Steven Hiroyuki Aoki (born November 30, 1977) is an American musician, record producer, DJ, and music executive. In 2012, Pollstar designated Aoki as the highest grossing dance artist in North America from tours. He has collaborated with artists such as will.i.am, Afrojack, LMFAO, Linkin Park, Iggy Azalea, Lil Jon, blink-182, Laidback Luke, BTS, Louis Tomlinson, Rise Against, Vini Vici, Lauren Jauregui, and Fall Out Boy and is known for his remixes of artists such as Kid Cudi. Aoki has released several Billboard-charting studio albums as well, notably Wonderland, which was nominated for Grammy Award for Best Dance/Electronica Album in 2013. He is the founder of the Steve Aoki Charitable Fund, which raises money for global humanitarian relief organizations.
Steven Hiroyuki Aoki was born in Miami, Florida, and grew up in Newport Beach, California. He graduated from Newport Harbor High School in 1995, where he was a player on the varsity badminton team.] He is of Japanese descent, the third child of Rocky Aoki and Chizuru Kobayashi. His father was a former wrestler who also founded the restaurant chain Benihana. He has two older siblings, sister Kana (who is sometimes called by her middle name “Grace”), and brother Kevin (owner of Doraku Sushi restaurant). His half-sister is a model and actress Devon Aoki.
Aoki attended the University of California, Santa Barbara and graduated with two B.A. degrees, one in feminist studies and the other in sociology. In college, he produced do-it-yourself records and ran underground concerts out of his Biko room in the Santa Barbara Student Housing Cooperative, which was located in Isla Vista, a section of residential land adjacent to UCSB. As a concert venue, the apartment became known as The Pickle Patch. Aoki was also involved in student activism at UCSB, being the founder of a Revolutionary Anti-Imperialist League chapter on campus. By his early 20s, Aoki had built his own record label, which he named Dim Mak – a reference to his childhood hero, Bruce Lee.
1990–2000: Dim Mak Records and early releases
See also: Dim Mak Records and Pillowface and His Airplane Chronicles
Aoki founded his own label, Dim Mak Records, in 1996. The label has released music by other electro house artists such as MSTRKRFT, The Bloody Beetroots, Felix Cartal, and Mustard Pimp, as well as Bloc Party, The Rakes, The Kills, Klaxons, Infected Mushroom, Scanners, Whitey, and Mystery Jets. Aoki teamed up with Blake Miller of the LA-based band Moving Units to produce remixes. The duo of Miller and Aoki work under the moniker Weird Science. Aoki has also been in numerous bands, including This Machine Kills, which released an album on Ebullition Records, Esperanza, and The Fire Next Time.
In May 2006, Aoki became a board member for MC5 bassist Michael Davis’ Music Is Revolution Foundation, a non-profit organization that provides music education support within public schools. Aoki’s debut mix album, Pillowface and His Airplane Chronicles was released in January 2008. He had an Essential Mix that aired on BBC Radio 1 on August 2, 2008, and again on October 27, 2012. Aoki has collaborated with fellow producers and thus far[when?] has released singles with The Bloody Beetroots, Armand Van Helden of Duck Sauce, Afrojack, Laidback Luke, Tai, Chris Lake, Angger Dimas, Sidney Samson, and Tiësto. In his interviews, Twitter feed or from his YouTube channel he has shown teasers or has discussed doing future collaborations with Diplo, Knife Party, Datsik, Chris Lake, and more.
Aoki has remixed many artists and bands, including The Jackson 5, Drake, Kanye West, Eminem, Lil Wayne, Mike Posner, Girls Generation, All American Rejects, Refused, The Killers, Bassnectar, Lenny Kravitz, Bloc Party, Snoop Dogg, Robin Thicke, S.P.A., Kid Cudi, Fërnando Oviedo, Chester French, BTS and Peaches. He remixed the track “When The Wind Blows” that features on the UK edition of The All-American Rejects’ 2008 album When The World Comes Down. On November 10, 2009, he released a remix for Drake’s song “Forever”. The song features Drake, Kanye West, Lil Wayne, and Eminem. The track made it to the top of Hype Machine’s chart in December 2009.
