History of G-Dragon: Debut, Success and more
1988–2009: Early life and debut
G-Dragon 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 came as a shock to G-Dragon. After then, 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, specializing in dance before he left, unclear about what he wanted to do.
In third grade, G-Dragon 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 classes. Under People Crew's tutelage, he participated in the release of the Korean hip-hop album Flex in 2001, becoming the youngest Korean rapper at just 13 years old. Although he wrote his own lyrics, 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." Additionally, he and future fellow T.O.P were neighborhood friend from middle school and would often dance and rap together before G-Dragon moved away. Catching the interest of Sean of the hip-hop duo Jinusean from YG Entertainment, G-Dragon was recommended by him to Sean's record label's CEO Yang Hyun Suk. After signing a contract with the record label, G-Dragon spent the first year cleaning the studio for the other artists in the record label and fetching them water bottles during dance practice.
G-Dragon and another trainee Taeyang, originally planned to debut as the hip-hop duo GDYB, and G-Dragon made several featured appearances on other artists' albums and even released several singles with Taeyang under the name "GDYB." After YG Entertainment scrapped the plan and opted for a boy group instead, G-Dragon contacted T.O.P, who auditioned in. G-Dragon, Taeyang and T.O.P were paired with three other members Jang Hyunseung, Daesung and Seungri.
The formation of the group was documented on television, but prior to their official debut, Jang Hyunseung was dropped. BIGBANG’s debut was a moderate success, with their first single netting in sales of over 40,000 copies. 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 title track "Lies”, which became the group's first number-one hit. Their following songs followed its predecessor’s footsteps. Both “Last Farewell” and “Haru Haru”, composed by him, became chart toppers. Having produced majority of Big Bang's materials, G-Dragon became involved with the production of Taeyang's 1st solo mini album “Hot” in 2008.
2009–2011: Heartbreaker and GD & TOP
In August, 2009, G-Dragon released his first solo album “Heartbreaker”. Featuring collaborations with several artists, including Teddy of 1TYM, Taeyang, Kush, CL of 2NE1, and Sandara Park of 2NE1, the album marked a change in G-Dragon's appearance as he dyed his hair blonde to match its concept. Propelled by its title track of the same name, an electronic pop song that sold nearly five million downloads, the album surpassed 300,000 copies sold and went on to win Album of the Year from the 2009 Mnet Asian Music Awards. Shortly after the album’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 Olympic Gymnastics Arena in December 2009. The name of the concert, “Shine a Light”, 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, G-Dragon and T.O.P released their collaboration album GD & TOP. Preceding the release of the album, the duo held a worldwide 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 and achieved commercial success.
G-Dragon also formed a duo with Park Myung Soo for the “Infinite Challenge” Seohae Ahn Highway Song Festival 2011. They released their song "Having an Affai" featuring Park Bom from 2NE1 on June 2, 2011. The song later became the second most downloaded song on the Gaon Music Chart for the year 2011.
Promotional activities halted later that year after G-Dragon tested positive for marijuana. Though a urine test back in August came back negative, a weak positive for marijuana was detected from testing the content of his hair in October. Since it was his first recorded offence with a minuscule amount of the drug, it resulted in an indictment and he was not charged. He later claimed to have accepted an offered cigarette from a fan in Japan during a party back in May, but after realizing it was not a normal cigarette, threw it away. Because he was not charged, he did not lose any endorsers and made his first public appearance after the scandal at the 2011 MTV EMAs with his group.
2012–2013: One of a Kind and Coup d'Etat
G-Dragon’s new solo album “One of a Kind” was released on September 15, 2012, drawing positive reviews, placed first on the Billboard World Album Chart and entered the Billboard 200 Chart at 161. At total of 5 tracks including “One of a Kind”, “Crayon”, “Without you”, “That XX”, “Missing you” and “Today” were contained in the album, while the album sold over 200,000 copies, making it the highest selling solo album in Korea since the release of his debut album “Heartbreaker” in 2009. For his effort, he won "Best Male Solo Artist" at the 14th Mnet Asian Music Awards and "Record of the Year" for “One of a Kind” at the 22nd Seoul Music Awards. G-Dragon embarked on his first world tour, “One of a Kind”, in 2013 becoming the first Korean solo artist to hold a four-dome tour in Japan and the second Korean solo artist to have a world tour. The production of the tour cost 3.5 million USD, making it the largest scale in Korean history at the time. The tour was held in 8 countries, visited 13 cities for a total of 27 concerts gathering 570,000 fans.
