Kwon Ji-yong (Hangul: 권지용; born August 18, 1988), From age twelve, G-Dragon trained for six years at South Korean entertainment label YG Entertainment before debuting in 2006 as a member of the hip hop boy band Big Bang, which went on to become one of the best-selling boy bands in the world.
His first solo album Heartbreaker and its title track of the same name, both released in 2009, were commercially successful and earned him Album of the Year at the 2009 Mnet Asian Music Awards. G-Dragon collaborated with Big Bang bandmate T.O.P to release the album GD & TOP in 2010. His first EP One of a Kind (2012), was critically acclaimed and yielded three singles: “One of a Kind”, “Crayon”, and the chart-topper “That XX”. The EP became the best-selling album by a Korean soloist, breaking his previous record with Heartbreaker, and earned Record of the Year at the 2013 Seoul Music Awards. In 2013, he embarked on his first worldwide tour as a solo artist, making him the first Korean soloist to tour Japanese dome arenas. G-Dragon was awarded Artist of the Year at the 2013 Mnet Asian Music Awards following the success of his second album Coup d’Etat (2013). His 2017 EP, Kwon Ji Yong, yielded the number one single “Untitled, 2014”, and the supporting concert tour Act III: M.O.T.T.E became the largest tour ever conducted by a Korean soloist.
Widely recognized for his influence on youth culture, fashion trends, and music in South Korea, G-Dragon was named by Forbes in 2016 as the most influential person under 30 in Asia’s entertainment and sports. Producing not only for his band but also for his and his bandmates’ solo releases, G-Dragon has written or co-written 23 number one songs on the Gaon Digital Chart (equivalent to the Billboard Hot 100), most of which he has also co-produced.
Born and raised in Seoul, Kwon Ji-yong began his career at age six 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. Although he vowed to his mother that he “wouldn’t 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, 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 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 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” story. Additionally, he and future fellow Big Bang member Choi Seung-hyun were “neighborhood friend from middle school” and would often dance and rap together before Kwon moved away. Catching the interest of Sean of the hip-hop duo Jinusean from YG Entertainment, Kwon was recommended by him to Sean’s record label’s 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.
Kwon and another trainee, Dong Young-bae, originally planned to debut as the hip hop duo GDYB, with Kwon choosing the stage name of G-Dragon (“Ji” is pronounced like “G”, and Yong is Korean for “dragon”). He made several featured appearances on other artists’ albums and even released several singles with Dong under the name “GDYB.” After YG Entertainment scrapped the plan and opted for a boy band instead, Kwon contacted Choi, who auditioned in. G-Dragon, Dong (who chose the stage name Taeyang), and Choi (who chose the stage name T.O.P), were paired with three other members (Jang Hyun-seung, Daesung, and Seungri).
The formation of the group was documented on television, but prior to their official debut, Jang was dropped. The now-quintet’s debut was a moderate success, with their first album netting in sales of over 100,000 copies, and included G-Dragon’s first solo recording, a cover of the American alternative rock group Maroon 5’s single “This Love”. The release of the EP Always in 2007 was a musical departure from their previous materials and saw G-Dragon’s increased involvement in its production. Several songs were composed by him, including the lead-single “Lies” (Hangul: 거짓말; RR: Geojitmal), which became the group’s first number one hit. Their following EPs followed its predecessor’s footsteps: Hot Issue yielded “Last Farewell” (Hangul: 마지막 인사; RR: Majimak Insa) while Stand Up spawned “Day by Day” (Hangul: 하루하루; RR: Haru Haru); both singles, composed by him, were chart-toppers. Having produced the majority of Big Bang’s materials, G-Dragon became involved with the production of Taeyang’s debut extended play Hot (2008), after which he subsequently recorded a “Part Two” to the EP’s lead single “Only Look at Me” (Hangul: 나만바라봐; RR: Naman Barabwa).
In 2009, G-Dragon was featured on singer Lexy’s song “Super Fly” for her album Rush alongside Taeyang and T.O.P. He later collaborated with the Japanese boy band W-inds. for their single, “Rain Is Fallin’/Hybrid Dream”. His first solo album, Heartbreaker, was initially scheduled to be released in April that year, but was pushed back to August to coincide with his 21st (Korean years: 22nd) birthday. 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 lead-single 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 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 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” (Korean: 뻑이가요; Revised Romanization: ”Ppeogigayo”). All three singles preceded the release of the album and achieved commercial success: “High High” scored 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 Album Chart with pre-orders of 200,000 copies.
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 Affair (바람났어)” 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 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 a cigarette offered by 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.
