Kwon Ji-yong (Hangul: 권지용); born August 18, 1988), better known by his stage name G-Dragon, is a South Korean rapper, singer-songwriter, record producer, and fashion icon. After 6 years as a trainee under the record label YG Entertainment, G-Dragon officially debuted as a member of the South Korean group Big Bang. G-Dragon has been involved with writing, composing, and producing many of Big Bang's hit tracks, including "Lies", "Last Farewell", and "Day by Day."
His debut solo album, Heartbreaker (2009), yielded the number-one single of the same name and would go on to become one of the most successful albums of the year, garnering sales of over 200,000 copies and winning the Mnet Asian Music Awards for Album of the Year. Heartbreaker also sparked major controversies for the artist, including accusations of plagiarism. After almost a year of hiatus, G-Dragon and bandmate, T.O.P collaborated to record and release the album GD & TOP (2010). The album saw the release of three singles: "High High", "Oh Yeah", and "Knock Out", all of which have charted within the top three positions of the Gaon chart, with "High High" becoming a chart-topper. 2012 saw the release of his first EP One of a Kind, which yielded hit singles "One of a Kind", "Crayon", and "That XX." The album was critically acclaimed, earning Record of the Year at the 22nd Seoul Music Awards. His second full album in four years, Coup D'Etat (2013) matched the success of his previous work, and he won Artist of the Year at the 15th Mnet Asian Music Awards. He also earned the World's Best Entertainer and World's Best Album awards at the 2014 World Music Awards.
He became the second member of Big Bang to make a solo debut in Japan after his bandmate Daesung's solo concert tour. He embarked on his second worldwide tour as a solo artist, which included a four-dome tour in Japan.
G-Dragon was named by Forbes Asia the Most Influential Person Under 30 in Eastern’s entertainment and was the highest ranking artist in the Most Influential Entities of K-Pop list, where he was described as "the president of young adults, having a huge influence on teens and people in their twenties. Not only is his music hugely popular, G-Dragon himself is always much-talked-about, especially with his powerful fashion sense."
Life and career
1988–2009: Early life and debut with Big Bang
Born and raised in Busan, South Korea, Kwon Ji-yong began his career at age five as part of the group Little Roo'Ra. After releasing a Christmas album, the group's contract was terminated by their record company, which Kwon described as "shock[ing]." Although he vowed to his mother that he "wouldn't [become a singer] again," he was scouted by SM Entertainment while on a ski trip with his family. He was a trainee under the record label for five years (from 8–13 years old), specializing in dance before he left as he was unclear about what he wanted to do.
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 class. Under People Crew's tutelage, he participated in the release of the Korean hip-hop Flex album in 2001, becoming the youngest Korean rapper at just 13 years old. Although he wrote his own lyrics for the song, 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." Kwon caught the interest of Sean of the hip-hop duo Jinusean from YG Entertainment, who later recommended him to 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. He and another trainee Dong Young-bae, originally planned to debut as the hip-hop duo GDYB, with him choosing the stage name of G-Dragon ("Ji" is pronounced like "G", and Yong is Korean for Dragon). After six years of training, Kwon made several featured appearances on other artists' albums and even released several singles with Dong under the name "GDYB." G-Dragon made his official debut as the leader of the group Big Bang in 2006, after six years of training under YG Entertainment, with Dong Young-bae (who chose the stage-name Taeyang) and three other members (T.O.P, Daesung, & Seungri).
The formation of the group was documented on television, and though there were initially six members, Jang Hyun-seung was dropped before the official debut. The group's debut was fairly successful, with their first single netting in sales of over 40,000 copies. It spawned several airplay singles, including "La La La", "We Belong Together" and "Forever with You" which featured label-mate Park Bom. The album also included G-Dragon's first solo song, a cover of the American alternative rock group Maroon 5's single "This Love." Following the release of the group's EP Always in 2007, G-Dragon began to involve himself more with the production of their albums. Always featured several songs composed by him, including the lead-single "Lies" (Korean: 거짓말; 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: 마지막 인사; Revised Romanization: Majimak Insa) while Stand Up spawned "Day by Day" (Korean: 하루하루; Revised Romanization: Haru Haru); both singles, which were composed by him were chart-toppers.