After touring extensively, G-Dragon went back into the studio to record his second studio album. YG Entertainment later announced that Grammy Award-winning musician Missy Elliott will be featured on the album. “Coup d'Etat” was released in two parts online, with the full album released physically on September 13, featuring collaborations with 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 Los Angeles. Six tracks from “Coup d'Etat” placed within the top 10 of the Gaon Digital Chart, including the number one "Who You?". The best-performing single of the album was "Crooked", with over 1.8 million digital downloads, which was his first solo music video to surpass 100 million views on YouTube. The title track "Coup d'Etat" was chosen by Billboard as one of the game-changing EDM tracks of 2013. The album entered the Billboard 200, making G-Dragon the first Korean act to have multiples entries on the chart. The success of “Coup d'Etat” led 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 also participated in the “Infinite Challenge” music festival for the second time, held on October 17, 2013 in Imjingak, composing and performing the song "Going to Try" with comedian Jung Hyungdon.
2014–2016: Good Boy and World Tour
In 2014, he wrote and produced for other YG artists, penning the track "Good to You" from 2NE1's album “Crush”. He also worked with Taeyang on his second album “Rise”, writing and producing the title track "Ringa Linga" and "Stay With Me", featuring on the latter track. In November 2014, G-Dragon and Taeyang formed a duo to release the single "Good Boy", which debuted at number one on Billboard's World Digital Songs chart, the third time a Korean act topped the chart after PSY and 2NE1. The single had over 1.2 million downloads in South Korea, while its music video surpassed 100 million views on YouTube, making BIGBANG the first Korean male group to have three 100 million YouTube hits under its belt.] In December of the same year, G-Dragon collaborated with Skrillex and Diplo for the song "Dirty Vibe", which also features label mate CL. The single charted at number 15 on Billboard's Hot Dance/Electronic Songs and 21 on Dance/Electronic Digital Songs, making them the first Korean artists to land on the chart. In 2015, he wrote and produced a song for YG Entertainment's new rookie group iKON for their debut album “Welcome Back”.
G-Dragon spent the majority of 2015 and 2016 touring with his team, performing for over 3.6 million fans in two years. He participated in the 2015 “Infinite Challenge” music festival for the third consecutive time, and the first with team mate Taeyang. The duo teamed up with ZE:A's Hwang Kwanghee and released the single "Mapsosa", which peaked at number two on the Gaon Digital Chart, and sold 1.1 million copies by the end of the year, making it one of the best-selling songs of 2015. He appeared on the same show again the following year, for the Muhan Company special, which was a two-episode thriller movie, where he acted for the first time. Additionally, he featured in Baauer's song "Temple" from his debut album “Aa” along with British rapper M.I.A. The song charted at number 36 on Billboard's Dance/Electronic Digital Songs and number 26 on Hot Dance/Electronic Songs, making him the first Korean male artist to chart twice on both charts.
2017: Kwon Ji Yong
In 2017, G-Dragon was featured on Zion.T's song "Complex" for his album “OO”, which peaked at number two on the Gaon Digital Chart. He also served as a guest rapper for IU's lead single "Palette," off her album of the same name which topped the Gaon Chart for two consecutive weeks. After the promotional activities with his band wrapped up, G-Dragon began preparing for the release of his new album, along with a solo concert tour.
The single "Bullshit" was set to serve as the lead single to precede the release of his second self-titled EP. Amid team mate T.O.P's marijuana scandal and the prior single's provocative name, "Untitled, 2014" was serviced to radio instead to avoid further controversy for the artist's record label. Forgoing the traditional method of CDs, Kwon Ji Yong was released in USB flash drive format on June 8, drawing criticisms over whether or not it should be labelled as an official album. The release saw him topping iTunes charts in 46 countries, the most by any Korean album, including the US iTunes chart. Kwon Ji Yong also topped the iTunes worldwide album and European iTunes charts making him the first Korean soloist to do so. In the United States, Kwon Ji Yong became his best-selling album in just one day and his third entry on the Billboard 200 and first number-one on the Heatseeksers Albums. Additionally, the EP became his third chart-topper and the first by a Korean soloist to spend multiple weeks atop the Billboard World Albums. In China, the album surpassed 760,000 digital units sold in a day on QQ Music, the biggest music site in the country. Six days after its release, it surpassed one million copies sold, becoming the fastest album to do so and the best-selling album of the year so far. Selling 11,641 copies Japan, the EP topped Oricon's weekly digital chart, making G-Dragon the first Korean artist to do so.
He embarked on his second world tour, Act III: M.O.T.T.E, starting with a concert at the Seoul World Cup Stadium on June 10, visiting 29 cities across Asia, North America, Europe and Oceania.