(For those that don't know, Yong means Dragon in Korean, so you get his English stage name from his Korean name - Ji (G) Yong (Dragon)).
After promoting with Big Bang consistently for almost two and a half years, G-Dragon has returned to the stage as a solo artist with the release of his self-titled 'Kwon Ji Yong' album. His return comes at a complicated time for YG Entertainment, as fellow bandmate T.O.P is in the spotlight for his medical overdose and marijuana scandal, but G-Dragon manages to stand confidently and assert himself as an event to behold. With 'Kwon Ji Yong,' G-Dragon showcases a dramatic evolution and maturation of sound that fans are sure to fall in love with. The physical album comes in a USB thumb drive instead of the traditional CD.
Album opener "Middle Fingers Up" is astonishing once it warms up, offering the happiest incarnation of trap music this reviewer has ever heard. G-Dragon shows dexterity in the verses, acknowledging controversies head on. The chorus is sing-songy and jubilant, showing that G-Dragon's shouts of "middle fingers up" come more from a place of playfulness than aggravation with the world. By the third verse, GD is simply rapping his head off, modulating his voice in a way reminiscent of Kendrick Lamar at his most heated.
The next song, "Bullshit," packs an invigorating guitar sample and a surprise (but welcome!) traditional music influenced section, and the diverse range of influences come together to form one of the more musically intelligent "bangers" that G-Dragon has made. Follow-up "Super Star" is an unusually melancholy song for how heavy it hits, and its lush production recalls what made Song Mino's 2016 single "Body" great.
The title track of this release, ironically called "Untitled," is one of the most mature tracks G-Dragon has ever released. The song shows GD utilizing previously unheard vocal range and clarity. There are emotionally resonant highs, as well as a melody that makes sense (sometimes reinventing the ballad can be the wrong move!). It was overall a bold choice to use this as the title track, and the notion is appreciated by fans who wanted G-Dragon to diversify his image among the general public. With the aforementioned circumstances, coincidental timing has worked in G-Dragon's favor; such an emotionally potent song will be appreciated by fans having a rough time processing T.O.P.'s situation.
Outro track "Divina Commedia" immediately stands out because of how much it recalls Daft Punk's "Veridis Quo" from 2001 album 'Discovery.' Perhaps there was a sample or deliberate sound-alike here? Regardless, to listeners that can move on past the similarities, the track brings a moody ambiance that adds some depth to G-Dragon's emotional arsenal. He packs attitude into the chorus, with his words coming out like more of a sneer before melting into a distorted and auto-tuned puddle. GD talks about the highs and lows that come with success here, doing so in a way that allows listeners to get a glimpse at both his sincerity and his pain. Once again, G-Dragon proves that he is an expert at delivering "emotional bangers."
As a complete piece of art, 'Kwon Ji Yong' succeeds and manages to offer listeners a mix of what G-Dragon is known best for with a smattering of new tricks. GD shows maturity with this release, and each track is like a more potent and evolved version of his previous work (while still standing out as new and original material in its own right). Perhaps the only harsh criticism I have to offer is that the project feels under-stuffed! Fans waited a long time for a new solo release from G-Dragon, and it can be safely assumed that he recorded quite a few more than five tracks in the sessions for this release, so it's unclear why this release was held back from being a full-length LP. With 'Kwon Ji Yong,' G-Dragon uses his namesake and a lot of raw emotion to prove that he is truly "One of a Kind."
Tracklisting...............8 (Note: this is not an indictment of the tracks included, rather, a plea for more! It just seems like so much trouble for YG to promote and distribute only five tracks, knowing that more are probably in the bank)