2009—2011: Solo career development, Heartbreaker, and GD & TOP
Aside from Big Bang, G-Dragon also made several solo appearances. After helping produce Taeyang's debut album, he recorded his own version of the album's lead single "Only Look at Me" (Korean: 나만바라봐; Revised Romanization: Naman Barabwa), titled as the "Only Look At Me Part 2" to the song. The single was released digitally. Along with Taeyang and T.O.P, G-Dragon was featured on singer Lexy's song "Super Fly" for her album "'Rush'." In May 2009, he collaborated with the Japanese boy band W-inds. for their single, "Rain Is Fallin'/Hybrid Dream."
After Taeyang released his solo effort, G-Dragon released his debut solo album Heartbreaker, featuring collaborations with several artists, including Teddy of 1TYM, Taeyang, Kush, CL of 2NE1, and Sandara Park of 2NE1. Initially scheduled to be released in April, the album was pushed back to August to coincide with his 21st (Korean years: 22nd) birthday. The album marked a change in G-Dragon's appearances as he dyed his hair blonde to match its concept. Propelled by its lead-single of the same name, an electronic pop song, the album sold over 200,000 copies and went on to win Album of the Year from the 2009 Mnet Asian Music Awards. 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. However, EMI, the record label that distributed "Right Round" said that they saw no similarities between these two songs. 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. In support of his album, G-Dragon staged his first solo concert at the Olympic Park in December 2009. Entitled Shine a Light, the name of the concert was derived from the lyrics to his song "A Boy." The concert subsequently sparked controversy following complaints of obscenity and suggestive content. 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. He was found innocent and was cleared of all charges on March 15, 2010.
In November 2010, YG Entertainment announced the collaboration album from G-Dragon and bandmate T.O.P. Preceding the release of the album, the duo held a world-wide premiere showcase for their album at Times Square in Yeongdeungpo of Seoul, which was also broadcast live on YouTube. To promote their album, the duo released three singles: "High High," "Oh Yeah", and "Knock Out." All three singles preceded the release of the album. The singles attained commercial successes: "High High" was number one on several music programs while "Oh Yeah" peaked at number two on the Gaon Digital Chart. The album was released on Christmas Eve, and debuted at number one on the Gaon Chart with pre-orders of 200,000 copies, eventually topping 130,000 copies sold.
With a collaboration with Park Myung Soo, and Mr. Potato they created a duo called GG for the Infinite Challenge Seohae Ahn Highway Song Festival 2011. They released their song "Fired Up(바람났어)" featuring Park Bom from 2NE1 on June 2, 2011.
On October 5, 2011, it was reported that G-Dragon was tested positive for marijuana. His urine test came back negative but a weak positive for marijuana was detected from testing the content of his hair. The tests were done in early June and the results came back in August. As it was a first offense with a minuscule amount, it resulted in an indictment and he was not charged. He allegedly accepted an offered cigarette from a fan in Japan during a party back in May. He was the only one at the party who was later tipped off to Korean authorities. He confessed that he smoked the cigarette that was offered to him, but after realizing it was not a normal cigarette, he threw it away.
The scandal caused a halt to his promotions, and YG Entertainment issued a statement that he was being given time to reflect on his mistake. Because he was not charged, he did not lose any endorsers and later made his first public appearance after the scandal at the 2011 MTV EMAs with his group Big Bang.
2012—2013: One of a Kind, world tour, and Coup D'Etat
It was announced in March 2012 that G-Dragon's solo comeback would be scheduled in the later half of the year to coincide with his birthday. He continued to collaborate with other artists while recording materials for his album, including an appearance in Pixie Lott's upcoming Japanese album, along with fellow member T.O.P.
