Min Yoon-gi, best known under his professional stage names Suga and Agust D, is one of the seven extraordinarily talented men who make up the South Korean band known as BTS (aka Bangtan Sonyeondan); and the more you get to know Suga, the more you start to realize that there are many layers to the musician/singer/dancer/composer — each more intriguing than the last. (Suga’s recent Vlive can be watched HERE.)
Lure of Music
Inspired by music artists like Epik High and Eminem, Suga likes to joke that he was recruited at 17 years old to join Big Hit Entertainment to be a rap performer, only to find himself recruited into an dance idol-trainee program. (South Korea refers to singers who dance and perform in concert as “idols”.) Whether Suga knowingly or unknowingly signed with Big Hit Entertainment to become an idol, the end result is that over the past 8 years Suga has become one of the most sought-after lyricist and music producers, having written/co-written over 150 of BTS’s songs, collaborating on award-winning songs with other global music artists, and releasing 2 of his own solo albums, known as “mix tapes”. Upon review of Suga’s discography and writing credits, it is hard to imagine that Suga has had time to sleep, let alone train with his BTS band members for their dance choreography, participate in multiple world tours, and perform in hundreds of concerts across the globe.
Everyone thinks that they know who Suga is. But do they really? Suga seems to live and breathe to write lyrics, compose music, and produce songs. His own band mates tease him because they find him sleeping every chance that he gets. But what they do not always realize is that Suga does not really sleep that much because he is compulsively driven to write and compose music, which keeps him awake writing songs nearly every waking moment of his life. From an early age, Suga was drawn to music, starting with the piano, which was his “first love” where he naturally began writing rap lyrics, which compelled him to seek out ways to share his songs and music that infused his thoughts and soul. Thus, it is no surprise that Suga takes advantage of the chance to sleep when and where he can (at 11:35 mark). Like many geniuses, Suga probably needs to take “power naps” to keep his energy up for when he is in the middle of creating and composing his music.
BTS, in and of itself, is an amalgamation of seven creative geniuses: RM, J-hope, Suga, Jin, V, Jimin and Jungkook, each bringing a unique skill set (vocally, lyrically and in performance) that — when combined — has resulted in songs and music that have won over 300 awards, topped music charts, and sold albums at an unprecedented rate across the globe. BTS’s universal appeal is no accident as they have worked tenaciously for nearly a decade training and creating their music so it would attract fans, audiences, and listeners everywhere. Thanks to the advancement and proliferation of internet access, BTS’s music, songs and performances are viewed, listened to, and bought in every country. It is estimated that BTS has over 32 million active fans and at least another 54 million passive fans, who listen to and buy their music. BTS’s success is the result of hard work, good timing, razor-sharp entertainment instincts, and global appeal — fortified by Suga’s key music composition and lyric contributions.
The 17 year old, who just wanted to rap, write song lyrics and compose music, was persuaded to join BTS as an idol because Suga knew that it guaranteed he would have a long career as a song writer and music producer. His instinct paid off and he has not regretted it since BTS is now the most popular and successful band on the planet.
What started off as a mutually-beneficial relationship among the BTS members has turned into something much more meaningful. BTS does not just create and perform beautiful music, they have become a “music universe” unto themselves in which fans find comfort, companionship, and purpose. When you hear the phrase that “BTS is changing the world,” it refers to the phenomenon where BTS’s fans are empowered to change themselves, their lives and the lives of those around them. BTS’s music has become a trigger-event that promotes self-exploration, self-expression, self-reflection, followed by expansion of that introspection to include the world around them. BTS’s dedicated fans are called ARMY (Adorable Representative M.C. for Youth), which is comprised of those who come together to share and express their love for BTS, BTS’s music, and their fellow fans; so much so that they inspire each other to become involved in local and global projects through activism and philanthropy, as well as to empower and recruit more fans, with the hope and goal of making each person’s life better and more rewarding.
Importance of Self-Love
Suga has become a catalyst for ARMY and BTS’s fans. From the early days of BTS, Suga has been outspoken about his own views on topics that most idols and/or musicians are hesitant to address: from equal rights to shining light on depression, social anxiety and self-harm, to advocating for tolerance and acceptance, to the willingness to share his own struggles with mental health issues.
