Steve Aoki pays his successes forward. Through his record label, Dim Mak, the two-time Grammy-nominated singer has already helped acts like The Chainsmokers of Infected Mushroom break into the mainstream. His collaborations with several artists, including rappers, rock stars and the Korean pop band BTS, have flooded the Billboard charts, but there’s a bigger cause he’s been fighting for.
Aoki, who will be joined by “MIC Drop” collaborator Desiigner on March 1 at the Bomb Factory, has announced that $1 from every ticket sold during his 32-city Kolony Tour will go to the Aoki Foundation, formerly known as the Steve Aoki Charitable Fund.
Since its inception, the Aoki Foundation has been focused on raising money and awareness for brain science research, regenerative medicine and brain preservation. Aoki says his inspiration to start the foundation came from a desire to mobilize his fan base for a good cause.
“You don’t make progress by just sitting around. You have to go out and do something,” Aoki says, noting that he is hands-on with the organization, meeting with researchers and doctors to track breakthroughs as they happen. As for the inspiration to focus on brain health, Aoki says the choice seemed natural to him. “What’s more important than your brain?”
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The Aoki Foundation also gives money in times of humanitarian crises. Aoki also has given money to groups such as Oxfam and People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals, and his 2017 album Kolony is an exercise in connecting with people around him.
The album brought together more than 20 artists, and Aoki says it would only be possible through making friends and getting close. “You can’t just call up Quavo’s manager and set something up with him,” he says. “You have to build a relationship.”
Many of the artists featured on the album have insulated themselves with their own producers and hammered out their own processes, Aoki says. Coming into their world and learning their nuances for the album was only possible through the cultivation of relationships in the field. The result was an album that fully blends the skills and genres of Aoki and friends, becoming something that reaches further than trap or EDM album could on its own.
Opening for Aoki and Desiigner’s show in Dallas are producer/DJ Grandtheft, EDM duo and fellow Dim Mak label mates Party Pupils and Kolony collaborator Bok Nero. The tour has been billed as a “mini-festival of sorts,” aimed at capturing the modern sound of Aoki’s label.