2010–2012: International breakthrough
See also: I’m in the House and Wonderland (Steve Aoki album)
Through relentless touring he gained huge support from colleges. He is widely known for his acrobatic crowd surfing stunts, throwing cake at fans, spraying champagne bottles, and riding rafts on the dance floor. Performing an average of 250 shows a year, he has recently started touring with production via bus tours, like the spring 2012 Deadmeat Tour, when he headlined more than 55 cities in 60 dates across the United States and Canada. Many of the artists Aoki collaborates with make appearances on tour with him. He has played lesser-traveled regions – in 2009 he played a show in Beijing, China, with Diplo at a night organised by promoters Split Works. In July 2012, Aoki was added to the Pollstar Top 100 North American Tours in their 2012 Mid Year Report. The list designated Aoki as the highest grossing dance artist in North America for the first half of the year.
In March 2010 Aoki released “I’m in the House”, a collaboration with Zuper Blahq—alter-ego of The Black Eyed Peas singer will.i.am. The song charted at No. 29 in the UK Singles Chart in its first week of release, and later entered the UK Dance Chart and the UK Indie Chart, peaking within the top five in each chart. The song was featured on an Episode of MTV’s Jersey Shore, as well as in the feature film Piranha and the trailer for Think Like A Man. Producer-songwriter Lucas Secon confirmed in a May 2010 interview with HitQuarters that he and Rivers Cuomo had recently worked with Aoki on a single.
Aoki’s first solo album, Wonderland, was released January 2012 and features guest vocalists and musicians LMFAO, Kid Cudi, Kay, Travis Barker, will.i.am aka Zuper Blahq, Wynter Gordon, Rivers Cuomo, Lil Jon, Chiddy Bang, Lovefoxxx of CSS, Big John Duncan (former guitarist of the punk band The Exploited), and others. A remix album was released shortly after. On December 11, 2012, Aoki released his first EP, It’s the End of the World As We Know It, which includes three songs. Aoki was nominated for Grammy Award for Best Dance/Electronica Album for Wonderland at the 2013 55th Annual Grammy Awards.
2013: “A Light That Never Comes”
Aoki performing in Brasilia, Brazil, 2014
On October 11, 2013, Aoki collaborated with Linkin Park on the song “A Light That Never Comes” that was included on the remix album, Recharged, 18 days later. Several remixes of the song were added on the January 2014 digital download EP A Light That Never Comes (Remixes). “A Light That Never Comes” was used in films such as Expendables 3. Aoki finished in 6th place in the 2013 America’s Best DJ competition-a vote and promotion to find out the country’s most popular DJ conducted by DJ Times magazine and Pioneer DJ.
From 2011 to 2014 he had a number of other tracks included in television shows, commercials, and film. This included “I’m In the House”, used in the music festival documentary Electric Daisy Carnival in 2011, which in 2014 was used in a trailer for the comedy Think Like A Man Too as well. In 2012 his track “Beat Down”, featuring Australian rapper Iggy Azalea, was used in a promo for the reality show Bad Girls All-Star Battle. From 2013 to 2014 his track “Boneless” was used in a number of commercials, with companies including Scion, Budweiser, and Sol Republic. His track “Get Me Outta Here” was used in a Scion commercial in 2014 as well, while “Free the Madness” was used in a 2014 Bud Light commercial. His track “Flight” in 2014 was used in a commercial for Sol Republic. Aoki’s song “Back To Earth”, featuring Fall Out Boy, was used in the 2014 film Step Up: All In, while his collaborative single “Freak” with Diplo and Deorro, featuring Steve Bays, was used in the 2014 film 22 Jump Street.
2014–2016: Neon Future albums and film
See also: Neon Future I and Neon Future II
The first part of Aoki’s two-part album, Neon Future I, was released on September 30, 2014, and reached No. 1 on Dance/Electronic Albums in the United States. The second album, Neon Future II, features artists such as Snoop Lion and Rivers Cuomo,. In the United States it peaked at No. 32 on the Billboard 200, No. 1 on Dance/Electronic Albums, and No. 4 on the Independent Albums chart. In Belgium, it reached No. 68 on the Ultratop 200 Albums chart.
