Top 10 Do-Gooding DJs: Bassnectar, Griz, Ida Engberg and More

Courtesy of aLIVE Coverage
Bassnectar

This Halloween season will see Lorin Ashton, aka Bassnectar, double down on dance music altruism. The low-end specialist is set to host his annual Freakstyle event in Grand Rapids, Michigan, from Oct. 31 to Nov. 2, and he’s found an inventive way to give back. 

Bassnectar’s nonprofit, Be Interactive, and its partner Conscious Alliance are calling on bass heads to chip in for a major food drive in the embattled city of Flint, Mi., where residents have been without clean water since 2014.

The effort aims to provide 35,000 healthy meals to kids in Flint, and Bassnectar hopes to collect 5,000 of those at Freakstyle’s Flint Brain Food Drive. 

It’s a lofty goal, but one you wouldn’t put past Bassnectar’s dialed-in fans. Bass heads who roll up to Freakstyle with 20 non-perishable food items will receive a limited edition Bassnectar Freakstyle 2019 lunchbox, decorated by Tyler Nally, aka Gnar Gnar, and artist Nathaniel Dean. (The Freakstyle event itself is also pure Bassnectar: a three-night ‘gathering’ with immersive, anything-goes sets from Lorin and his friends, all performed in darkness.) 

The Flint Brain Food Drive is typical of Bassnectar’s approach to the fame game, and he’s not the only one with a mission. In a scene often lazily characterized by ego and self-interest, there’s a lot of do-gooding to be found. 

Below, check out a list of ten DJs, ranging from main stage regulars to underground heroes, who regularly fly the flag for the greater good. 


Bassnectar

The bass don is renowned for his high-concept shows that keep fans coming back in droves: Freestyle and its Halloween offshoot Freakstyle are set in the dark, NYE360 features a giant rotating stage, and Deja Voom is an all-inclusive resort rave in Mexico. 

No matter the scale or selling point, there’s usually a charity tie-in with Bassnectar’s nonprofit, Be Interactive. His recent fundraisers have addressed climate change, women’s health, and, with the Freakstyle food drive, Flint’s water crisis. 

The producer sees community-mindedness as a break from the “strange virtual terrain” of our online lives. “[Be Interactive] is really about engaging, getting involved, stepping up and just being a part of the moment in a visceral way,” Bassnectar told Billboard

Griz

Grant Kwiecinski, aka Griz, has wasted no time in showing his social conscience. 

In addition to the example he set by coming out as gay in a powerful and supportive op-ed, the Detroit native’s Grizmas event brings annual holiday cheer to his hometown. In 2018, The 12 Days of Grizmas included community workshops, a coat and toy drive, charity bowling and a yoga session with guided meditation from the man himself. 

This December marks the sixth consecutive Grizmas, which takes a full year of planning. It’s extra impressive, then, that Griz also found time for the Ride Waves album and a multi-stop tour complete with marching band. 

Ida Engberg

The techno scene conjures up cliches of über-serious black-clad DJs and lock-jawed ravers pushing past several bedtimes, but there’s a flip side to techno’s infamous hedonism. 

Without a whole lot of fanfare, Swedish DJ and Drumcode mainstay Ida Engberg has spent a career backing progressive causes. This year, she raised over £20,000 for Amazon Watch, a nonprofit that supports the indigenous people of the Amazon facing a vast rainforest fire crisis. The 2019 Drumcode Festival, headed by Engberg’s husband Adam Beyer, also doubled as a Greenpeace fundraiser for the Amazon. 

In the past, Engberg has helped stage the Techno For Humanity events and contributed to the charity compilation, It Began In Africa. 

Black Coffee

Few DJs are heroes in their home country quite like South Africa’s Black Coffee. The producer and DJ, born Nkosinathi Innocent Maphumulo, rose to local fame in the early aughts, gaining international cred via the Red Bull Music Academy and a prolific studio output. 

Back in 2010, Black Coffee - who lost the use of his left hand in a car accident at age 14 -- DJed for 60 hours in a Soweto shopping mall to launch the DJ Black Coffee Foundation. (Sadly, a Guinness Book of Records rep wasn’t present to immortalize the feat.) 

