Korean rapper brings unique sound, collaborations to K-pop


G-Dragon’s new video, “Coup D’Etat” upholds his reputation for over the top performances.

Here is a secret: China may be trying to dominate our economy, but there is a bigger threat to America few know about. South Korean pop (K-pop) is slowly taking over the world. The YouTube views for K-pop videos number in the billions, their songs ensnare listeners with phlegm-polished production and infectious bilingual hooks and their fans are growing worldwide, showing devotion and loyalty that makes army battalions look pathetic.

I experienced this when I wrote a piece about the girl group f(x) bringing K-pop to Austin during SXSW. Right as the piece went live, it went around Twitter from Singapore to Tunisia and everywhere else in between, like a collection plate made of adjectives. That is right; there are people around the world so obsessed with K-pop, they are willing to read me to hear about it.

Now, post-“Gangnam Style,” someone new has stepped up to embed Korean music in everyone’s psyche in a blaze of fashion sense and off-kilter rapping appropriately named “Coup D’Etat,” and he goes by the name G-Dragon. 

As the leader of the Korean boy band Big Bang, G-Dragon played the pop market like another instrument, bringing his group to the top of the K-pop echelon. But it was not until after his first solo album “Heartbreaker” that his other side started coming out, hanging its freak flag out of its pants and violently waving it in the wind. And it is that side of G-Dragon we are getting acquainted with.

G-Dragon’s rise brought out reputable foreign musicians to join collaborators from home. For instance, there is the title track, a trap behemoth that lumbers along like a malfunctioning robot trampling a city while G-Dragon solemnly declares his manifesto, a gift courtesy of the globe-hopping super-producer Diplo and Baauer of the Harlem Shake.

The twists and turns just get wilder from there. Look one way to find Missy Elliott flowing in lockstep with G-Dragon on “Niliria,” a cutting electro beat with a bastardized Korean folk song for a foundation that slayed L.A.’s KCON. Look the other to find a model-turned-singer providing a melancholy hook here, German electro producer Boys Noize laying a funked-up beat down there.

There are some duds here, although with multiple listens they can improve, which itself is a mark of excellence. But when G-Dragon gets it right the first time, the results are spectacular and a joy to be endlessly and loudly replayed (sorry, neighbors). I am favoring “Shake The World,” with its catwalk swagger, the violently unhinged spaz-out “MichiGO,” as well as the title track and “Niliria.” Special mention: “Window,” for its creepy vibe that would make Tyler, the Creator proud.

Can G-Dragon succeed where his peers and elders failed? Many K-pop artists tried and failed to break here before. After hearing “Coup D’Etat,” I think he could hang our pop stars from the rafters, should we give him enough rope. And we always have some to spare for South Korea.

You can follow Sam on Facebook and Twitter @darwinaward44.