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(ARTICLE) Rap Monster's Mixtape vs. Suga's Mixtape

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Three members of BTS have released mixtapes. Of those three, two of the members created a staggering 10 tracks. Even considering the use of existing beats, this is by no means an easy feat. Ordinarily, from the position of an idol group who strives for promotions with practically no time to rest, it's far from easy to fill up a tracklist that comes close to a full album. On top of that, the mixtapes continuously contain slang words that most believe shouldn't be carelessly used by idols. They even disclose raw histories that appear not to have gone through any refinement process.* For instance, take things like reflecting on embarrassing actions committed in the past and calling them a 'dark history' ("Voice," from Rap Monster's 'RM'), or a materialistic attitude that says 'money is everything' ("724248," from Suga's 'Agust D'), which are clearly far from what the ordinary public are universally aware of as being 'idol-ish.'

From the position of an idol, the tool called a mixtape is, on its own, a complete betrayal of one's commercial viability. Because idols have the need to build a fanbase, rather than releasing a mixtape for free, it's more of an advantage to put out a solo track or album. While a certain 'freedom of expression' is allowed under the conditions of non-commercial release, there is also an element of danger in unexpectedly becoming the subject of talk. Even disregarding all that, what could be the reason for choosing the mixtape form, or for making ten tracks instead of one or two?

* Meaning that neither RM nor Suga has sugar-coated their past histories, but talk about them frankly and without any refinement.

New Growth Reference

There is a common factor between the stars of these two mixtapes, BTS' Rap Monster and Suga (for purposes of comparing between these two members of BTS, we will use his BTS stage name, 'Suga,' rather than 'Agust D'). It is that even before they were chosen as members of their team, they had experience of making music and doing activities by themselves. However, before they were able to release a final product to be satisfied with, they debuted as members of an idol group, and as such, much of their past egos have been left completely disorganized. Ultimately, what is contained in the two members' mixtapes are vestiges of the agony originating from the process of going back and forth between the two identities of 'idol' and 'rapper.' They do sing about the differences in themselves before and after debut, but another interesting part is their frank portrayal of the emotions the two members feel regarding the process of changing the identity of BTS from 'hip-hop idol' to the more trendy 'popstar' or 'idol star.'

In actuality, some also explain that the important combination of the idol genre and its complete opposite, hip-hop, began in the 2010s. The appearance of the 'hip-hop' genre in the idol market represents a new degree of growth reference. The history of endlessly worrying about being a person who used to look down on idols, but is now in the process of becoming a top-tier idol, is being recorded as a reference of growth both in terms of skill and internally. It is an interesting phenomenon in which the idol career, which has been treated like a crafted jewel, meets the unique hip-hop genre which paradoxically appears more professional the more flaws it has.

Originality vs. Reality

In their respective mixtapes "RM" and "Agust D," both Rap Monster and Suga are expressing their musical, or to put it narrowly genre-based, desires which have been suppressed for so many years. Additionally, the two are showing an entirely different aim in this process. One person embodied their own ideal type. The other person chose a hardcore route that displays his promise to empty out all the things that were staked up during that time. The method by which these two people emerge from the mold of an idol is entirely different.

The words through which the difference can most clearly be explained are 'originality' and 'reality.' This difference is exposed primarily through the track composition. Among Rap Monster's 11 tracks, 8 tracks are made using beats from well-known international rappers and DJs. His mixtape is full of musicians we're familiar with, like J. Cole, Drake, J. Dilla, Big K.R.I.T, and Major Lazer. Rap Monster himself has already several times frankly stated his strong yearning towards Western hip-hop. In accordance, this was a choice that could have been predicted to an extent. His affinity toward the American mainland that has already been materialized through his flow type and diction on BTS albums is even more clearly contained in his mixtape. The fact that he has practiced continuously to express his own originality is evident here, but there is no feeling of awkwardness from the combination of Korean and English. There is also nearly no awareness that the track and rapping are separate. As in "Voice," he knows how to accumulate an unfamiliar feeling as his own. Thanks to this, he builds a refined mood by laying out only simple rapping. In "God Rap," he adds several sound effects to his rap and extends the feeling of space, and the meticulous direction is charming.

On the other hand, Suga tries to materialize the greatest possible sense of reality by reflecting his own scope of movement. It is an instance of seeking a type of 'reality.' If we say that the tracks Rap Monster chose exude a feeling of floating above Korean sensibilities, then Suga's tracks are adsorb them.* Even in BTS' albums, he has expressed several times through lyrics that he was born in Daegu and that he started making music in that place. It contains an attitude of identifying his sense of self with the base of his life, and as if intending to prove this mindset, he includes himself on every track and used only sources made by Korean writers and DJs. (The exception is "Intro: DT sugA," which samples James Brown's "It's a Man's World," but this is more to bring a fierce emotion into stark relief than to add the originality of so-called 'foreign hip-hop.') Being able to feel an atmosphere similar to the unrefined sound commanded by past Korean rappers also seems unrelated to this characteristic. In particular, the guitar riff that seizes the latter half of the last track, "So Far Away," is a considerably Korean melody line, but since it's a technique not recently used by rappers, even though it seems oddly 'countrified,'** it also has a strong point, which is that it carries the effect of clearly drawing out the emotional finish line he wanted.

