Steve Aoki on Working With Maluma: 'We Wanted to Hypnotize People'

  • 6489

EDM king Steve Aoki joins forces with Colombian pop star Maluma in their beguiling reggaeton-house track, “Maldad.” It is the 11th single off Aoki’s upcoming album, Neon Future IV.

“We wanted to hypnotize people,” Aoki tells Rolling Stone of making the song. “You got the rhythm, you got the melody, but once you get Maluma’s y swagger…. You’re in the Maluma trance. You wake up and you’re like, ‘Wait, what happened?’”

Directed by Roxana Baldovin (Trey Songz, Kehlani), the new music video captures the international playboys in party mode — Maluma acts as the fire to Aoki’s ice. “Being part of this track with Steve is creatively fulfilling as he is an EDM pioneer,” writes Maluma in a statement. “I am a fan of his achievements and everything he’s done to pave the way for merging music and culture. I am so excited for everyone to see and hear this collaboration, and continuing to work toward global fusion.”

Maluma is just the latest of many stars to grace Aoki’s next LP. The album also features the Backstreet Boys, Darren Criss and Sting. “That’s not even half the album,” says Aoki. “It’s the biggest production I’ve ever worked on.”

Recorded between Aoki’s Las Vegas studio and Maluma’s many pit stops on his 11:11 tour, “Maldad” opens with some goofy ad-libs from the Colombian singer. (“Maluma behhhhhhhhbe,” he bleats.) “Maluma’s such a vivacious, funny person,” says Aoki. “He’s an incredible singer, but he’s got an intuitive ear on the production side as well. He knows what he likes, he knows what he wants.”

Meanwhile, the unspoken star of the song is an arresting flute melody — which was concocted in the studio by Aoki and fellow DJ-producer Kshmr. “I wanted to be able to bring something out, like the way a snake and snake charmer work together,” says Aoki.

Often dubbed the hardest working man in EDM, Aoki is no stranger to a Latin crossover. In 2017, Aoki gave J Balvin and Willy William’s “Mi Gente” a stadium-sized house remix, then in 2018 he dropped “Jaleo” with reggaeton player Nicky Jam; and, in 2019, Aoki released “Forever Alone,” featuring Argentine trap singer Paulo Londra.

“I love doing these cross-cultural collabs because you’re forced to think out of the box,” Aoki says. “Nowadays, it’s not just the Latin community that is impacted by Latin music. There are so many people that don’t speak a lick of Spanish that now know the lyrics to the songs. I was born in Miami, grew up in Southern California, where the second [biggest] language here is Spanish. If you’re not learning how to speak Spanish… you at least grow up with an understanding of Latin culture.”

Slated for release in the spring, Neon Future IV will be accompanied by a comic book series of the same name. “It’s set 30 years into the future, when jobs are all automated and there’s a war,” Aoki says. “There’s a sect of people who are becoming augmented — they’re fusing with technology, and the government is trying to stop it. It’s already happening now. The augmented people are a group of rebels called the Neon Future.”

Named after his recent memoir, Blue: The Color of Noise, Aoki’s upcoming Color of Noise U.S. tour will first touch down March 5th in Toronto, then wrap up April 24th in San Francisco. “I’m bringing some of my house to the stage,” he says, partly referring to his in-home art gallery, Aoki’s Playhouse. “We’re bringing a foam pit. We built two characters, two statues named Kiro and Yuki. They’ll be looking over the stage. It’ll be like you’re walking into my toy room.”

“At the end of the day,” Aoki says, “I don’t just want people to leave, having [had] the time of their lives. I want them to remember it was a Steve Aoki show.”

Tickets for Steve Aoki’s Color of Noise tour are on sale now at SteveAoki.com.

Popular on Rolling Stone