As Suga said in his November 2020 interview with Esquire magazine: “The reason I started making music is because I grew up listening for lyrics that speak about dreams, hopes, and social issues. It just came naturally to me when making music. There is this culture where masculinity is defined by certain emotions, characteristics. I’m not fond of these expressions. What does being masculine mean? People’s conditions vary day by day. Sometimes you’re in a good condition; sometimes you aren’t. Based on that, you get an idea of your physical health. And that same thing applies mentally. Some days you’re in a good state; sometimes you’re not. Many pretend to be okay, saying that they’re not ‘weak,’ as if that would make you a weak person. I don’t think that’s right. People won’t say you’re a weak person if your physical condition is not that good. It should be the same for the mental condition as well. Society should be more understanding.”
“I think [mental health is] for not just us, but other celebrities. If they talk about it openly — if they talk about depression, for example, like it’s the common cold, then it becomes more and more accepted [like] if it’s a common disorder, like the cold. . . More and more, I think artists or celebrities who have a voice should talk about these problems and bring it up to the surface.”
Suga further explained in his May 2021 Rolling Stone interview: “I’m comfortable now and feeling good, but those sorts of negative emotions come and go. So it’s almost like cold weather. It may come back in a cycle over a year, year and a half. But when I hear people say that when they listen to my music, and feel comfort and are consoled by those lyrics that express these emotions, that makes me feel very good. It’s very encouraging. I think, for anybody, these emotions are not something that need to be hidden. They need to be discussed and expressed. Whatever emotions that I may be feeling, I’m always ready to express them now, as I was before.”
Suga’s openness and acknowledgement of his own mental health struggles has won over the hearts of fans, especially those who feel a kinmanship or connection to him as they share those same fears, struggles, insecurities and loneliness that Suga acknowledges in his own life. Suga has become the human-equivalent of a “lightning rod” that welcomes and embraces everyone from all walks of life. That desire to promote self-love and self-care is something that Suga’s bandmates have also taken upon themselves to voice, advocate and serve as a beacon. Thus, BTS shines a light into those darkest corners of a person’s self-doubts and inner-struggles and invites those yearning for a safe place to heal, search, and discover who they are, and find respite from a world of worries.
In his 2018 Billboard magazine interview, Suga shared: “I really want to say that everyone in the world is lonely and everyone is sad, and if we know that everyone is suffering and lonely, I hope we can create an environment where we can ask for help, and say things are hard when they’re hard, and say that we miss someone when we miss them.”
BTS’s music and “BTS universe” offers something for everyone: it can be a place to celebrate and rejoice, a place to seek solace and understanding, a place of refuge for those in pain and tormented, and a place that embraces rather than hurting. The power of music and lyrics that touch a person’s heart and soul is ultimately what makes BTS’s music so addictive. It calls out to and reaches the hearts of those who listen and serves to fill the hole or yearning inside their hearts and lives. BTS’s music and songs have crossed boundaries of language, geography and geo-political barriers. That unique ability is a gift and, when wielded, very powerful. This is what Suga innately recognized when he himself began writing and composing music; it called out to and lured his own soul in deeper and deeper. That ability to share the safe-haven that he found in music is key to BTS’s success. People listen to music because they are seeking something to match their moods or as a salve for a pain or yearning in their own souls.
Music is an essential part of life. We listen to music at home, while working, or driving to keep our minds and hearts occupied and at peace. We listen to music to serve as a source of joy, inspiration, solace, companionship and celebration. Music answers the need that we have at any given moment in our lives. It will help us celebrate our greatest moments of joy. It will soothe when our hearts and souls are agonized and in turmoil. It entices us to reflect on issues and troubles around us. It inspires us to tackle or push for change. Music can be many things and all things all at once. The mercurial nature of music makes it the perfect instrument and complement for every aspect of our lives. It is why we find ourselves immersed in music everywhere we go. Music is the soundtrack of our daily lives. It is vital and necessary.
In the song “Intro: Never Mind” (lyrics), Suga wrote about his internal struggle:
There’s a lot of things in the world that you can’t control
Never mind, never mind
If you think you’re gonna crash, accelerate even harder, you idiot
Never mind, never mind
We’re too young to give up, you idiot
Never mind, never mind
Then in his first solo album “Agust D” for the song “So Far Away” (lyrics), Suga wrote more about his turmoil to live each day:
I fucking live only because I can’t die
That I don’t have anything I want to do
Is more painful than anything and makes me lonely
But everyone around me tells me to come to my senses
The only one that I can vent my anger on is myself, so why should I even take it out
Every morning, I’m scared to open my eyes and breathe
Another key verse from his second solo album “D-2” is the song “Moonlight” (lyrics) as Suga assessed his life path:
That moonlight that shines on me at dawn
It’s still the same as then
Changes are fated to happen to everyone
Perhaps, how we change is what our undertaking is about
Another song verse that illustrates his questioning his life is also in his “D-2” album, where the song “Strange” (lyrics) asks:
Someone please tell me if life is pain
Well, well . . .