The DJ Black Coffee Foundation continues to fight for equality in South Africa, while the DJ also acts as an ambassador for the Bridges For Music organization. This summer, Black Coffee headed a charity event for wildlife conservation at Ibiza’s extravagant Ushuaïa Beach Hotel. 

Porter Robinson

Charity really began at home for electronic wunderkind Porter Robinson. In 2016, Porter’s younger brother Mark was diagnosed with Burkitt lymphoma at age 17. Thanks to the expertise of Mark’s doctors at the University of North Carolina hospital, he was declared cancer-free the following year. 

The period of family turmoil inspired the Worlds producer to establish the Robinson Malawi Fund. The fund helps fight Burkitt lymphoma in the African country of Malawi, where the form of cancer is common in children. 

One dollar of every ticket sold to the producer’s inaugural Second Sky Festival went to the Robinson Malawi Fund, while fans also lined up to make donations at an on-site booth. Robinson vowed to match the money raised with his own donation, resulting in $154,000 for direct patient care in Malawi. With Second Sky sure to return, it’s an auspicious start for Porter Robinson, philanthropist at large. 

The Black Madonna 

Marea Stamper, known to house heads as The Black Madonna, was recently named a Help Refugees ambassador, repping an organization that strives to improve the lives of refugees around the world. 

It’s a fitting role for one of the most empathetic, politically-active DJs in the scene. The Black Madonna uses her platform to engage deeply with issues of inclusivity and LGBTQIA+ rights, and is unafraid to speak her mind on the big debates of the day. Take, for example, her withdrawal from, and powerful statement against, the Amazon Web Services-sponsored Intersect Festival. 

True to her calling, the Kentucky native is touring into 2020 with the We Still Believe: Choose Love tour, which will raise money for Help Refugees and the advocacy group Say It Loud. Come for a good cause, leave with a charity tee modeled by The Black Madonna herself. 

The Tim Bergling Foundation 

In his all-too-short life, Tim Bergling was an outspoken champion for charity. Just a year on from his breakout hit as Avicii, "Levels," the DJ capitalized on his newfound fame with the 2012 House For Hunger Tour. Its goal: raising $1M to fight hunger in America. 

Avicii’s philanthropy continued as his star rose, persisting even despite his own personal struggles. Naturally, the Bergling family wanted to carry on that conviction in the wake of Tim’s death. 

This year, The Tim Bergling Foundation launched with a focus on mental health and suicide prevention, although it’ll expand to include the DJ’s other causes. It’s a testament to an artist who was never content with the surface-level thrills of dance music.    

Steve Aoki 

After losing his father in 2008, Steve Aoki developed a deep interest in health research. It’s an analytical streak to the superstar DJ that runs alongside his hyperactive stage shows and goofy social media presence. 

As true fans know, the DJ’s Aoki Foundation is staunchly committed to the field of brain science. That mission recently coalesced in the first-ever Aoki Games in Las Vegas, which raised $250,000 for brain research. At what other medical fundraiser would losing players choose between these punishments: dunking, ice bath or caking? 

DJ Bone 

Detroit lifer DJ Bone is best known for his slamming techno sets that utilize all possibilities of the three deck set-up. DJ Bone’s technical rigor has made him a favorite across Europe and the UK, but he remains fiercely committed to his hometown. 

Together with his wife Ahnne Dulan, DJ Bone runs the Homeless Homies Foundation, raising funds for local homeless shelters, one city at a time. All proceeds from DJ Bone’s label Subject Detroit go direct to the Foundation. 

The couple threw a Homeless Homies fundraiser during Detroit’s Movement weekend, and they’ve just done it again in their adopted home of Amsterdam. This Thanksgiving Eve, DJ Bone returns to Detroit for a canned food drive, where Josh Wink will join him on the decks. Now that’s how you fundraise. 

Zedd 

Following the release of his new Kehlani-assisted single "Good Thing," ever-savvy marketer Zedd has invited his followers to a marathon of do-goodery. 

The #goodthingchallenge is about, you guessed it, doing a good thing for someone else. Zedd kicked things off with a donation of $10,000 to cancer research, then nominated his buddies like Jared Leto and superstar streamer Ninja to go next. 

The challenge has inspired some heartwarming responses, from generous donations to volunteer work to paying for a stranger’s order at the McDonald’s drive-through. Every little bit counts, right?


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