roster and is responsible in part for hits like 2NE1’s “I Love You” and Lee Hi’s “1 2 3 4”. Her YouTube channel showcases a wide array of vocal and dance covers, her adaptability as both a singer and dancer creating much fan hype for her own debut. While production on her own EP is indefinite, “R.O.D” is the first time Lydia steps into the YG focus as a recording artist, laying down the song’s chorus with almost a dancehall feel despite its choppy dubstep influence. The track also shows a huge growth in the style of YG staple producer Teddy, the stripped down, contemporizing bridge bringing ‘R.O.D’ a sense of hip-hop maturity reminiscent of Kanye West’s “My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy”.

“BLACK” featuring Jennie Kim (KOR.) / featuring Sky Ferreira (ENG.): “Black” stands alone as the album’s only true ballad and showcases the talents of up-and-coming YG trainee Jennie Kim and American indie-pop girl du jour Sky Ferreira in the Korean and English versions, respectively. The two collaborators have two distinctive ways of singing, giving the song almost an entirely different feel depending on which version you’re listening to. Sky’s breathy delivery brings angst to a song that is already somber in nature, while Jennie’s voice provides a layer of vulnerability throughout. While having Sky work with G-Dragon may be toward his image’s advantage, it seems like almost a waste of a collaborator. However, Jennie’s work on “Black” is not only sufficient but brilliant – perhaps enough to even gain her substantial recognition even before her official debut.

“WHO YOU”: “Who You” tells the story of an ex-girlfriend who’s moved on and seems almost thrown in to reassure fans that have been skeptical throughout the album thus far that the ‘old G-Dragon’ is still alive. The poppy synthesizer played throughout matched with the ‘do-do-do’ of the chorus is much more Bruno Mars than it is the ‘MC-eating PacMan’ we found boasting his way through the first few tracks. The aggressive attack of his delivery slows down and softens up, making it sort of a strange fit when paired with the rest of the album, though still a fun and enjoyable track.

“SHAKE THE WORLD”: It’s no wonder that “Shake The World” introduces listeners to the second part of ‘Coup D’etat’. It was chosen as part of the 30-second teaser announcing the new album, as the title song for YG’s new reality show ‘WIN’, and is an all-around strong introduction to the natural progression taking place with G-Dragon as an artist. In fact, one could easily put “Shake The World” next to the first album’s “A Boy” as something of a growth marker. Fidgeting and frantic, the song is far removed from K-Pop, having less in common with PSY and more with Die Antwoord. (Also, pardon my fangirl, but everything past 1:15 should come with smelling salts. It’s hands down the coolest I’ve heard between GD and Choice37.)

“MICHIGO”: Originally released as a promotional single for global messenger app LINE, I wasn’t immediately sold on “MichiGO”. Everything sounded like I had heard it before in “Crayon” – that same ‘hip-hop meets house’ party track now turning into a formula helping both G-Dragon and YG Entertainment make a whole bunch of endorsement money. However, within the context of ‘Coup D’etat’, the song goes from being someone else’s commercial to being a part of GD’s attack. It flows in nicely after “Shake The World” to further solidify that glitchy, futuristic sound that’s evolving. Do I think it’s his most original track? No, but it’s really awesome to bump in my car.

“CROOKED”: Upon first listen, “Crooked” reminded me a lot of BIGBANG’s “Oh My Friend” collaboration with Korean rock outfit No Brain. But both lyrically and musically, the song seems to want to rouse up the same in-your-face rebellion found in “Coup D’etat”. (Is there any wonder why these both became the promoted singles?) I love the ‘Anarchy in the UK’ style of the music video, a continuation on the theme of doing away with the politics of constrained image and sound. The song has shown to be wildly successful both in Korea and internationally – proof that despite all of this artistic overhaul, G-Dragon can still write a hook.

“RUNAWAY”/“I LOVE IT” featuring Zion.T: “Runaway” seems like something of a throw-away track, similar to “What Do You Want?” from the GD&Top album. It just doesn’t fit with the rest of the album. “I Love It” is only slightly better, the way the song builds into full-out cowbell-laden disco track enough to keep the listener from being entirely bored throughout. As a big fan of both Zion.T and German electro-house producer Boys Noize (who also worked with BIGBANG on Alive track “Feeling”), I expected a lot more from “I Love It”, but perhaps knowing what both are capable of when as their best is what so easily let me down.

