Steve Aoki, who is best known as a music label founder and disc jockey, has collaborated with musicians like Afrojack and Kid Cudi. In 2012, he also founded the Steve Aoki Charitable Fund, a charity institute for global relief that supports organizations like the Brain Preservation Foundation.
Watching his father die of liver cirrhosis, in 2008, made him want to learn more about science, math and technology. This became the inspiration for his next two albums.
"I wanted to understand what it was that killed him," Aoki said, in conversation with William Sanford "Bill" Nye, at Fast Company's Innovation Festival in New York City on Tuesday. The two spoke about how science fuels creativity, and vice versa.
At one point -- and much to Nye's mock chagrin -- the two came up with a song about Noble Gases on the spot.
Aoki's latest album, Neon Future II, hits on themes that he may not have approached as deeply weren't for his father's illness. With song titles like "Time Capsule," "Light Years," and "Warp Speed," the album suggests both science and mortality.
The new album includes partnerships with artists like Linkin Park, Matthew Koma and Tinie Tempah. Released earlier this year in May, 'Neon Future II' (a follow up to Aoki's previous album, 'Neon Future I') landed the No. 2 spot on Billboard's top dance and electronic chart just one week after release.
Aoki says that once he started digging, he discovered unbelievable "breakthroughs" in cancer research that weren't necessarily accessible to the masses. "People are talking about it, but it doesn't get out into the common space. Conversations happen in a very insular space," he added.
This is where Aoki's turntable comes in. He insists that music has the power to bring important social conversations into the mainstream, regardless of one's creed, age, or level of education. "Music is a platform to talk about more sophisticated issues in society," he said.
The success of the Neon Future albums is proof that, with the right mindset, devastating events can lead to innovation.