Why Steve Aoki Thinks M-Pop Group AQUIHAYAQUIHAY 'Could Be Revolutionary': 'I Was Blown Away'


What the heck is M-Pop anyway?

Meet AQUIHAYAQUIHAY, the Mexican "anti-boy band" paving the way under their "revolutionary" M-Pop genre. The sound, named as a play on "K-Pop," is a fusion of the music the group grew up listening to in Mexico, paired with the influence of "globalized music," such as trap and R&B.

The group — signed and "Godfathered" by Steve Aoki — released their two-part EP ":)" and ":(," an introduction to its unique sound, and it's their first project under Aoki's De Mak En Fuego label.

"This is about opening doors for other Mexican artists like us," frontman Zizzy tells PEOPLE. "We're proud to represent Mexico and Latin America."

After listening to the group's music, including 2019 album DROPOUT, EDM heavyweight Aoki decided to sign the five-piece as his first artist for his new label. For Aoki, it was an easy decision to make.

"AQUIHAYAQUIHAY are the real deal — their ethos and approach toward creating music and content — and they capture what we're trying to do here at Dim Mak En Fuego," he tells PEOPLE. "I was blown away that this was coming out of Mexico. This could be revolutionary."

"We are carving our own lane and not necessarily trying to compete with what is currently dominating mainstream," Aoki adds about his label. "I think Latin music gives a feeling that the world can't deny, and artists that are leading the charge are pushing the creative boundaries and creating something new and fresh for music fans and culture that crosses continents. "

And that's exactly what the group strives for — creating a hybrid sound to call their own, and carving out a lane led by their own vision. The two-part EP is the group's latest proof of that.

"We tried to experiment with the sounds and really define what AQUIHAYAQUIHAY is," Zizzy explains. "On ':)' [pronounced 'feliz'], we focused more on trap sound. And on ':(' [pronounced 'triste'], we tap into the '90s R&B sound we love. We want listeners to hear the duality of our artistry with this EP."

Backing their boy band misnomer, the group prides itself in having formed organically. Now 5 members, the group started out as just Zizzy and Neqer before a fan of the duo, Jay-Lee, joined the group to make music. Soon after came Nehly, followed by "ray of light" Phynx.

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"We ended up being in a studio, all of us working on our own projects, and in our free time we started making music together," explains Neqer. "And we realized, 'Oh, we sound great together. We should start a band!'"

Their groove is one they hope goes global and they hope their story helps prove the "amazing quality of music coming out of Mexico."

"We really had to fight hard to be heard," says Phynx. "M-Pop won't just be for us but also for other Mexican artists with sounds that can't be defined by just one genre."

":)" and ":(" are both out now.

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