“YOU DO (OUTRO)”: This song has quickly become my iTunes’ sleeper hit. The very basic hook and stripped down production still remaining very ‘hip-hop’ gives the end of the album a very early 00s Neptunes sound. It’s no wonder that upon releasing the album in full, Neptunes’ own Pharrell Williams is on Twitter begging GD for collaboration.

“No, seriously. Please happen.” – Me and every other N.E.R.D/G-Dragon fan

But if anything, just the fact that ‘Coup D’etat’ has made him a blip on someone like Pharrell Williams’ radar is putting him in a prime location. If ‘Coup D’etat’ is nothing more than a catalyst for breaking out of the ‘aegyo hip-hop’ image K-Pop is known for and being taken more seriously, G-Dragon is well on his way. Will he pull it off? Time only knows. But the buzz he’s created doesn’t seem to be dying down soon.

The Waeguk-Saram’s Guide to Korean Products


The Asian Market Chronicles Presents:

A Waeguk-Saram’s Guide to Korean Products at your local Korean Market


Minute Curry

You want great food quick? Impossible, there is no such thing as this you indolent person (that means lazy for those too lazy to pick up a dictionary). But Minute Curry is a decent option on a late work night. Experience two servings of Korean Culture for under $2.00. Add some steamed rice, maybe an egg or some tater tots , and you have some proper bachelor/bachelorette chow. Mmm simple single life…


Pomegranate Vinegar

Ah yes, Pomegranate Vinegar, the staple beverage served at any sampling station in a Korean Market. The nice lady selling the vinegar approached me claiming, “it will make you more handsome, it is healthy, and it tastes good”.

Will it make me more handsome? Probably not, I have seen no studies quantifying the effects of drinking vinegar to increasing handsomeness.  Besides that, you can’t mess with success. hehe

Is it healthy? Sure, multiple reports have shown the health benefits of vinegar. It has anti-ahterosclerotic properties which could lower blood pressure, its rich in flavonoids to boost memory and mood

Does it taste good? No.  Unless, of course you are a flavor sensory masochist, to which I say “drink up”.

The lesson here, not everything that is good for you tastes good. Suck it up, take a drink, and be healthy.


The KPop CD

Listen to music “performed” by pretty young people with styled hair, BB Cream porcelain skin, and either toned abs or shaved legs, all for a stunning deal of $24.00 for six songs (two of which were hits, and four of which are “meh”, so you’re effectively  paying $12.00 per song).

If you buy a KPop CD, you will be able to go to sleep knowing you supported an artist, a card with an invitation to join a fanclub, get an ornate CD case, a book with lyrics, and most likely get a poster of a pretty young person with styled hair. But when those two songs you like come on, pump up the volume  and scream those few English lyrics.

Plum Juice

Plum Juice

I had my doubts before purchasing this product. The dark swampy green color, the bottle shaped like a household drain cleaner, and be it plum juice, it would most likely be drain cleaner for my digestive system. Nevertheless, a few elderly Korean folk advised me to try a bottle and placed one in my basket, so as a respectful gentleman, I obliged and bought a bottle. Much to my surprise, the Plum Juice was actually pretty good.  A light sweetness, undertones of grape flavor with none of the tartness, a rich fragrance, an overall delightful experience.

The lesson here,  take a swig of some Plum Juice, don’t judge a book by its cover, and listen to Korean elderly folk.


Oh wait don’t forget…

Gangnam Style Toothbrush

The Gangnam Style Singing Toothbrush

Tired of brushing your teeth to the sound of birds chirping or even more boring, blissful silence.  Tired of being teased in class for having a regular toothbrush and not one with a Korean animated character like all the popular kids?  Tired of the persistent pain of lugging your enormous MP3 player every time you go to the bathroom? Behold, the revolutionary Gangnam Style Toothbrush!  The party only ends when the batteries die! No more

In all seriousness, thank you  PSY for giving all adults the opportunity to ride the imaginary horse they forgot about in Preschool, and those without rhythm a  new move in their repertoire after “YMCA” and “The Macarena.

