SUGA: Producer of Genius Lab

By: Jannat Begum and Khadija Haque
Thumbnail courtesy of HYBE.

As BTS’ anniversary edges closer, rapper SUGA has been making music as part of the group for nearly a decade now. Even longer, he’s been producing his own music. Throughout his life, ARMYs, BTS fans, have had the opportunity to witness SUGA’s wondrous growth as an artist. From making music independently, contributing to BTS’ discography, to making music with other artists, SUGA has kept music production running through his veins. To celebrate SUGA’s 29th birthday, we’re taking a look at his music production history from its roots.

The Evolution of Genius Lab

Hailing from Daegu, South Korea, SUGA began working at the young age of 13. It was at that time he was introduced to the MIDI and also when he began writing lyrics. By 17, SUGA was working at a music studio in his hometown. There, he wrote lyrics, composed songs, and arranged songs. He joined BigHit Entertainment in 2010 and debuted alongside BTS in 2013. 

Compared to the days when he shared his music hardware review on YouTube, SUGA’s music equipment collection has grown immensely. The first incarnation of Genius Lab at BigHit was a section of BTS’s vocal practice room. It then branched into a private studio SUGA shared online in 2021, showcasing impressive equipment and multiple sets of speakers. 

Beginnings of Production

SUGA first had his producer credit in “Path,” a track from BTS’s debut single album, 2 Cool 4 Skool, in 2013. Since then, SUGA has credits as a producer in subsequent albums, such as “Tomorrow” and “Jump” from Skool Luv Affair. This continued to 2022, where he produced “Stay Alive” for BTS’ webtoon and web novel, 7 Fates: CHAKHO

SUGA has also released two of his own mixtapes, Agust D and D-2, under the name Agust D. In the initial self-titled mixtape, SUGA has production credits for every track. Meanwhile, he is listed as a producer on all but three tracks in the second mixtape. Participating in both the production and writing for his mixtape, SUGA tackled heavy and deeply personal topics, such as depression. When discussing BTS’ BE with member RM, SUGA divulged he had been working on BE and D-2 around similar times. He also gave listeners insight into his musical process, sharing, “I make the beat, then melody, then lyrics.” 

Prod. SUGA

SUGA has also helped produce songs for other artists outside of BTS. In 2017, SURAN’s “WINE” was released. SUGA participated in the composing, producing, and lyric-writing of the song. For his work on “WINE,” SUGA received the Hot Trend Award. The song went on to peak at number two for Gaon Digital Chart and was named Best Soul/R&B track of the year at the 2017 Melon Music Awards

One of the reasons SUGA got into music was because of Epik High. Hence, it was no surprise that he accepted an offer from Tablo, an Epik High member, to produce a song for them despite being on tour. This resulted in the track “Eternal Sunshine” which SUGA also featured in. When talking about working on the track, Tablo mentioned that it came together in a few hours, a testament to SUGA’s skill as a producer.

In 2020, SUGA produced and featured in IU’s “eight.” The feel-good song bears a heavier meaning with lyrics about nostalgic memories and longing. With SUGA’s sharp tone complimenting IU’s honey-like vocals, the song was well-received by fans and achieved an “all-kill” on Korean music platforms. 

SUGA has also worked with the Japanese artist, ØMI, on “You.” “You” was the lead track for the artist’s album, ANSWER…SHINE. In a Billboard interview, ØMI mentioned SUGA’s innate talent of understanding an artist and their artistic vision, which brought the track to life. With over eight million streams on Spotify alone, it is safe to say that the song is loved by many fans. 

Probably the most surprising track produced by SUGA is the remix version of “Over the Horizon,” also known as the brand song for Samsung Galaxy. In a video for Samsung, SUGA expressed his excitement for the project. “I started off feeling like it was meant to be,” he said. “The first sketch didn’t take long.” With BTS also being the brand ambassador of Samsung Galaxy, this project almost seems fated. His track reaches more than just K-pop listeners and is now a timeless sound associated with one of the largest brands in the world. 

Other notable songs that SUGA has been credited on include “We don’t talk together” by Heize and  “SUGA’s Interlude” by Halsey.

Forever an Artist

To SUGA, making music is as natural as breathing. He shared, “I write songs because I literally have nothing to do.” SUGA might make the music-making process seem effortless, but it is a culmination of all his efforts over the years.  As a rapper of BTS, Agust D, and Prod. SUGA, fans can expect SUGA to continue making music. 

Keep up to date with SUGA and BTS on their Twitter and Instagram

Want more BTS? We revisited j-hope’s first mixtape here!

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