Steve Aoki has long been vilified by dance music purists who abhor his decision to cake people at shows. Aoki's caking has led many fans to believe that he doesn't even DJ at shows. This belief was exacerbated by Wunderground's satirical article, "Steve Aoki Shocks EDM Community By Admitting He Is Not An Actual DJ." So many people actually believed the article that Aoki had to issue a statement stating it was all satire. Today, he decided to directly address his detractors by penning an editorial on The Daily Beast, "To Cake or Not to Cake."
The quote-worthy editorial discusses his caking and this year's "What DJ's really do video," which set off a firestorm in the dance music community.
Aoki, Laidback Luke, and Sander van Doorn took a lot of heat for the video. Aoki has finally responded to the criticism, writing, "I’ve done this party every year with Luke and had a great time. We all bring SD cards, freestyling for an hour or so, taking turns from track to track. However the clip that appeared online was a very short snippet, recorded in between mixes. Taken out of context, people think that we’re just playing a mix CD and not DJing at all. Even Art Department, who I’m actually a fan of, jumped on the bandwagon."
Aoki expanded on a DJ's function while on stage: "For people that don’t know what DJs are actually doing up there, when you’re not mixing into the next song or out of the previous one, there is not a lot to do. Of course twisting knobs (taking out the lows, turning up the highs to create your own musical story is all part of DJing itself) but it’s not absolutely necessary. Even playing with the effects to exaggerate a sound or diminish a particular sound is great but once again it isn’t necessary to do it every single song."
It's true that simply mixing one song into another song doesn't require much movement on stage. This is where the caking came into play for Aoki. Here's his explanation of caking's origin: "Then in 2011, came the cake. I was thinking of new ways to engage with my audience and with a bit of serendipity and inspiration the cake was born. It was inspired by an Autoerotique music video, an artist on Dim Mak, that made a great music video where cakes exploded in people’s faces as they blew out the candles. I literally woke up with the idea of caking someone while playing that song to help promote the video. (The cakes even said “Autoerotique - Turn Up The Volume.”) After I retired the song from my set six months later though, I didn’t retire the cake. Fans had been shooting videos and showing their friends. They saved their cake-covered shirts like a badge of honor and it became a strong element of my show. The cake had gone viral."
Aoki's editorial even self-reflects on whether he should be caking people at his shows: "However, I still can’t help but ask myself…should I stop caking people? Will that stop the haters from hating? Stop giving the trolls more content to target me with? I even ask myself, are the cakes and the rafts taking away from the art of my culture, DJing? By using these tools instead of standing behind the DJ booth, am I deviating too far away from that culture? Am I embarrassing or insulting it? I’m sure many people feel that I am because things I do are not part of the norm. I’m going to say this again, I’ve never played a mix CD. So if I’m going to get in front of the DJ booth for an activity, that means that I have to sacrifice time working on the song as it’s being played. It’s a lot of stress to deal with when you have a song that might end if you don’t get back in time. But that is my way of engaging with the crowd. Everyone has their own style and some DJs have mastered the art of using filters and EQs to help connect the audience with a song or a mood. That is their tool. This is mine."
Personally, I used to enjoy going to Aoki's shows, and I'm still a big fan of Dim Mak. I haven't been to any of his shows over the past few years, and I would never want to be caked. I do think it takes away from the musical portion of his shows. However, he has a massive fanbase who loves having cake thrown at their face. I have never been mad at that, and I don't think he deserves to be trashed by the community. A show is supposed to be pure entertainment, and Aoki provides his shows' attendees with exactly the type of entertainment they want to witness. There's no reason to hate on him or his fans for having a fun time.
Aoki even admits that one of his life-changing experiences came from watching two DJs who hardly moved: Daft Punk. He writes, "So there are all different ways to amplify the crowd. Daft Punk amplified the crowd in a way that changed my life and they never even left the booth. This is my expression. This is my way. So the question is, do I sacrifice all that?"
I think Aoki should be true to himself and his fanbase. Even if you won't find me at one of his shows in the future, he should do what makes him and his fans happy. For this reason, I'm happy he ended the editorial in the following way: "So this is why I wrote this. I wanted to give context to what I do. I wanted to share my feelings with my fans and my haters. When it comes down to it, I plan on caking people as long as people want it. My choice is to cake."
I highly recommend you read his entire editorial so that you can find out his perspective on the situation. To read the editorial, click here.
[H/T: The Daily Beast]
Cover photo credit: Rukes
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