While working on new solo materials, G-Dragon made an appearance in the Japanese version of Pixie Lott’s album Young Foolish Happy, along with T.O.P. His first extended play One of a Kind was released on September 15, 2012, drawing positive reviews, placing first on the Billboard World Album Chart and entering the Billboard 200 Chart at 161. Three singles were released to support the album: the top-five hit “One of a Kind,” which earned him the Best Hip Hop and Rap Song of the Year awards from the Korean Music Awards and the Rhythmer Awards respectively; the number one “That XX” (Korean: 그 XX; Revised Romanization: Geu XX); and the top-three hit “Crayon” that was ranked by Spin Magazine as the best K-Pop single of the year. 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 also embarked on the One of a Kind World Tour 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 first being Rain). The production of the tour cost $3.5 million, 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 (2013) 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” (Hangul: 늴리리야; RR: Nililiya) 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?” (Hangul: 니가 뭔데; RR: Niga Mwonde). The best-performing single of the album was “Crooked” (Hangul: 삐딱하게; RR: Ppiddak-hage), 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” (Korean: 쿠데타; Revised Romanization: ”Kudeta”) 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 participated in the Infinite Challenge music festival again for the second time on October 17, 2013 in Imjingak, composing and performing the song “Going to Try” (해볼라고) with comedian Jeong Hyeong-don.
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 lead single “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 Big Bang 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 labelmate 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 band for their third Korean album, 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 bandmate 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 (2016) 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.
G-Dragon was featured on Zion.T’s song “Complex” for his album OO (2017), 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 bandmate 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 criticism from Gaon and denied being regarded as an official album. Gaon reversed its decision later that year, acknowledging the format. 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. A behind-the-scenes documentary look at the tour was released by YouTube Premium in September 2018.
G-Dragon began his two-year mandatory military service on February 27, 2018, by entering the 3rd Infantry Division’s boot camp in Gangwon province as an active duty soldier, where he is set to be discharged on October 26, 2019, after completing the requirements. In the midst of the rumors, a petition has been set up in the government’s website to shut down Dispatch due to the belief that the company was releasing fabricated articles in attempts to entertain people without any regards to the validity of the news as well as how the news would affect the person or people involved.
Inspired by the music of Wu-Tang Clan and citing American singer Pharrell Williams as his “musical hero”, While the band continues to incorporate a diverse range of genre into their materials, G-Dragon focuses mainly on hip hop for his solo efforts and the two sub-units he is a part of (GD & TOP, GD X Taeyang) to contrast Big Bang’s sound.
He first album Heartbreaker was a mix of dance, hip-hop, and R&B “Niliria” was noted for sounding ethnic and surrealist.
Kwon Ji Yong continues to feature songs under the hip-hop and R&B genre, with the exception of its lead single, “Untitled, 2014”, which is a ballad. Despite primarily being a rapper, the latter also has G-Dragon only singing over a “single piano accompaniment,” The outro, “Divina Commedia”, is an experimental alt-R&B track which samples “Veridis Quo” from Daft Punk’s 2001 album Discovery.
G-Dragon writes the majority of his lyrics, explaining that “each feeling Spin magazine wrote that G-Dragon’s music is “daring by K-pop standards, wildly innovative by any standard” and that the rapper seems “unafraid of constantly pushing forward.”
The Guardian noted that his songs stand out for “more in-depth themes including self-destruction and narcissism.” He takes on a more remorseful approach in “Untitled, 2014”, with the rapper apologizing for “his past actions, asking for forgiveness and the chance to see his ex again even if it’s just one more time or in his dreams” in what has been described as “a letter to a past lover”
He also explored other themes as a producer for Big Bang: “If You” was inspired during a time when the artist was in love, He is often described as a “perfectionist” who’s very critical during recording sessions.
G-Dragon’s stage presence and performances have been well-received. while Kimberly Lim from The New Paper also noted how G-Dragon “performed gravity-defying and slick moves” at one of his concerts in Macau.
Billboard K-Town describes his productions as large-scale, dramatic and infused with his personality, fancy”, they are very different from his “normal day to day clothing”, preferring to wear “loud and outspoken” clothes when performing compare to a more casual style off-stage.
While promoting his EP Kwon Ji Yong, G-Dragon revealed that he originally created the alter ego G-Dragon to keep his stage persona separated from who he really is. Seoul Beats have described G-Dragon as “glamorous, cocky, explaining to his fans that for the past few years he has been “living as G-Dragon, but now I want to live as Kwon Ji Yong.” Rolling Stone India noted how during the third act of the concerts, fans were able to witness “the rather menacing G-Dragon melt away into the shy Ji Yong.”
G-Dragon maintains tight control over his career, publicly opposing the idea of singers as “products” of the entertainment industry and criticizing agencies who do not give their artists creative control. Additionally, his constant sporting of triangular scarves during promotions for Big Bang’s EP Always became a trend among teenagers and were later nicknamed the “Big Bang scarves.”
G-Dragon is noted for his androgynous appearance, He has covered various issues of W, Dazed, Hypebeast, Elle, Vogue, and landed editorials in Harper’s Bazaar, Esquire, among other Asian magazines.
