K-pop boy band Big Bang member T.O.P wrote a letter addressed to his fans and former agency as he starts to focus on his personal activities.
T.O.P posted the letter on Instagram on April 5, the same day after Big Bang made their comeback with the release of the song “Still Life” (“Spring, Summer, Fall, Winter” in Korean).
When YG Entertainment, Big Bang’s agency, announced in February that Big Bang would be releasing a new song, it also said that T.O.P terminated his contract with the agency to focus on his activities as an artist and entrepreneur.
“We respect his decision of wanting to expand his activities as an individual, not only as a Big Bang member, and we drew a great conclusion with other members too regarding this. He will join Big Bang’s activities when the situation allows him to,” said the agency, according to the YG blog.
In his letter, T.O.P wrote:
“Finally the music is out. I wouldn’t be here without all of YG staff’s help. Thank you all for last 16 years. It means a lot to me,” T.O.P said.
He added, “I’m thinking. I might be going through another important turning point of my life at the moment.”
“I look forward to the day when I’ll be able to come back as a man of inspiration in the near future,” he said.
T.O.P added, “I’m utmost grateful for my fans. Once again, Thank you.”
In an interview with Hong Kong-based Prestige magazine last month, T.O.P talked about Big Bang and his own future plans.
“From the beginning, I’ve always shared with my fans that I’m fully proud that I am T.O.P of Big Bang, but in the last few years I was starting to think that maybe this was the end, and maybe there won’t be T.O.P of Big Bang for a while. Big Bang is an idol artist group. But I’m too old, and everyone’s old too!” he said.
He added, “Being super honest with the fans, I really don’t want to say this is my last. But even more frankly, it might be a long while until I come back as T.O.P of Big Bang. Over those five years, our music tastes and activities probably differed a lot, and now Big Bang music and T.O.P’s music are quite different. I’m at the stage in my life where I want to awaken to fresh new challenges, stimuli and transition,” he said.
He revealed that he will be releasing his first solo album.
“I’ve been saying to my fans since my debut that I’ve been planning to come back with a solo album sometime in the future, whenever I feel ready. Now, I feel ready. My first album will come out soon, and it will be my very first journey of sharing who I really am,” he said.
He added, “You’ll be surprised, because I’ve been recording continuously during the hiatus, and there’ll be a lot of different genres included in the album. All the songs are from my pure heart — I spent a lot of sweat and effort to make this album possible. For the first time since my debut 16 years ago, my first full album will be released, and this album will be created as a feature film.”
T.O.P is also planning to have his own record company, saying, “I don’t want to be a robot maker. I want to make a real artist and help real artists. I’m positive about making a group that’s completely different from Big Bang in the future.”
He wants it to be different from the K-pop system.
“I myself am fortunate that I only spent less than a year as a trainee before I debuted — a relatively short time — but after, I saw all the trainees, the boys and girls, they’re under a very harsh system. They’re told what to do and trained just like robots. They might get popular, they might get bigger, but in their heart and in ways we can’t see, they’re being isolated, and feel lonely inside,” he said.
He is also planning to release his own wine brand.
“It started when I was going through some tough times, as a way to pay back fan support. I came up with this idea that I wanted to share some good wines at a reasonable price. It doesn’t have to be only for certain people out there – I want to share with everyone,” he said.
Big Bang last released a song in 2018 through “Flower Road,” which signaled the start of the members military service.
T.O.P started his military service on Feb. 9, 2017, the first member of Big Bang to do so. On June 1, 2017, it was revealed that he tested positive for marijuana use. The police got a sample of his hair in April.
In his apology, he said, “I’m too ashamed of myself to stand in front of people and apologize. There are no excuses for my behavior, and I deeply regret what I did. I know I’ve caused irreparable pain to the members, our agency, the public, my fans, and my family, and I believe that I deserve to be punished.”
On June 5, 2017, he was indicted by prosecutors for smoking marijuana four times at his home in Yongsan, Seoul in October 2016 and his military service was suspended.
A day after his indictment, he was found unconscious in an apparent drug overdose from benzodiazepine used “to treat generalized anxiety disorder, insomnia, seizures, social phobia, and panic disorder,” according to the US Food and Drug Administration. Examples of the drug are Valium and Xanax.
“This is the first time I’ve spoken this publicly, but I did try to commit suicide about five years ago. I realized later how much hurt and painful memories I gave to the people around me, my family and fans out there,” T.O.P told the magazine.
T.O.P was rushed to a hospital.
“It is suspected that Mr. Choi [T.O.P’s surname] was overdosed with benzodiazepine,” doctors at Ewha Womans University Medical Center told the media on June 7, 2017, according to Yonhap News. He was discharged from the hospital on June 9 and was transferred to another hospital.
The Seoul Central District Court convicted T.O.P on July 20, 2017 for using marijuana and imposed a jail time of 10 months suspended for two years and a fine of 12,000 won (P524).
“Actually, I was going to seriously stop making music and stop being a musician. But during the bad times, the rough times, my motivation to keep going was the music. I wrote more than 100 songs over the past five years. It’s been my motivation, like wanting to fill up a bookshelf with my work. It’s been my passion. I realized how precious it is to pay back what I’ve received. I feel that I’m reborn,” T.O.P told Prestige.
T.O.P lamented that “tragically, Korea is number one in suicide rates among OECD countries. Over the past five years I’ve been studying that a bit more, and inside my studio, I’ve tried to put that mentality into my music. Through my music, I want to provide hopes and dreams to many young people who are in despair at this very moment.”
For “Still Life,” Big Bang came back with four members: G-Dragon, Taeyang, Daesung and T.O.P. Seungri retired from the entertainment industry in 2019.