We know him, we love him, and he's heading to Miami this week for a tenth consecutive year to destroy hordes of sweaty, screaming ravers via another massive, boundary-pushing showcase courtesy of his record label, Dim Mak. Over the past decade, the 41-year-old rock-star DJ, label head, pizza entrepreneur, and now fitness-app guru Steve Aoki helped define EDM while launching the careers of some of the genre's biggest artists and becoming one of the highest-paid DJs in the world.
Dim Mak Miami will return to the Magic City for a late-night affair at Mana Wynwood, delivering performances by Aoki, Slushii, 4B, Henry Fong, Tisoki, Max Styler, Bok Nero, Kendoll, and Don Diablo. Ahead of the tenth installment, Aoki took time out of his busy schedule to reminisce about a decade of Miami Music Week parties.
2009. "Two thousand nine was a pivotal moment for Dim Mak as a label," Aoki says. "We were right there, immersed in the electro scene, the blog-house scene." For its 2009 Winter Music Conference (WMC) showcase at the Fontainebleau, Dim Mak brought over Italian dance-punk stars the Bloody Beetroots. "It was sold out beyond sold out — people were lined up outside," Aoki remembers. And this was pre-Instagram. "If you weren't there, you missed out on something very special. No Snapchat, no Instagram, Facebook was just rolling out. It was a different period; it was very special."
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2010. "This was kind of when the term 'EDM' was defined. This was when electro was rolling out and EDM was rolling in. In the ashes of electro and blog house, you have the emergence of this dominant culture — now that we clearly know as EDM, but at that time it was a new sound, an edgy sound," Aoki recalls. "Me and Afrojack were making music... That was a big moment for me and my career, where we were dropping 'No Beef' and these fun collabs." The breakout Dutch producer Afrojack joined Aoki for Dim Mak's 2010 WMC party at the now-defunct Club Louis in South Beach. "It was also his first gallop into America," he says. "I put on his first show in L.A. at Dim Mak Tuesdays, and then we did the Dim Mak WMC party together, so that was a big introduction. That was another crazy, sold-out show. It's kinda like everyone wanted to see what the hell we were doing, and it was a very exciting time."
2011. "It was me, Laidback Luke, and Afrojack, and so we were putting out records that were big songs that were part of this EDM culture that we were building," says Aoki, who in 2011 released the hit banger "Turbulence" with Laidback Luke and Lil Jon, and finally got to premiere "No Beef" at Ultra. "So, you know, it was another insane, crazy, sold-out show, a sick back-to-back between us three," he says. "And you can only get these back-to-backs at WMC, when all these DJs get together."
2012. "The thing about WMC is you never know where the show is gonna be at. It can be in a warehouse, a club, a beach area. This time, it was on the roof of the Dream Hotel," Aoki says of Dim Mak's WMC 2012 party. He was joined by Lil Jon, r3hab, and Afrojack. It was "another year of collabs... There was tons of music coming out. I pulled out my inflatable raft that I bring out to all my shows, dropped it in the crowd, jumped on, and the crowd carried the raft to the pool and threw me in. It was one of the most amazing moments," he recalls, although the raft has since been retired from his shows.
2013. "This year was a year where we stacked the lineup to the brim. We had so many incredible artists, and Dim Mak was working with so many different kinds of artists: Big-room EDM to house to trap, we were going across the board of the electronic frontier," Aoki says of WMC 2013. Dim Mak's Eclectic Miami party featured Dimitri Vegas & Like Mike, Sidney Samson, Dirtyphonics, Azari & III, Clockwork, Autoerotique, Deorro, Carnage, Keys N Krates, Oliver Twizt, and others. "So the lineup was stacked beyond stacked. It was a festival lineup — a massive, massive show."
2014. "This was the year that we put out the Chainsmokers. We put out their first single, 'Selfie,' and they were on a huge rise," Aoki says of Dim Mak's 2014 WMC pool party at the Raleigh Hotel. "We had just signed the Chainsmakers, so that was our big debut to support them... That was another really insane showcase of incredible talent that, as you can see five years later, some of the artists are dominating not just electronic but the pop worlds. It just goes to show that the underground can go in any kind of direction."
2015. "This is when we brought hip-hop to our show, and this is when Waka Flocka came to Miami Music Week," Aoki says of Dim Mak's 2015 party at Nikki Beach, which presented a huge crowd-pleasing performance by the popular rapper as well as big-ticket DJs such as Benny Benassi, Okay, and Deorro. "We had a really, really great, dynamic lineup and show."
2016. "Twenty sixteen was also a very, very big festival lineup. We had two stages going, an outdoor and indoor. And the indoor stage, we teamed up with a really prominent house label, CUFF," Aoki says of Miami Music Week 2016. "In that room, it was legends of house, from Felix da Housecat, Amine Edge, A-Trak was there, DJ Craze. The outdoor stage was more of the big-room artists... We also performed at Ultra that year. Benny Benassi killed it the previous year, so we had to bring him back. Borgore, we had just released his album. That was really, really, really big, and we had just done a tour together. We brought back Waka Flocka and Laidback Luke and shot a video. We had the hip-hop element with Rich the Kid and ILoveMakonnen. We had a very dynamic, diverse lineup. I mean, that show was insane, sold-out, absolutely crazy."
2017. "This was the first time we left South Beach, and we got to go bigger," Aoki says of Dim Mak's 2017 move to the RC Cola Plant in Wynwood. "We had our own mini-festival there with Borgore, still supporting his album he released." The epic takeover also included performances by Keys N Krates, Deorro, Makj, Quix, Bok Nero, and special guest appearances by Getter, Morten, Noise Cans, and others. "That was a sold-out, crazy show."
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2018. "We continued to do our show at RC Cola, and Shaq came out," Aoki recalls. "I ended up on his shoulders at some point. Me and Shaq were like 30 feet tall. It was crazy."
2019. "It's gonna be another one of those crazy nights," Aoki says, looking forward to a tenth year of Dim Mak Miami. Taking place again in Wywnood but this time at Mana, the party, he promises, will be "unforgettable and absolutely insane."
Dim Mak Miami. 8 p.m. Wednesday, March 27, at Mana Wynwood, 318 NW 23rd St., Miami. Tickets start at $30 via tixr.com. For VIP reservations, email email@example.com or call/text 786-747-5091. Ages 18 and up.