Asian Market Chronicles (2)

What To Read: “A year since Gangnam Style, K-Pop keeps getting bigger…”

Psy Gangnam StyleTo keep you updated on the latest stats, here’s a link to a great article posted on YouTube regarding the upward trend in K-Pop views since Psy’s Gangnam Style first hit the online scene. Complete with graphs and charts, the article, written by Kevin Alocca,  includes a Top 10 playlist for your viewing pleasure.



[BIBIMBEATS] Local Beats: Hanging out with KPOP Star 2’s McKay Kim

This spring, KPOP Star 2, the highly anticipated second season of KPOP Star, brought together rising young talent from around the world. Unlike talent programs here in the United States, the KPOP Star series features performers putting their own twist on both popular Korean and English language songs complete with back-up dancers and pyrotechnics. Making it something of a golden ticket for those trying to make a break in the Korean music industry, KPOP Star is judged by representatives from Korea’s three largest entertainment labels – YG CEO Yang Hyun-suk, JYP CEO Park Jin-young, and SM’s veteran star BoA. Upon winning, the remaining artist gets to choose which label they want to sign with, though all participants can cultivate promising musical careers by simply getting onto the show. In the first season, winner Park Ji-min was brought into JYP Entertainment as a part of pop duo 15&, and her time spent in the competition made runner-up Lee Hi one of YG Entertainment’s strongest debuts. KPOP Star 2 champions, Akdong Musician, have already released their new single “I Love You” for the All About My Romance soundtrack, and YG Entertainment has recently announced their contract with season 2 finalist Bang Ye-dam. Yet despite their elimination in the third round, a strong and loyal fan base remains for season 2 trio, Raccoon Boys. The Raccoon Boys auditioned for KPOP Star 2 separately and were formed by BoA as the rounds progressed. The group consisted of rapper Kim Min-seok of Asan, South Korea and singers Brian Shin from Cupertino, Calif. and San Diego’s own, McKay Kim. KKonnect had the opportunity to interview McKay on one of his first visits back home since the program ended, taking a break before heading back to Korea to continuing working on his budding music career.

Q: What are your career plans for the future?
A: Honestly, I can’t say I have a definite plan so far. In fact, I have no plan – no clue! I haven’t contracted with any company yet, so once I go to Korea, my plans will become more concrete.

Q: What kind of artist do you aspire to be?
A: I want to become a John Mayer or Jason Mraz type of artist. I am into acoustic type songs that I can use my guitar with. Among Korean artists, I would like to sing Zion T types of songs.

Q: If you received an offer to be in an idol group, would you give in?
A: I would be flattered, but I am the stiffest person! I do favor CN Blue types of groups where it is a band rather than an idol group. I sure would love to learn how to dance though!

Q: Why did you choose to expand your music career in Korea?
A: I noticed that most of the music in Korea is pop. I want to start something new – start and become a music layer.

Q: How did you find out about KPOP Star?
A: My mom actually saw a flyer at Convoy Street in San Diego. She and I both did not have high expectations but we thought it would be a good experience.

Q: Did you predict that you would get this far on KPOP Star?
A: No! Every stage was an unexpected yet sweet surprise. The first song that I sang was written by me. I had originally planned to sing Bum Soo-kim’s “I Miss You (보고싶다)”, but I changed it at the last minute. I felt like I was unprepared, so I felt very blessed when I passed.

Q: What drove you choose to sing the song that you wrote?
A: At first I didn’t have the confidence that I could pass with a song that I wrote, but my mom encouraged me and I was glad that others also liked it. I would like to pursue not only singing but songwriting as well. I don’t want to follow by the rules but establish my own color with the music that I write.

Q: If BoA, Yang Hyun-suk, and JYP were to compete in KPOP Star themselves, who do you think would win?
A: I think BoA would win. I think she would be the closest to making it big in America too. She always reminds me of Britney Spears – pretty and talented. While working at the set of KPOP Star, I realized that she is very smart – and she’s good. She has talent, and she’s wise too.

Q: Any shout outs to your friends in San Diego?
A: Though I can’t guarantee a visit soon, hopefully I will be able to see you guys soon. I hope I can come back as a successful artist and make you guys proud!