If there’s a god, please tell if life is happiness
His existential journey continued in his “D-2” song “28” (lyrics) asking:
What are the things that I hoped for?
Now I am scared
Where did the fragments of my dream go?
Though I’m breathing,
It feels like my heart has broken down
Yeah, to talk about now, it’s about becoming an adult who finds it only overwhelming to grasp
Onto a dream
I’m becoming an adult
Finally, in Suga’s search for answer, his song “People” (lyrics) on his “D-2” album reminded himself and others:
If you brush past, what about it
What about it
If you get hurt, what about it
Sometimes you might be in pain again
Sometimes you might get upset and shed tears
What about it
If you live like that, what about it
As Suga shares his soul-searching, angst-filled, existential journey, there are perhaps no easy answers, just more questions and more struggles because life is just not going to reveal answers that quickly or perhaps not at all.
Suga’s own family saw his early music inclination and encouraged his interest in music by providing him with a piano at a very young age so that he could use it to discover and explore his talent. Yet what his family never anticipated was that Suga’s heart and soul would bond so quickly to the piano and creating music that it would become an extension of who Suga is. Even today, I sense that Suga’s heart, body, mind and soul are so intertwined with his music that it infuses literally every part of his existence. He likely dreams about music too, as his subconscious takes over, to allow his active mind a chance to rest.
Suga seems to be more aware of the necessity of looking after one’s own mental health and physical health equally. Hence, his emphasis on eating good food, cooking and providing meals for his bandmates, and the importance of sleeping whenever possible to allow the mind and body to rest and recover.
Like his BTS bandmates, Suga is addicted to creating music and performing his music for others. Great music artists and performers are known to have “drive” — it is the one thing has pushes them to pursue creating, performing and living in the music world with every fiber in their being. They literally cannot see their own identity as separate from their music because it is who they are at their core. That natural compulsion is what separates the truly gifted and destined for greatness. There is no such thing as failure for such artists because creating music and performing is what they crave. That is Suga. The equation and answer to Suga’s life is his music. It is also what binds the BTS members together as they see that same insatiable desire in each other to create music and perform their music.
Suga’s bandmates were young when they joined BTS, ages ranging from 15 to 20. The one thing that they all had in common was that he and they wanted to be in this band more than life itself. They trained for 18-20 hours a day, barely sleeping, practicing choreography, and doing physical training and vocal training every day of the week, just to get the chance to sing, dance, create and perform. The average trainee-period is 2 to 3 years. That is a tremendously grueling and physically demanding process to endure over the course of 3 years. Even as teenagers, when the human body can endure longer periods of physical activity and can be pushed to its limits, it is hard to imagine that one could devote that long of a time period to achieve a goal that is years away. Teenagers tend to be more focused on short-term goals and immediate gratification.
Yet, the BTS band members all endured and prevailed, making their debut in June 2013. It was a momentous and joyous time period for them. Their life-long dream had become a reality: they were idols singing and dancing, performing their music. That joy and determination remained undiminished as they embarked on their first tour in 2014, as well as during the time that BTS worked on the reality series “American Hustle Life” in the summer of 2014. The time period of June 2013 through October 2014 was 15-months of celebration as their 4 year journey had come to fruition and they were doing exactly what they wanted to do: be a hip-hop/rap music band, writing their own songs, releasing albums and performing every chance they could get. They appeared on television shows, no matter the time slot or even if they were last on the schedule. They went to festivals and performed in other countries, including going as far as Russia and the United States. They attended award ceremonies where they sometimes played off-stage/screen, feeling grateful to be invited. So BTS was doing every thing it could to gain traction with its music in the notoriously closed-off world of music.