G-Dragon stated that he was initially 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.” 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].”
G-Dragon was chosen by The Chosun Ilbo as the Best Dressed Celebrity of 2012, He was also the only Korean in Hypebeast’s 100 Innovators list.
In 2012, G-Dragon built a pension hotel as a gift to his family; fans can also stay at this hotel which is now run as a business by his parents. In 2017, his second cafe named “Untitled, 2017”, inspired by the title of his most recent single, was built, alongside with a bowling alley both designed by G-Dragon. It is located within YG Entertainment’s YG Republique building complex YG Town of Jeju Shinhwa World resort, for which he is an ambassador.
G-Dragon along with Big Bang are Korea’s highest paid celebrities over endorsements, reportedly having an asking price of $1–1.5 million USD per endorsement in 2011. In 2017, G-Dragon was chosen as the brand ambassador of Jeju Island’s first premiere resort complex Jeju Shinhwa World, G-Dragon directly participated in the development, designing and planning the concept of the resort complex.
In 2013, G-Dragon partnered with Ambush for a special collaborative release which includes apparel and accessories. The collection highlights G-Dragon’s signature crest by utilizing the design throughout the entire release. He also launched a collaboration with Giuseppe Zanotti and designed two unisex shoe styles.
In 2016, he collaborated with the brand 8 Seconds, part of the Samsung C&T Fashion Group, designing his first street fashion collection. The collection featured innovative “genderless” designs, suitable for both men and women. and starred in the label’s Gabrielle bag campaign during 2017, alongside industry legend Pharrell.
In 2017, G-Dragon began doing pop-up shops for his brand Peaceminusone which started in Seoul. He then teamed up with the boutique called Alchemist to launch a six-day pop-up in Miami. He also launched collaboration with French retailer Colette which was made available to purchase on his online store.
G-Dragon has shown support for numerous charity organisations over the years. Notably, the final concert of his world tour in 2013, a booth was erected where fans could donate to building a fishery in Haiti, as a collaboration with YG Entertainment’s With Campaign, which he previously worked with to help build a school in Nepal. G-Dragon donated ₩50 million ($43,400 USD) in 2011 (when fans donated under his name) and in 2012 (privately by himself) to Seoul National University Hospital to help children with diseases get treatment, it was revealed accidentally in 2017 as his name was engraved on a plaque honoring those who had contributed ₩100 million or more.
G-Dragon has used his image to raise awareness for multiple causes, including the UN Refugee Agency Additionally, in May 2017, a citrus tree forest was officially opened in the city of Seogwipo on Jeju Island, named after G-Dragon’s real name, Kwon Ji-yong. The fruit harvested from the forest will be donated to charity events.
G-Dragon has won two Golden Disc Awards, two Korean Music Awards, two MBC Entertainment Awards, two World Music Awards, seven Mnet Asian Music Awards, six Melon Music Awards among several other awards. In 2008, G-Dragon was honored with the award for Most Influential Men of the Year sponsored by Arena magazine, Additionally, G-Dragon was honored at the 2016 Pop Culture & Arts Awards, held by the Korean Ministry of Culture, Sports and Tourism, being recognized for his influence and success on music and fashion.
Described as a “genius singer-songwriter” by The Korea Times, G-Dragon’s role in producing many of Big Bang’s materials so early in their career was considered “unusual” at the time, as most K-pop bands are manufactured instead of self-produced. while Mix Nine’s winner Woo Jin Young stated that G-Dragon’s “This Love” inspired him to be a rapper.
His music has gained appreciation from critics. The song “One of a Kind” is listed in Korean music critic Kim Bong-hyun’s book of most influential Korean hip hop songs from 1989 to 2016, naming it one of the 28 tracks that shaped the genre. In 2018, he tied with YG Entertainment producer Teddy Park for the most earned royalties for lyrics writing and song composition within the field of popular music from the Korean Music Copyright Association.
G-Dragon was highlighted as one of the “50 Reasons Why Seoul is the Best City” by CNN in 2011 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 first world tour.
G-Dragon enrolled at Kyung Hee University in 2008 to study post-modern music. He later dropped out due to his busy schedule and chose to major in Leisure Sports Studies at Gukje Cyber University instead, obtaining his Bachelor’s degree in 2013. G-Dragon graduated in 2016 with his Master’s degree in content and retail distribution at Sejong University. Plans for a doctoral degree have been delayed to accommodate his military enlistment. The rapper have gained a large following on social media, and he was the most-followed Korean account on Instagram with over 16 million followers.
G-Dragon began mandatory military service on February 27, 2018. After his basic training at South Korea’s 3rd Infantry ‘Skeleton’ Division in Cheorwon, Gangwon Province, he was assigned as a regular soldier. G-Dragon is scheduled to be discharged on October 26, 2019. During his enlistment, numerous fans sent him letters, causing disruptions and leading YG Entertainment to publicly request fans to refrain from doing so.