Lately, AYYBO has been living life by three letters: GDB. What do they mean? “Goddamn, baby,” he clarifies for Gray Area with a laugh. It was initially a joke born from a dream in which he yelled the phrase on a mic during a show. Somehow, it stuck. “I just started saying ‘GDB’ to all my friends,” he says. “Anything good that would happen, I would just say ‘GDB.’ Then all my fans, when they say ‘GDB,’ I respond with ‘GDB’ as well. It just seems to be this never-ending cycle of positivity, as weird as it sounds.” What was once an inside joke for the Southern Californian house producer and DJ has manifested into something bigger than himself. In the two years since he started this project, AYYBO has collected tens of millions of streams of his music, over 100,000 social media followers, co-signs from artists like Shaq and John Summit, a viral hit, and an official remix from Pitbull—and he’s only just getting started. GDB, indeed. AYYBO, born Aaron Bonnema, has always been something of a musical sponge. Ska culture ruled his hometown of Anaheim, but he points to car rides with his dad as most influential in his early life. “I made my dad play [Outkast’s ‘B.O.B.’] hundreds of times as a kid,” he says, “as well as Chemical Brothers, which really got me into house music—specifically ‘Do It Again.’” But the urge to actually make music struck when AYYBO received the Rock Band video game and quickly progressed to the game’s expert level of difficulty. From there, he joined his high school’s drumline (not quite as cool as Nick Cannon’s Drumline, he jokes, but pretty close), making music by, as he calls it, “banging on stuff.” AYYBO also assumed the unofficial role of school DJ when the student government body put out a call for someone who could play music during breaks and sports tournaments. There was just one tiny roadblock: he had never DJed. “I was thinking to myself, I can just buy a $150 DJ deck and just learn on YouTube,” he says. So AYYBO did just that. Soon he spent school breaks mashing together trap music, moombahton, bass house, big room, and even pop in the middle of the courtyard while his peers ate lunch. “I was a background DJ basically. I wasn’t looking for attention. I was just kind of setting the vibe.” The humbling opportunity led to gigs DJing house parties; along the way, digging for new music to play showed AYYBO just how vast electronic music was beyond his then-limited scope. In college, AYYBO was prepared to pursue his first love, even before music: cinematography. From making short films, gameplay montages, and music videos throughout his school years, he started studying at film school but found himself more drawn to music. With help from Ableton software and YouTube tutorials, he began producing bass music and trap, both rooted heavily in the hip-hop he loved growing up. Eventually, he left school and sold all his filming equipment to pay for his studio setup. The decision paid off: in 2018, AYYBO signed to Zeds Dead’s Deadbeats label under his old alias. But he admittedly had no game plan, and soon felt an urge to branch out creatively. “Making music that finally got onto some cool labels just made me want to completely swap genres, which is weird sounding,” he says. “It basically didn’t give me enough satisfaction.” Over the next two years, he experimented across genres and increasingly higher BPMs to find his new sound, dabbling in “twerky-style hip-hop beats,” reggaeton, and Kaytranada-inspired grooves until he found a sweet spot in house music. Starting in Spring 2021, AYYBO soft-launched his current alias with edits of pop and dance tracks, clubbing up songs like No Doubt’s “Hella Good,” Ciara’s “1,2 Step,” and Eminem’s “Shake That” with tech-house production and engulfing basslines. In 2022, he began focusing on his original discography, releasing a single almost every month of the year. Songs like “GDB” and “Do This,” both released on Zeds Dead’s Altered States imprint, reveal a bassline-heavy, almost ominous tech house sound that AYYBO likens to forbidden fruit: “It’s very mysterious-sounding… it sounds like a good evil.” Others, like “Busy” featuring Calumdj, showcased his ability to deftly mold hip-hop vocals into his work. When singer-songwriter ero808 dropped off the raw vocals for what would become their collaboration “Hypnosis,” neither were aware of the hit they had on their hands. From the topline, AYYBO wrote the beat, following ero’s catchy hook with a swinging saxophone melody. The song caught fire upon its July 2022 release, with DJs and tastemakers such as Pete Tong, MistaJam, and DJ S.K.T rinsing it in their sets, while online it racked up millions of Spotify streams and over half a million TikTok views. To date, “Hypnosis” has collected over 11 million Spotify plays. Months later, AYYBO was surprised by a request from one of Pitbull’s producers, Sermstyle (“Timber”), who asked for the “Hypnosis” instrumental. “I sent it to him and literally within a day he says, ‘Pitbull really likes it. He’s already written a hook to it,’” AYYBO says. Within a week, Pitbull had sent over vocals, and together he and Sermstyle finished the new song arrangement. In January 2023, Pitbull released the remix as “Right Or Wrong (Hypnosis).” “I would never predict that to happen ever. I think it’s just the saxophone. It summoned him or something,” AYYBO says with a laugh, then adds, “It was very surreal. It felt like I was in a dream, honestly.” Continuing his journey into music has also allowed AYYBO to once again flex his visual muscles, especially on social media. A quick skim of his TikTok and Instagram account shows AYYBO playing various characters across his many releases: “If Great Gatsby had a DJ,” he captioned a promo video for “New Dance,” in which he assumes a fedora-wearing, 1920s-era persona. In another, for “Whiplash,” he plays a dueling, pop-and-locking cowboy. And he actually brought his decks underwater for “Drench.” (“Gonna need a whole lotta rice to fix these,” he wrote.) Whereas some artists see these platforms as a necessary evil in the industry, he views it as a creative and promotional tool with tremendous upside. “It’s one of the best tools out there to market yourself for free,” he says. “You can possibly get millions of views, and the more lottery tickets you get, the more TikToks you post, you have a better chance of hitting that lottery. It’s worth trying out at least.” Most importantly, these videos illustrate someone who’s actually having fun being an artist in every sense of the word. “I just try not to take myself too seriously,” he says, “and I feel like people resonate with that.” AYYBO is currently a few dates into his summer tour, which includes shows at The Roof at Brooklyn’s Superior Ingredients (hosted by Gray Area on August 4), Chicago’s Spybar, and Life is Beautiful in Las Vegas. Following his latest single, “Drench,” he has another track coming up in a few months, but beyond that, he admits he’s just winging it. In the near future, AYYBO hopes to bolster his fledgling GDB Records label, which currently houses his recent single “Bass Glide,” with more of his own releases. Eventually, he says, he’ll think about opening it up to other artists. As he describes how he wants his new music to sound—“more minimal and funky. It’s going to get deep”—it’s clear that what’s more important is how his music makes other people feel. “I want people to feel a positive energy and react to my music in a way where it kind of helps them have a better day,” he says. “I see a lot of people being like, ‘This song just made my day, I keep listening to it.’ That kind of feeling is the best thing ever. That’s why I keep making music… It’s just a positive energy that has this ripple effect that I love. I just want to keep putting out music that people actually respond to, or relate to, or just dance their heart out and make their day better.”
AYYBO, born Aaron Bonnema, has always had an insatiable appetite for music. From car rides with his father, where Outkast and Chemical Brothers sparked his love for house music, to mastering the drums in high school, his musical journey has been diverse and dynamic.
AYYBO's passion for DJing began unexpectedly when he took on the role of school DJ, despite having no prior experience. Armed with a $150 DJ deck and a wealth of YouTube tutorials, he honed his skills and set the vibe at school events. This humble beginning led to DJing house parties and opened his eyes to the vast world of electronic music beyond his initial scope.
While studying cinematography in college, AYYBO's focus shifted towards music production. Selling all his filming equipment to invest in his studio setup, he delved into producing bass music and trap, drawing from his love for hip-hop. In 2018, he signed with Zeds Dead's Deadbeats label, but the desire for creative exploration led him to experiment with different genres and tempos.
In Spring 2021, AYYBO introduced his current alias, captivating listeners with his edits of popular tracks transformed into tech-house anthems with enveloping basslines.
In just over a year's time, AYYBO has established a name for himself in the dance music community. The Anaheim-based producer is turning heads with his infectious energy, versatile production, and engaging social presence. AYYBO utilizes his background in cinematography to weave together his music with compelling video content, resulting in a unique experience and co-signs from artists like Shaq and John Summit
AYYBO has achieved impressive milestones already, including the release of his breakout track, "HYPNOSIS." which has accumulated over 10 million streams since its release in July 2022. Kicking off 2023, AYYBO received an official remix from world renowned Pitbull, opened for Dillon Francis alias DJ Hanzel at Exchange LA and debuted his first headline set at Sound Nightclub in Los Angeles with the Space Yacht crew.
In May 2023, he released "Drench" with multi platinum Toronto rapper & producer, Preme and kicked off his summer tour that will go until the end of September, concluding at Breakaway Festival. In the midst of summer, his anticipated release "Play Some Records" with Dances releases on label, Sweat It Out.
AYYBO showcases his multifaceted talents by writing his own lyrics and providing vocals on some of his tracks. This versatility, combined with his engaging personality, ensures that AYYBO is here to stay as a fresh and dynamic presence.