Suga along with his bandmates RM and J-Hope were fellow travelers in the music world long before they joined Big Hit Entertainment as trainees. It was as if they were all born with music running through the veins since they were drawn into the music world at such young ages. Whether they were born into families that encouraged their music exploration and creation, the end result was that all three were driven to pursue creating music and were willing to do anything for that chance. After all three joined Big Hit’s idol trainee program, they worked together, not only in vocal and physical training, but to write lyrics and music for when they would debut as BTS. RM, Suga and J-hope are skilled rap composers and performers. Of the 49 songs that BTS released in their initial 6 albums in 2013 through 2014 (2 Cool for Skool, O!RUL8,2?, Skool Luv Affair, Skool Luv Affair – Special Edition, Dark & Wild, Wake Up), Suga and RM received writing credits on 44 songs and J-hope receiving writing credit on 40 songs. In more recent years, their bandmates Jungkook, Jimin, V aka Taehyung and Jin have also begun co-writing and sometimes participating on the music production side on various BTS songs as well. As a result, they have all put themselves into BTS’s songs: their hopes, fears, and dreams of a better future.
From their first album released in June 2013 “2 Cool 4 Skool,” BTS set out to challenge perceptions and the rigid social/political/economic hierarchy in South Korea. In fact, the band’s first songs “No More Dream” (lyrics) and “We Are Bulletproof, Pt. 2” (lyrics) addressed the societal expectations and labels placed on young people and served to remind that no one can label you or take your dreams from you. It is your choice to determine who you are and what you want to do. That push-back against society and those that would seek to put BTS into a predetermined box was felt instantly because these were themes and concerns that each of the seven members had in their own lives. Whether their band was a rap group, hip-hop band, or just idols, BTS chafed under the labels and expectations that their music peers, the music industry, and that society sought to constrain them with. This theme was further explored through BTS’s second album “O!RUL8,2?” in the songs “N.O.” (lyrics), “We On” (lyrics), “If I Ruled The World” (lyrics) “BTS Cypher, Pt. 1” (lyrics), and again in BTS’s third album “Skool Luv Affair” in the songs “Tomorrow” (lyrics), “Spine Breaker” (lyrics), and BTS’s fourth album “Dark & Wild” in the songs “BTS Cypher Pt. 3 Killer” (lyrics), all the way through BTS’s fifth album “Wake Up” in the songs “The Stars” (lyrics), “Wake Up” (lyrics), and “Outro” (lyrics).
For Suga, these were issues close to his heart as his own family, while willing to let him pursue his interest in music, was not as enthusiastically supportive of him pursuing it as a career. At the same time, the rap music artists that Suga wanted to be included among were not as welcoming towards him, nor BTS, once the band debuted. For most of 2013 and 2014, BTS seemed to be challenged and labeled in ways that they did not want to be constrained by. Everything that BTS stood for was about rejecting societal expectations and labels, and while their music and performances reflected that, they were still having to fight for recognition of their right to be musicians and creating the music they wanted. During that two year period, the media, music industry and music audiences ruthlessly criticized BTS, inciting “troll attacks” across social media platforms. Thus, it was a constant struggle to carve out a place for themselves and their music. Yet, BTS valiantly rose to the challenge and looked for ways to bring their music to a larger fanbase, both in South Korea and throughout the world.
Suga, along with his bandmates, had all joined Big Hit Entertainment and trained together as idols in order to pursue their dream of being rappers and hip-hop artists, and yet the path to being a successful, career idol compelled them to make adaptations to their music and performances. Thus, when BTS began including a wider array of music, songs, lyrics, and performance styles in order to capture a larger fanbase and attract more interest in their band and music, that inclusion and expansion of sound and style of music and performance ignited a massive new interest and the band’s audience increased quickly in 2015 (at 3:25 mark). No longer just known for rap and hip-hop music, BTS included more melody and ballad style songs, lyrics and music in their albums in 2014 and 2015, as well as adding more stylized choreography in BTS’s stage performances, which sparked an immediate, enthusiastic response from their exponentially-growing fanbase.
Thanks to the rapidly developing technology becoming available in that critical time period of 2013 through 2014, BTS quickly coalesced a large worldwide audience. BTS’s newly adapted music style, stage presence, personas, and lyrics resonated with fans and audiences drawn to BTS’s music that rejected societal constraints and challenged preconceived expectations. The fact that BTS was struggling to be accepted within the music industry gave the global audience and fans a point of common interest — a “rage against the machine” type of kinsmanship. While BTS was tenaciously fighting for their right to be who they wanted to be and to create the music they wanted to make, that rebellious spirit and determination infused their music, lyrics and performances — and global audience was more than ready to embrace that siren call.