G-Dragon released the music video for his song "One of a Kind" from the album of the same name on August 24, 2012, on YouTube. The song earned him two "Best Hiphop / Rap Song of the Year" awards from Korean Music Awards and Rhythmer Awards. He followed this up with "That XX". His EP One of a Kind was released in digital and physical format several days apart in September. The album was received positively, placing first on the Billboard World Album Chart and entering the Billboard 200 Chart at 161 for the week. At of the end of 2012, the album netted in over 200,000 copies, making it the highest selling solo album in Korea since the release of his Heartbreaker in 2009. For his effort, he won the 'Best Male Solo Artist' award at the 14th Mnet Asian Music Awards and late Record of the Year award for One of a Kind at the 22nd Seoul Music Awards.
In January 2013, in support of his album, G-Dragon embarked on his G-Dragon 2013 1st World Tour, becoming the first Korean solo artist to embark a 4-dome tour in Japan and the second Korean solo artist to have a world tour (the first being Bi Rain). After touring extensively, G-Dragon went back into the studio to record for his second full-length studio album. YG Entertainment later announced that Grammy Award-winning musician Missy Elliott will be featured on the album. Elliott previously announced in January 2013 via Twitter that she had contributed two tracks ("Chugalug", "Niliria") both of which were produced by Teddy P.
His second album, Coup D'état, was released in 2 parts online, with the full album being released September 13. The album featured collaborations with a star-studded list of artists and producers, including Missy Elliott, 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" at the KCON 2013 in LA. Six tracks from Coup D'etat placed within the top 10 of the Gaon Singles Charts with "Who You?" being number one. The music video for "Coup D'Etat" was released on YouTube on September 1 while the music video for "Crooked" was released shortly after, on September 4. The success of Coup D'état lead 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. He later took home the World's Best Entertainer and World's Best Album at the World Music Awards.
G-dragon participated in the Infinite Challenge music contest, held on October 17 in Imjingak, by contributing the song "Going to Try" (Haebolago), a duet with comedian Jeong Hyeong-don. He also worked with Skrillex on the song "Dirty Vibe" for the album Recess.
2014–present: Touring, collaborations and contemporary art
G-Dragon held a fan meeting tour through Asia, visiting Japan, Hong Kong, Taiwan, Singapore, Malaysia and China. He also joined YG Entertainment's tour "YG Power Tour", which gathered an audience of 400,000+ in seven cities around Asia.
On November 21, G-Dragon released a collaboration with Taeyang on the song "Good Boy". The song reached number one on Billboard's "World Digital Songs" chart, marking the third time a Korean act had topped the chart after PSY and 2NE1. The single had 1.1 million downloads in South Korea. On December 15 G-Dragon released another collaboration with Skrillex and Diplo, featuring his label mate CL. The single charted at number 19 on Billboard's Hot Dance/Electronic Songs. In September 2014, G-Dragon partnered with Chow Tai Fook Enterprises jewelry and launched a new collection designed by himself.
G-Dragon started an art exhibition on 2015 under the name PEACEMINUSONE: Beyond the Stage. The exhibition features 200 works of art from 12 domestic and international artists including Michael Scoggins, Sophie Clements and James Clar. G-Dragon said that he worked on the exhibition for over a year, with aim to bring the modern art and pop culture together, he said, "I would like to be the bridge to introduce domestic artists to the public, who are unfamiliar with art or who find art unapproachable." The show was held on Seoul, South Korea from June 6 and ran through August 23, and will travel to Shanghai and Singapore. He also became the face of Airbnb in the Asian market in August 2015.
Inspired by music by the Wu-Tang Clan and citing American singer Pharrell Williams as his "musical hero," G-Dragon participated in the annual hip hop Flex album in 2001 at the age of 12, establishing his career as an artist. During the early days of Big Bang's career, the band was marketed predominately as a hip-hop group, though they went on to experiment with electronic music and setting it as the new music trend in Korea. From previous exposure to a range of genres with Big Bang, G-Dragon incorporated a mix of dance, hip-hop, and R&B songs into Heartbreaker. During the production for the collaboration album GD & TOP, G-dragon opted for a more hip-hop sound, though he does acknowledge that R&B, acoustic, and electronic music heavily influenced it.