[BIBIMBEATS] July 2013: K-Indie Women to Watch

This month, Bibimbeats makes guys take the backseat and honors female artists making waves in the music scene. They’re lady lyricists, R&B hooks on our favorite rap songs, and fluid poetry in the ballads the K-Indie genre is known for. Whether they’re up-and-coming or well-established, these girls pack a musical punch. Here are a few women we predict great things from in the next coming months.

As the first female singer to debut from male-dominated hip-hop label Brand New Music, Kang Min-hee’s voice breaks the mold. Musically precocious, a majority of her pre-debut years were spent producing and composing songs, most notably Miss $’s 2009 album S Class. Three years later, she joined the group herself, and a slew of hits – both solo and with Miss $ – followed suit. Her feature on Verbal Jint’s single “Good Start” produced an ‘all-kill’ on music charts and had netizens putting her range and delivery in the same bracket as fellow rookie power vocal Ailee. In fact, when Verbal needs a suitable replacement for live performances of his Ailee duet “If It Ain’t Love”, it’s often Min-hee joining him on stage.

Bibimbeats Recommends: “It’s You”

In her declarative debut “I’m Her” featuring Zion T, KittiB announces her arrival with confidence unseen since underground flow queen Rimi. Her no-nonsense attitude paired with her trademark high heels and cat-eyed makeup makes her a live stage hit, landing her on festival line-ups alongside fellow maestros like Giriboy and Beenzino. Collaborating with Donutman on his Rappin Time 2 mixtape, KittiB has proved she can hold her own as a lady MC. After releasing follow-up single “Leopard Heels” this March, her first EP is rumored to be in the works and set for distribution later this year. Until then, fans can check out self-released songs on her official SoundCloud website, where she samples tracks by anyone from Rihanna to Amy Winehouse.

Bibimbeats Recommends: “I’m Her” with Zion T

Im Yu-jin’s career began as keyboardist for indie act, Black Skirts. It wasn’t until she picked up moniker ‘Neon Bunny’ and released her debut Seoulight that the nation took notice, even beating out popular artists IU and 10CM for Best Pop Album in the 2012 Korean Music Awards. From ethereal ballads to synth heavy dance music, her sound can best be described as a nod to the ever-popular French electro-pop scene with a Hongdae club twist. Together with Black Skirts’ Holiday Cho, she heads Doggyrich Collective, a label for both visual and performing artists. Fun Fact: Before Neon Bunny, Yu-jin was just another student at Boston’s Berklee College of Music, where she studied voice alongside future K-Pop icon, 2NE1’s Park Bom.

Bibimbeats Recommends: “Come With Me”

Fans of Urban Zakapa know there is nobody who sings R&B like songstress, Jo Hyun-ah. Since their debut in 2009, Urban Zakapa has created their own niche in the K-Indie scene. But it’s in collaborations and solo efforts where Hyun-ah’s talent seems to really shine, her velvety vocals quickly vacillating between sentimental balladeer and engaging accompaniment. Having worked with some of Korea’s greatest hip-hop artists, her impressive range rings out like a soulful battle cry, adding a new layer of emotion to even the most aggressive track. Lately, Hyun-ah has also been garnering increasing attention for her work as a composer, attracting critics with the slow yet climactic “Sea Child” on ballad singer Younha’s latest album.

Bibimbeats Recommends: “You Made Me” with Kim Jin-pyo

Last but not least, there’s the only woman mentioned who can name legendary producer Quincy Jones as a fan – Yoon Mi-rae, known to many by stage name Tasha. Joined with husband Tiger JK, she is one half of the coolest couple the Korean music scene has to offer. So far in 2013, Mi-rae and Tiger JK, along with fellow MC Bizzy, have been performing all over the world as hip-hop unit MFBTY (My Fans Better Than Yours). Having started her career in 2001 as more of an R&B singer, her rap image has been a slow and steady evolution, though many cite Mi-rae as one of the strongest female lyricists around. With rumors of a new solo album coming out soon, it will be interesting to see her continue to twist and mold the future of Korean music.

Bibimbeats Recommends: “BizzyTigerYoonmirae” with MFBTY