BTS’s management team at Big Hit Entertainment seem to recognize that BTS was gaining traction and attention outside of South Korea and lined up performance and tour dates abroad, which served to establish BTS’s music foothold in the global music market. With a rapidly growing international fanbase, BTS began shifting the style and sound of their songs and music to appeal to their global fanbase. That shift was seismic. It took BTS out of the narrow niche of rap/hip-hop music and allowed them to incorporate a wider range of music styles into their songs along with more introspective lyrics. The end-effect was to pull their audience in closer to them, rather than simply pushing back against those who were rejecting them. The result was the HYYH trilogy, also known as “The Most Beautiful Moment In Life, Pt 1,” “The Most Beautiful Moment In Life, Pt. 2” and “The Most Beautiful Moment In Life: Young Forever” album series, which was released in 2015 and 2016.
The very first song of BTS’s “The Most Beautiful Moment In Life, Pt .1” album entitled “Intro: The Most Beautiful Moment In Life” (released April 2015) was written by Suga. It was a revealing song that he had written sharing his inner-most fears and frustrations and how he sought refuge and solace in playing basketball — which is where the Suga moniker originated from. It is a shorthand reference to Suga’s basketball position as a “shooting guard”.
Looking at the lyrics in “Intro: The Most Beautiful Moment In Life” (written by Suga), the song ends with:
The sense of reality that hits me
Why am I still here while others are running ahead?
Breathe or dream
Now row the oars again along the heartbeat
If you live by pretending that you don’t know, trapped in others’ shallow judgement,
The sun will set on your life like the court
What am I doin’ with my life?
This moment will never ever come back
I ask myself once again, “Are you happy now?
The answer is already set, “I’m happy”
The entire song reveals Suga’s mind-set to endure and conquer his anxious thoughts. This soul-baring trend continued through to BTS’s follow-up album “The Most Beautiful Moment In Life, Pt. 2” (released November 2015), where the first song “Intro: Never Mind” (lyrics) also written by Suga, ends with:
Never mind, never mind
No matter how thorny the road is, run
Never mind, never mind
There are a lot of things in the world that you can’t control
You better never mind, never mind
If you think you’re gonna crash, accelerate even harder, you idiot
Never mind, Never mind
We’re too young to give up
These 2 songs written for “The Most Beautiful Moment In Life, Pt. 1” and its sequel album “The Most Beautiful Moment In Life, Pt. 2” was Suga lifting the mask that he usually wears as a rap-artist and idol performer, allowing fans to see him and relate to him as a human-being just like them. Suga had essentially invited the BTS audience into his core-world and revealing that he is just a person, just like them, and his worries, fears, insecurities, and frustrations were the same as theirs. It reassured them that it is normal to have these feelings and to express them. By revealing himself, it drew in fans and listeners closer as they wanted to share in that special world being revealed by Suga’s invitation. That transparency and tenderness was instantly addictive and it created a tether of bonds between BTS and ARMY — a bond proven unbreakable.
Thus, the HYYH (aka Youth Trilogy) was a pivot-point for BTS. The songs and lyrics were embraced with such enthusiasm and love that BTS’s album sales exploded; with award recognition quickly following, as BTS went on to win a Melon Music Award for Best Dance for their performance of “I Need U” in May 2015, a Daesang at the 2016 Golden Disc Award for “The Most Beautiful Moment In Life: Pt. 1”, a 2016 Melon Music Award for Album of the Year for “The Most Beautiful Moment In Life: Young Forever”, and the Mnet Asian Music Award for Artist of the Year and Best Dance for their hit follow-up song “Blood, Sweat & Tears” from BTS’s 2016 “Wings” album.
After the long struggle for acceptance and recognition in 2013 and 2014, by mid-2015 BTS was finally acquiring award nominations and wins for their HYYH “Youth Trilogy”. Better yet, they were received worldwide acceptance and appreciation of their music. As performer and music creators, the fact that the entire world seemed to embrace them and celebrate their music was the one thing that made the 3 years of training — followed by 2 tough years struggling to find their place in the music industry — worth it. By the end of 2016, BTS was celebrated and accepted in ways they had never dared to dream or hope for.