Here, Suga chose domestic artists Yankee and Suran as his featuring artists. On the other hand, Rap Monster brought in American rapper and singer-songwriter Krizz Kaliko. Perhaps if it were a full album, this would be expressed as a 'concept difference,' but if you consider that it is a mixtape which fully reflects their own opinions, it can be understood better as a 'difference in aim.'

* Adsorption is the process of having molecules/atoms/whatever to the surface of an object, as compared to absorption, where the molecules/atoms/whatever soak into the entirety of an object.

** Countrified, meaning kind of outdated, uncool, like someone who comes from the countryside as opposed to a city.

Detailed Directing vs. Explosive Sense of Collision

Rap Monster's rapping gives a sense of being directed in detailed, but its particular strength is that in the process of modulating his breathing and flow, he intuitively (or intentionally) catches the moments in which a kind of sexuality is needed. Also, while Rap Monster enjoys lyrics that have an element of language play, he also cites literary elements, such as in "Awakening," "an endless cynical smile / but I'm Rimbaud / four seasons sent from hell," or exceptionally sensible expressions such as "bow your head properly / and make a Buddha's smile / Jesus' footsteps, Allah's prayers." However,, this can also become a weakness. Because of the strong sense of organization that extends over the entirety of the mixtape, the disappointment over small disorderly points is large. When you reach the middle point of the mixtape the emotions reach a climax, and at this point there are often moments in which both flow and pronunciation are shaky. For example, on the 6th track, "Joke," Rap Monster's emotions exceed the natural energy of the track. As a situation arises in which the bass rhythm, beat and pronunciation are all buried at once, only the 'fast rapping' stands out, and it becomes an opposite effect of losing interest in the message being conveyed. A weakness like the above makes something somewhat regretful out of the satisfaction given by a trendy piece of work.

Meanwhile, Suga is more reminiscent of a batter who just freely hits the ball without any regard for his batting average. The tracks themselves already possess an overflowing sense of collision, and the rapping also reacts to that with a corresponding energy. There's a nervous vitality that is more than enough to express an unstable psychological state, and it all coincides with the rough wording to evoke a pleasant feeling. But excepting the skit, from the start to the 8th track, that wholly-disgorging method of delivery is somewhat burdensome. The rapping cornered into strong-stronger-strongest, following the flow of the tracks, is combined into a elements of a story of coming gradually closer to the abyss, but this kind of approach has a strong possibility of exhausting the listener both acoustically and psychologically. In particular the 7th track, "The Last," evokes a considerable feeling of fatigue. In the lines that recollect a scene of meeting with a psychologist, "the doctor asked me / and I answered without hesitation that I had been like that before," the fact that 'like what' is not clearly specified alludes to extreme depression and mental illness. Like this, in Suga's mixtape, there are frequent appearances of hard expressions that aim at not only personal confessions that could never come from an idol, but even at his own environment that made him venomous and dark. This point could be read from the hip hop scene to the extent of being the rough and charming wording 'befitting of a mixtape,' but it's fascinating that it has a high possibility of being received, from the point of view of the fandom, as a combination of affection towards a member and, above and beyond that, a type of honest storytelling. Also, although the self-confidence that can be seen from the batter who does what he pleases is sometimes excessive, it gives rise to a deep internal resonance. This is the greatest strength of Suga's mixtape.

'The Thing I Want' vs. 'What I Want to Say'

I recommend Rap Monster's mixtape's 1st track "Voice" and Suga's mixtape's 5th track "724248" as the tracks that most clearly show the temperature difference between these two people. Both reminisce on past times, but the method and mood they use to express this are completely different. Rap Monster, who mixes his incredible strengths as a rapper with his yearning for originality, and Suga who personally created a track that contains the extreme energy of wanting to tell the story he wants to tell. In other words, if we say that Rap Monster's mixtape was doing 'what he wanted,' then Suga's mixtape comes close to 'saying what he wanted.'

The term 'non-commercial,' which somehow seems to show a non-vigilant image, on the contrary can also be seen as a clever choice to use a tool on behalf of the fandom. The fact that the field of 'truth' shown through a mixtape cannot be bought with money is its charm point, but it can also be used as a sturdy commercial tool even while having an effect of concentrating the fandom. Even so, in the reality of a situation in which the different items that can create a profit is practically endless, the choosing of an element that could become a minus to an idol's image-making, and the resulting concentration of the fandom, can be interpreted as a unique attempt followed by a positive result.

There are some flaws, but they're hardly stains. If I had to sum up the two mixtapes, it would be like so. The biggest impression is left by them having reached back to the 2010s, to the method of individual-member branding for acting and variety appearances, and brought that into the musical field. Thus, I am searching here for the preferential value of the two mixtapes, those 21 tracks in total. Although I wrote the word 'vs.' in each of the section headings, in actuality the results are closer to a '+'.

original article: here

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