In May 2015, it was announced that Relativity Productions had acquired the rights to distribute the documentary I’ll Sleep When I’m Dead in the United States. Filmed during the making of his Neon Future double album, the film is focused on Aoki and delves into his family history, lifestyle, music, and his business. It is co-produced by Matthew Weaver and David Gelb, who together had previously worked on the 2011 documentary Jiro Dreams Of Sushi. Among the executive producers are Ryan Kavanaugh and Tucker Tooley.
As with the first in the series, Aoki released a number of promo singles leading up to the release of Neon Future II. The second of those singles, “Darker Than Blood”, came out on April 14, 2015, and features vocals from Linkin Park. According to Aoki, the song had been a work in progress since 2012. Mike Shinoda rewrote Aoki’s original lyrics to make them darker, because Shinoda thought Aoki’s original lyrics were “too happy”. Neon Future II was released on May 12, 2015, through Dim Mak. Among other artists, the second Neon Future featured Snoop Lion and Rivers Cuomo. It peaked at No. 2 on the US Dance/Electronic Albums chart, among other placements in the United States. In Belgium it reached No. 93 on the Ultratop 200 Albums chart.
The 2015 science fiction thriller film The Hive features tracks from the album Neon Future by Steve Aoki,’ who created the soundtrack and also served as an executive producer. Aoki is also the central character in the documentary I’ll Sleep When I’m Dead.
2017–present: Steve Aoki Presents Kolony, 5OKI, Neon Future III and IV
Aoki’s fourth studio album, Steve Aoki Presents Kolony, was released on July 21, 2017. It features the songs “Night Call” featuring Migos and Lil Yachty, “Lit” with Gucci Mane, “Been Balling” with Lil Uzi Vert and the lead single “Without You” with DVBBS featuring 2 Chainz which was released in April and debuted at Aoki’s Ultra Music Festival 2017 set in Miami. In November 2017, it was confirmed that Aoki would be producing a remix of Korean group BTS’s song “Mic Drop” featuring rapper Desiigner, which was released on November 24. That day, Aoki also released a collaboration with Fifth Harmony’s Lauren Jauregui, titled “All Night”.
In February 2018, Aoki announced the release of his five-track EP titled 5OKI, the follow up to his 2016 EP 4OKI. The EP would feature him collaborating with other producers to produce a “cross-genre” track collective. “I’m really putting an emphasis on EDM and I’m putting an emphasis on cross-genre collaboration. For EDM itself I’m making a big statement of re-claiming it as something [that’s] really important to me – kinda like giving back to my community,” stated Aoki prior to the EP’s release. The tracks were released at a weekly interval over five weeks from 23 March to 20 April, with “Mayhem” featuring Quintino releasing on 23 March 2018, followed by “Pika Pika” with Loopers, “It’s Time” with Laidback Luke, “Anthem” with Hardwell, and concluding with “Moshi Moshi” with Vini Vici.
On May 18, 2018, Aoki released new single “Pretender” featuring AJR and rapper Lil Yachty. In June 2018, Aoki remixed Rita Ora’s hit single “Girls” featuring Charli XCX, Bebe Rexha and Cardi B. Later that month, alongside Italian DJ Marnik, they released their version of “Bella Ciao”, which garnered controversy. The new dance music version of the track was deemed inappropriate and insulting by many. On July 20, 2018, Aoki released new single “Lie To Me” featuring singer-songwriter Ira Wroldsen.
On August 6, 2018, in an interview, he announced the release of his new album Neon Future III. It included collaborations with Ira Wroldsen, Nicki Minaj, Maluma, Blink-182, and BTS.
On October 25, 2018, Aoki released “Waste It on Me” which features BTS members, RM, Jimin (with backup vocals) and Jungkook. The single, which was also included in Aoki’s album, Neon Future III, marked Aoki and BTS’ third collaboration as well as BTS’ first all-English single.