Advocacy and Philanthropy
BTS was not an overnight success, so each of the band members keenly felt the long struggle they endured before they could say that they had “made it” and could look around to see how they could give back to those less fortunate. From the beginning, Suga was a staunch supporter of those who had endured financial struggles, societal rejection or ostracism, and he found allies among his band mates who were like-minded and willing to use their collective platform as musicians and artists to help and advocate for those who needed help. BTS, as a group, used their platform as global artists to amplify the message of self-love and protection of those who were in need. BTS chose to become more actively involved and became global ambassadors for UNICEF to promote and implement the ENDViolence Campaign, as well as taking their Love Myself message to the United Nations in 2018 and 2020.
With gender identity and same-sex relationships still a cultural taboo in many parts of the world, it was important that — as BTS’s leader — RM included reference to a person’s gender should never be anything used to persecute or constrain a person because a person’s private life should be their own. In fact, RM said in his United Nations 2018 speech: “I want to hear your voice. I want to hear your conviction. No matter where you’re from, skin color, gender identity, just speak for yourself. Find your name [and] find your voice.” RM has consistently spoken out for and advocated for the equal treatment and acceptance of the LBGTQIA community. In 2013, RM tweeted about the Macklemore and Ryan Lewis song “Same Love” and later RM explained: “It’s hard to find the right words. To reverse the words: Saying ‘same love’ is saying ‘love is the same.’ I just really liked that song. That’s about all I have to say.” To which Suga added that from his perspective: “There’s nothing wrong. Everyone is equal.” Suga also clarified his own personal viewpoint in an interview in 2014: “I focus on personality and atmosphere, I don’t have ideal type. It’s not limited to girls. I focus on the first impression and atmosphere, whether someone has the same sense of feel as mine.”
In addition to supporting equal rights, BTS had made an effort to challenge gender-identity norms by incorporating gender-bending clothing styles in their performances and photoshoots promoting their work. For example, if women can wear skirts, why not men — particularly as as other cultures allow for such attire, such as Scottish men wear kilts. BTS’s most recent gender-bending fashion was on display in their music video for their chart-topping single “Butter” and in their promotional photos for “Butter” as each BTS member wore clothing and jewelry that could easily be worn by either men or women.
Normalizing men wearing jewelry and accessories and attire that used to be only for women has helped shift perspectives on what is permissible and accepted for both men and women to wear, both in professional worlds and fashion worlds. Clothing has always been for utility and adornment. Thus, it makes sense that both men and women should be able to wear the same types of clothing, jewelry, and accessories. Equal opportunity in fashion and self-expression just opens up the realm of possibilities of styles, color and forms of expression to both men and women.
Yoongi most recently wore these gender-blending fashion styles:
BTS has also made it more normal for men to wear make-up and use basic body products such as perfumes and moisturizing products, as such products should not be exclusive to women. Men like to feel attractive and appealing just as much as women do and should care for their skin and invest in a skin regime to protect and nourish it as well. After all, skin is literally the largest organ on the human body and it takes routine care and maintenance equally among men and women — plus, a little care goes a long way to ensuring that your skin lasts a lifetime.
Suga’s own sense of fashion and performance style can be seen in the earliest BTS music videos, such in BTS’s video for their 2013 song “N.O.” and later in the music videos for their 2014 song “War Of Hormone” and 2015 song “Fire” segueing into the 2016 song “Blood Sweat & Tears” and the 2020 video for Suga’s solo song “Daechwita”. BTS, as a group and individually, have embraced a wide array of fashion throughout their 8 year career and it is always visually stimulating, influencing a whole new generation of youth who see artistry in what they wear and use it freely to express their individuality.
Suga has also been known to use products, such as the Marymond mirror, which that donate proceeds to charity to assist “comfort women” who were exploited and abused as sex slaves during the Korean War, to raise awareness and funds to support the women who survived such atrocities.
Another area of passion for Suga is philanthropy. As his career took off and he has the ability to help others, Suga made a point to give back to the communities that had helped him in his life and to provide aid to those who he wanted to champion, such as donating beef to orphanages, money to his hometown of Daegu for pediatric cancer patients, and funds to aid with the current Covid19 pandemic. Suga has said that one of the reasons that he does not want to get a tattoo, or rather not a tattoo that is visible, is because he wants to be able to continue doing charity work as he gets older. So he is actively planning a lifetime of giving back and helping.
