Asian American and Pacific Islander Heritage Month may be over, but I wanted to spotlight an Asian American leaving his permanent mark in hip-hop. He’s driven, talented, charismatic, and one of my friends. I’m pleased to introduce you to DJ Bonics.
“High School Tour”
10 years ago, rap superstars Snoop Dogg and Wiz Khalifa embarked on the “High School Tour,” starting in New York and ending in Los Angeles. The concert series was beloved by critics and fans, but no one was living his best life more than Wiz’s DJ, Brandon ‘DJ Bonics’ Glova. For DJ Bonics, doing what he loved and being able to tour with one of his childhood idols was priceless. “Who knew listening to Snoop Dogg and doing everything you’re not ‘supposed to do’ would turn into this.” As Snoop, Wiz, and DJ Bonics prepare for this summer’s “High School Reunion Tour,” he reflects on his nearly 25-year DJing career and how blessed he is to still be doing what he loves.
Meet DJ Bonics
A Filipino kid growing up in Philadelphia, DJ Bonics fell in love with music at an early age. An avid radio listener, he listened to everyone from Stevie Wonder to The Beatles, but it was the hip-hop culture that had his heart. Philadelphia radio not only broadened his love of hip-hop but also influenced his appreciation for the DJs who hosted his favorite radio shows. A natural at public speaking and hosting, Bonics had a knack for imitating his favorite radio show hosts, and like them, even made his own “mix tapes” from radio songs he recorded.
And then there was Christmas 1998 when his dad bought him his first set of turntables. “They were modest turntables from Guitar Center labeled ‘DJ in a Box.’ They were blue….” He chuckles as he recalls someone laughing at him for bringing those blue turntables to DJ a party. But, regardless of their quality or color, “It was love at first sight,” and he spent countless hours teaching himself to master the art of DJing. “I’ve always taken DJing seriously as a craft,” he said. “Turntablists like DJ ShortKut, who is also Filipino, made me really believe that there’s a place for Asian Americans in hip-hop.”
In college at the University of Pittsburgh, he worked hard and I witnessed him go from dorm room to campus radio station, to long hours interning/working at the first-ever urban radio station in the country/world, WAMO. All the while he still found time to captivate the nightlife scene by DJing at campus parties, local bars, clubs, and concerts. It was here in Pittsburgh that his life and career would change forever.
DJ Bonics Goes Global
After college, DJ Bonics continued making a name for himself hosting a top-rated radio show on Pittsburgh’s 96.1 KISS FM. Being a staple in the scene, he became close with E. Dan, a Pittsburgh-based producer/engineer who had recently launched his own recording and production studio, ID Labs. This is where Bonics would be introduced to a young high school student Cameron Thomaz, going by the name of Wiz Khalifa, who would record tracks at the studio after school. Call it fate because Bonics did everything in his power to help Wiz’s career, by securing him bookings and playing his records on his radio show. Fast forward to 2010, before Wiz Khalifa’s international hit “Black and Yellow,” when the young rapper asked Bonics to be his full-time DJ. This meant leaving his #1 radio show and taking a leap of faith to be a part of Wiz’s first U.S. tour that fall.
Since then Wiz Khalifa has become a household name with hits like “Young, Wild & Free,” “Work Hard Play Hard,” and “We Dem Boyz.” But it was the song “See You Again,” a tribute to the late Paul Walker from The Fast and the Furious franchise, which propelled him to an international celebrity. Behind all of Wiz’s success, Bonics was on-stage there to support him. And just like that, DJ Bonics went from being on the radio in Pittsburgh and spinning at local clubs to traveling across the globe, playing Coachella, performing on network broadcasts like Saturday Night Live, The Tonight Show, and Dick Clark’s New Year’s Rockin’ Eve with Ryan Seacrest, attending major awards shows, DJing on stages in front of thousands at sold-out concert venues, to earlier this year breaking barriers by performing at the NASCAR Clash at the Los Angeles Coliseum. It’s been a hell of a ride for the Filipino kid from Philly who was once made fun of for his modest blue turntables.
“High School Reunion Tour“
Life has a way of coming full circle, and DJ Bonics is forever grateful for the life he’s been given. This summer, the gang’s getting back together for the 33-city “High School Reunion Tour.” The show kicks off on 7/7 in Vancouver, making stops across the U.S. in Brooklyn, Atlanta, Houston, and more before wrapping up here in So Cal at the Irvine FivePoint Amphitheatre. This tour will be bigger and better than the last, and Wiz and Snoop have added a few friends to the lineup. Joining the dynamic hip-hop duo are Too $hort, Warren G, and Berner. Not only are fans thrilled to see Snoop and Wiz back together, but DJ Bonics is just as excited. “It’s just amazing to keep doing this. 10 years since we did it with Snoop. The fact that we’re still doing it, it’s just a blessing.”
When he’s not playing to thousands around the globe, you can find DJ Bonics doing what he loves. He serves as the music ambassador at Jardin Dispensary, holds residencies in Las Vegas, and can still be heard on the radio in Philadelphia, Pittsburgh, and his latest venture on the UNLV public radio station, KUNV, The Jazz Joint with DJ Bonics.
Follow along for more from DJ Bonics and his adventures this summer with Wiz and Snoop on his Instagram, @djbonics (#GoBonics).