Since becoming a solo artist, G-Dragon has maintained tight control over his music, stating that "each feeling [in creating the music] is different", using his emotions to direct the lyrical content and the composition of his songs. The lyrics in his song "A Boy" was in response the negative criticisms surrounding his 2009 plagiarism controversy, with the artist refusing to give up on his career despite the setbacks. Big Bang's song "If You" was inspired during a time when the artist was in love while "Loser" was written in an attempt to humanize the group. 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. Prior to his establishment as a solo artist, he was also involved with the production of Big Bang's albums, writing and composing majority of their songs. Aside from producing songs for his own band, G-Dragon has also produces for other artists, including bandmates Taeyang and Seungri, and iKon
G-Dragon's contributions to his own music have garnered him praises and criticism alike. Preferring to pen lyrics that "sound like an actual story," he has been referred to as a "genius singer-songwriter," though the rapper has expressed being uncomfortable with the label. His effort to create melodies won him praises as one of the best composers of 2008, with many pop culture critics and industry representatives choosing him as the "musician whose future they anticipate the most." His rap lyrics have also placed him fourth during a vote for "Most God-like" rapper in Japan. The rapper also topped Forbes listing of "Most Hardworking Idol", and made into its list "Korea 2030 Power Leaders." Singer Lee Seung-Cheol also points to G-Dragon as one of the young artists he currently looks forward to. Producer and rapper Cho PD expressed his appreciation for Big Bang, stating how "[i]dol singers like Big Bang possess the ability of being musicians," crediting how "in many ways Big Bang has evolved out of being an idol with the abilities they possess as musicians" and how "G-Dragon can be counted as the main representative for this." The Korea Music Copyright Association lists at least 147 songs under G-Dragon's name and in 2015, G-Dragon's annual earnings from song royalties was estimated to be over $700,000 a year. He is the highest paid touring singer-songwriter in Korea, as while as the only performer to be mentioned on a list of South Korean composers earning the most from songwriting royalties in 2012 and the youngest on the list.
Described as the "most fashionable" one in Big Bang, G-Dragon is noted for his constantly changing image and tight control over his artistry and has strongly opposed the idea of singers as "products" of the entertainment industry.
While promoting Heartbreaker, his change in hairstyle by dyeing it blonde gained popularity among his fans and became one of the top hairstyles of the year. He has consistently altered his hair throughout the years, ranging from various shades of colors to different cuts. Additionally, his constant sporting of triangular scarves became a trend among teenagers and were later nicknamed the "Big Bang scarves." G-Dragon is noted for his androgynous appearance and have collaborated with Italian footwear designer Giuseppe Zanotti to launch a limited-edition collection of men's and women's shoes, stating that "it's not just girls or women who get excited and worked up over pretty shoes. [...] [G]uys can feel that way, too." G-Dragon's fashion has been described as "quirky and experimental" by Rushali Pawar of the International Business Times while Taylor Glasby from the British Magazine Dazed and Confused characterized GD's style as "fluid and far-reaching," calling him a "natural style chameleon."
Because of his constant change in image, G-Dragon has won multiple awards, including the Style Icon of 2008 and the award for Most Influential Men of 2008 sponsored by Arena magazine. In 2013, G-Dragon was listed in the Style Icon Top 10, later garnering the 2013 Style Icon of the Year Award. He is the first solo singer to win the award undivided. In 2015, he was chosen by GQ Korea as their Man of the Year. He also won the Fashionista Award in 2015. G-Dragon has attract the attention of other celebrities for his fashion sense. Fashion icon Kang Dong Won also acknowledged G-Dragon's influences during an interview, calling the singer a "fashionista." TV personality Kim Jun Hee, when speaking at the Fashion N's "Follow Me Season 2", spoke of her admiration for the artist, stating how "[n]ot only does G-Dragon have a great taste in fashion, but he can write and compose music like a genius." Canadian singer Grimes also stated that K-pop has influenced her musical style "more visually than anything else," in particular G-Dragon.