Aoki has made appearances in the media, notably in video games, television, and music videos. He was featured in the video games NBA 2K8 and NBA 2K9 as a special celebrity player, even though he admits to being terrible at basketball. He makes cameos in the videos for Cobra Starship’s 2007 single “Send My Love to the Dancefloor, I’ll See You in Hell (Hey Mister DJ)” and The Sounds’ single “Tony the Beat”. Aoki made a cameo appearance in rapper Kid Cudi’s video “Just What I Am”. On July 1, 2016, it was announced that Aoki would make an appearance as both a musical contributor and non-playable character in the video game Dragon Ball Xenoverse 2.
In January 2012, Steve Aoki released new tracks on Turntable.fm in conjunction with SOL REPUBLIC Headphones, making him the first established artist to fully orchestrate a listening session using the platform. Aoki appeared in an episode of The CW’s new superhero series Arrow on March 20, 2013, at 8 pm EST. He was playing himself, spinning at the grand opening of Oliver Queen’s fictional nightclub. He also appeared in an anti-fur ad for PETA, an organization he says he’s supported since he was 14 years old. Aoki appeared on Never Mind the Buzzcocks in December 2014. He currently resides in Henderson, Nevada.
Awards and nominations
Aoki has won and been nominated for a number of industry awards, both in annual competitions and in magazine rankings. In 2007, he was named Best Party Rocker DJ by BPM Magazine, Best DJ of the Year by Paper Magazine, and Best Set of the Season at the Ibiza Awards. Several years later, in 2012, he was named #15 in the Top 100 DJs in DJ Magazine, and was named America’s #2 Best DJ. Also in 2012, he won an EDM Effect Woodie Award by MTVu, and the following year he was nominated for his first Grammy.
Aoki finished in 6th place in the 2013 America’s Best DJ competition conducted by DJ Times magazine, and finished in 8th place in 2013 & 2016 and 10th place in 2014, 2015 And 2017 for DJ Mag’s Top 100 DJs competition. In 2014, Aoki was awarded two Guinness World Records, one for the “longest crowd cheer”, and also for the “most amount of glow sticks for thirty seconds.” Aoki performed at the 2015 Ultra Music Festival in Miami Beach on May 21. He also earned the Guinness record for “most traveled musician in one year”, with 161 shows in 41 countries in 2014.
Since early in his career Aoki has been involved with various charities, and EDM.com named him No. 1 on their list of the eleven most charitable EDM producers. He is the founder of the Steve Aoki Charitable Fund, which raises money for global humanitarian relief organizations and medical research. Among the organization’s fundraising methods are Aoki’s touring events, “memorabilia auctions”, and collaborations with other artists. In early 2015 he was named as Global Ambassador for the Best Buddies program, which is a non-profit devoted to young people with developmental and intellectual disabilities. Also around that time MTV Latin America awarded Aoki the Chiuku Award for humanitarian work. He was presented with the award at the International Dance Music Awards.
Neon Future I (2014)
Neon Future II (2015)
Steve Aoki Presents Kolony (2017)
Neon Future III (2018)
Neon Future IV (2019)
The Aoki Foundation helps fund research on the brain with a focus on regenerative medicine and brain preservation. They envision a world without degenerative brain diseases, and where science and technology can be used towards healthy life extension. The Foundation also supports other causes such as disaster relief, developmental disabilities, and animal-rights. The foundation has partnered with Keep Memory Alive, SENS Research Foundation, the Buck Institute for Research on Aging, Music for Relief, and Best Buddies International.
In 2013, during his North American tour, Aoki donated a dollar of every ticket sale to four charities: the Brain Preservation Foundation, the University of Rochester Medical Center – Memory Care Program, the American Brain Foundation, and Infusio. Aoki fans were invited to vote for their favorite charity, with the Brain Preservation taking the grand prize. A total of $65,000 were donated, with $33,000 going to the Brain Preservation Foundation.