Steve Aoki is arguably one of EDM’s most recognizable names, but the modern day renaissance man is deeply involved in Hip Hop, too.
In July 2017, the Miami-born, Newport Beach-raised artist unleashed Steve Aoki Presents The Kolony, a “trap Hip Hop EDM” album with features from 2 Chainz, T-Pain, Gucci Mane, Lil Uzi Vert, Migos, Lil Yachty, Rich The Kid and Ma$e, among others. While the album barely cracked the Billboard 200 (the project peaked at No. 195), it showed Aoki’s appreciation for the culture.
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Growing up in the golden era, Aoki was drawn to Hip Hop artists such as A Tribe Called Quest, Eazy-E and N.W.A. So naturally, it was a curious choice to recruit so many Atlanta rappers for the project. In a recent interview with HipHopDX, Aoki explained how it unfolded rather organically.
“It was a very natural, from one handshake to the next, it just happened very quickly,” he said. “Half the time I was working on the Kolony album I was in Atlanta. That album couldn’t have happened if I wasn’t in Atlanta. And so going from working with 2 Chainz, to going into the Migos studio, working with Lil Yachty and Quavo was easy.
“Gucci Mane played a festival. He was there, we were connected and boom, we’re in the studio working on that one. Lil Uzi Vert, I already had a strong relationship with, we were in the studio for five days straight. We made eight songs, some of which never came out and had a studio outfit in L.A., which I still do.”
As for Rich The Kid, who hails from Chicago, he also happened to be in town. Aoki said tracking down some of the 1990s-era Hip Hop artists he loved would’ve been too much of a mission and was happy with how Kolony turned out.
“Those artists were just kind of this natural flow of coming in,” he said. “I didn’t have to really dig or go so hard and out of my way to reach out to Q-Tip or Mos Def or all the different artists. The era that I grew up listening to, that would be a stretch for me. That would be difficult and it would take time. And all those artists were in the same universe, for whatever reason, I was seeing them constantly. Quavo, for example, finished his verse and the hooks 20, 30 minutes. It’s kind of amazing, it’s like improv when you go watch improv outfit, whatever happens is of the moment and then that’s what it is.
“Ma$e was an interesting one and that was also somehow a natural thing. Some of these artists, I think the public don’t realize how even though Hip Hop and EDM are two different worlds, there are these synergies that happen behind the scenes that are very natural.”
What wasn’t so natural was what happened to T-Pain when they were recording the album. While staying at Aoki’s pad, Tallahassee Pain decided to jump off a balcony and into the pool below.
“He jumped into my pool from 25 feet [before recording],” Aoki remembered with a laugh. “So I think that also helped. He also landed on his ass and water. I think it shot up his ass pretty good. But I’m sure that definitely had some level of creative inspiration for him.
“I was also yelling in his ear the whole time before. I was walking into the booth, the vibe I wanted, so I kept on singing one of his songs in his ear. Then he pushed me off and then cut his verse pretty quickly.”
T-Pain appears on the song “Lit” alongside Gucci Mane. The song and entire Kolony album can be found above. Check back with HipHopDX soon for Part II of the Steve Aoki interview.