Initially, G-Dragon admitted to being 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." 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." 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]." 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 World Tour. He was later highlighted as one of the "50 Reasons Why Seoul is the Best City" by CNN in 2011 while in 2015, was picked as one of Business of Fashion's "500 Global Fashion Leaders," making him 1 of 5 Koreans on the list, and the only K-Pop act to have made the cut. In 2016, G-Dragon was chosen as one of the top 10 most influential celebrities in China by Chinese media outlet Sina, he became the first international artist to be placed within the top 10 of Sina's Most Influential Stars rankings.
In 2012, G-Dragon built a pension motel as a gift to his family; fans can also stay at this hotel which is now run as a business by his parents. In October 20, 2015, G-Dragon opened officially his first Cafe, under the name of "Monsant Cafe". The café is located on Jeju Island. The South Korean indie band Hyukoh was the first artist to play at the café in September 2015.
|2007||Come to Play||MBC||Guest|
|Miraculous Victory and Defeat||SBS||Guest with Seungri, episode 5|
|2008||Miraculous Victory and Defeat||SBS||Guest with Daesung, episode 8-10|
|Come to Play||MBC||Guest with T.O.P,episode 194|
|Family Outing||SBS||Guest with Shin Sung-rok, episode 07-08|
|2009||Strong Heart||SBS||Guest with Seungri, episode 1|
|2010||You Hee-yeol's Sketchbook||KBS2||with Taeyang, episode 58|
|2011||Star Date||KBS||Guest with T.O.P|
|Night After Night||SBS||Guest with T.O.P, episode 9|
|Kim Jung Eun's Chocolate||SBS||Guest with T.O.P, episode 130|
|Strong Heart||SBS||Guest with Seungri, episode 65-66|
|Infinite Challenge||MBC||Partner with Park Myeong-su, episode 247-249, 253-256|
|2012||Healing Camp, Aren't You Happy||SBS||Guest with BIGBANG, episode 31|
|Running Man||SBS||Guest with Big Bang, episode 84-85|
|Jung Jae-hyung & Lee Hyori's You and I||SBS||Guest with Big Bang, episode 3|
|Strong Heart||SBS||YG family special, episode 123-124|
|Go Show||SBS||Guest with BIGBANG, episode 3|
|"One of a Kind" Live Countdown||Naver||Special Guest|
|Infinite Challenge||MBC||Guest, episode 297-298|
|2013||Thank You||SBS||Guest, episode 3-4|
|Hwasin: Controller of the Heart||SBS||Guest with Daesung, episode 6|
|Running Man||SBS||Guest with Daesung and Seungri, episode 163|
|Ask in a Box: Coup D'etat||1theK||Guest, episode 37|
|Infinite Challenge||MBC||Partner with Jeong Hyeong-don, episode 346, 349, 351-354|
|Weekly Idol||MBC||Guest, episode 125-126|
|2014||The Return of Superman||KBS2||Haru meets Bigbang members, episode 16|
|You Hee-yeol's Sketchbook||KBS2||Guest with Jang Pilsoon, M.I.B, Colla Voice, episode 202|
|The Return of Superman||KBS2||Guest with Bigbang, episode 28-29|
|2015||Happy Together||KBS2||Guest with Big Bang, episode 398|
|You Hee-yeol's Sketchbook||KBS2||Guest with Big Bang, episode 276|
|Running Man||SBS||Guest with Big Bang, episode 250|
|Infinite Challenge||MBC||Guest with Taeyang, episode 435-440, 442|
|Please Take Care of My Refrigerator||JTBC||Guest with Taeyang, episode 43|
|The Return of Superman||KBS2||Visited Sarang's House, episode 97-98|
|2016||Devil's runway||OnStyle||Guest, episode 3|
|Infinite Challenge||MBC||Guest, episodes 495-497|
Korean studio albums
Japanese studio albums
- World Tours
- One of a Kind World Tour (2013)
- Shine a Light (2009)