Suga’s sense of giving-back or paying-it-forward is not limited to his generosity in his community or to those who are suffering, he also extends his care-taking duties to his bandmates. From the earliest days of joining the idol-trainee program with Big Hit Entertainment, Suga took it upon himself to secretly work part-time jobs to make sure there was enough food, not just for himself, but for his fellow trainees. Unbeknownst to them, Suga was injured working as a food delivery driver and sustained a shoulder injury that pained him for years until he recently had surgery to remedy his painful shoulder injury in November 2020. That willingness to step up — un-asked and without recognition — to do whatever it takes to take care of those around him is something that Suga learned from his father (at 7:13 mark). Suga admitted that he admires that about his father and it is a practice that he carries into his personal life — taking care of his bandmates without being asked. Suga makes sure that they have food and necessities, no matter what the situation. It is second-nature to him because he equates self-care as taking care of those who matter most to him.
Suga also knows how important it is to give words of affirmation to his teammates when they need it. For example, when asked what he would like to say to his bandmate Jungkook during the recent June 2021 Festa event, he told Jungkook: “You can do anything.” He also made a point to tell Jungkook (during the March “Let’s BTS” interview on KBS) that when he works with other music artists that he tells them that he has never seen anyone as talented as Jungkook before. Similarly, also during the 2021 Festa, Suga wanted Jimin to know: “You are small and cute.” He has also previously told Jimin how much he liked Jimin’s voice and that the fans liked his voice too (at 8:37 mark) and has even massaged Jimin’s sore shoulders to help him feel better during a performance (at 9:27 mark). Then for his teammate V aka Taehyung, Suga wanted Taehyung to know: “You are handsome.” Suga also once sent Taehyung a text message to tell him know how much he loves him and values him (at 8:49 mark). He also went out of his way to tell Taehyung that he did a great choreography move during a dance practice (at 9:49 mark).
For the younger BTS band members, words of affirmation is one of their key “love languages” and Suga makes sure to tell them how much he values and appreciates them because words of affirmation are vital to them and their self-esteem. Artists can be notoriously plagued by self-doubt and, when others tell them how they are seen and appreciated, it can be exactly what they need to hear.
Perhaps from his days strategizing his own career prior to joining Big Hit Entertainment, and through his years as a radio DJ, Suga seems to have developed a keen sense of how music and songs gain attention and prominence in the zeitgeist. It has made Suga a bit of a prophet among his bandmates and fans, since he seems to accurately predict or anticipate how long it will take to achieve some of BTS’s key goals. Suga has been accurate enough that AMRY has come up with a mantra or catch-phrase for him: “What Yoongi wants, Yoongi gets.”
Suga’s first prediction was from his 2016 song “Agust D” stating: “Next up is the Billboard” and, that following year in 2017, BTS was invited for the first time to the U.S. Billboard Music Award show. Then shortly after predicting that, Suga predicted that BTS’s new album would rank as No. 1 on the Billboard Top 200 Global Chart, which came true. Suga went on to make more predictions on the path of BTS’s success, which have come true — practically in the order and at the times that Suga predicted. It could be that Suga does have an uncanny knack for prediction, or he is simply so attune with the music industry that he knows instinctively when certain achievements will be possible to reach those goals. Just a few months ago, Suga predicted that BTS’s hot single “Butter” would hit No. 1 on the Hot 100 Billboard Chart and that it could stay in the No. 1 spot for weeks. To date, “Butter” has reigned in the No. 1 Hot 100 Billboard Chart for 7 consecutive weeks. His next prediction is that “Butter” will drop down to allow for BTS’s newest song “Permission To Dance” to take the No. 1 spot on the Hot 100 Billboard chart.
Watching all of these predictions come true over the past few months has been incredible. It is literally history-in-the-making and unprecedented for a band originating from South Korea to take over the U.S. music charts so completely. World music domination by BTS is happening right now and it is a marvel to watch in action. It is also deserved. BTS’s music has not only thrilled fans across the globe, it has gained traction and recognition in even the most entrenched music realms, such as radio play and music streaming platforms.
Suga’s gift seems to originate from the fact that he is so immersed in the music world that he can feel shifts and nuances of cultural barriers easing and music interest levels rising. His spirit is in tune to the universe’s music that threads itself through everything around us and brings us together. Some call that a prophet, some call it a savant, but I describe Suga as a “taste-maker” with seer tendencies. It is a skill that also benefits him as a lyricist and music producer.
Suga’s instincts, when is comes to music, are uncanny. He has a keen eye when it comes to artistry and performance style. Beyond costuming, Suga knows what will look good on stage and during a video performance. He has an absolute awareness of where the audience is or where the camera is at all times. He unconsciously gravitates towards it and moves to keep himself in the focus range of where the attention will be. That ability is difficult to learn and he seems to do it naturally. He also knows what will look good and does not seem to stress about it and just does it. That “just do it” and “move with it” instinct makes him confident with his physicality and stage movements. I attribute this to his years playing basketball where he had to maneuver, like he was at one with the basketball and his team. Those skills are invaluable for a music performer in a band with such nuanced choreography and complex singing performances on stage. Between the physical awareness and seamless integration, as well as his many years playing piano, this allows Suga to see music in his head as he goes about his everyday life. Thus, Suga embodies his artistry heart, body and soul, and he is at one with it and it moves him and motivates him in everything he does.
What is remarkable to those of us watching from the outside is that oneness with music and the universe has created a series of unique circumstances, such as how the very same band that inspired Suga to become a rapper, then approached him a decade later to help produce a song for them: “Eternal Sunshine” released by Epik High. There is a theory in quantum mechanics about how eventually time and space will loop and bend back on itself. I think that is what Suga has tapped into. He embodies an infinity loop of possibilities that seem to bend time and space to make the impossible, possible.
It has led him to write such heart-pounding lyrics for BTS’s song “Fire” (lyrics) his reminiscent solo song “First Love” (lyrics), followed by his later introspective songs “Trivia: Seesaw” (lyrics) and “Interlude: Shadow” (lyrics). Simultaneously, there are Suga’s solo works outside of BTS, the mixtapes “Agust D” (released 2016) and “D-2” (released 2020), which run the gambit of expressions of rage-fueled anger to gentle soul-searching. Suga’s open exploration of his inner-world and the world outside of him has taken him on a remarkable musical journey, and those invited along with him have been awed by his transparency and inclusiveness.
Suga’s music world has expanded to include more than just co-writing over 150 songs for BTS’s discography, he has gone on to stretch his skillset to include music production on BTS songs such as: “Tomorrow”, “Spine Breaker”, “Jump”, “Boyz With Fun”, “Dead Leaves”, “First Love”, “Outro: Her”, “Sea”, “Paradise”, “Ddaeng”, “Trivia: Seesaw”, “Interlude: Shadow”, “Respect”. He also has embraced working with other music artists, which includes his early work with D-town in 2010 on “518-062”, followed by helping produce the song “Wine” with Suran in 2017, working with Epik High’s Tablo writing the 2019 Lee Sora single “Song Request”, reuniting with Epik High to produce their 2019 single “Eternal Sunshine”, followed by working with HEIZE on “We Don’t Talk Together” and Halsey on “SUGA’s Interlude”. Suga’s song writing has become renown to the point that in 2020 he also worked with MAX on “Blueberry Eyes”, then Jawsh 685 and Jason Derulo on “Savage Love”, and IU on the award-winning song “eight”, which he helped co-write and produce.
(One of Suga’s most recent music compositions was featured in the Samsung Galaxy campaign and Suga talks about the privilege of composing for “Over the Horizon” in this video.)
Truth & Artistry
If there is one universal truth that Suga lives by, it is the drive to share his art and music. As the poet Henry Wadsworth Longfellow said: “Music is the universal language of mankind.” Music fills the holes in our daily lives and reminds us to dream — and, better yet, reach for those dreams. Suga has done that. He was a born singer and song writer, who lives to share his music and art with the entire world. That compulsion has been a gift to the world of music and to fans who have fallen in love with his music. When you sit back and relax, whether it is listening to one of BTS’s songs or a song collaboration that Suga has worked on, you feel it when touches your heart or soul, with stronger emotion than you might anticipate.
During the BTS 2020 MTV interview in New York, Suga was asked what he would tell his younger self, he replied: “Love yourself.” All of Suga’s music is an expression of love — the love of self and the love of others. Love is not simply a warm, fuzzy emotion. Some love is expressed through a spectrum of emotions. Love grieves over loss. Love celebrates coming together. Love wields a sword when crossed or abused. Love embraces with comfort. No matter what form of love that you are looking for, Suga has written a song for it within his musical Mikrokosmos for you to explore, marvel, and enjoy.