DJ Experience - BPM Supreme Contributor - January 5, 2024
Wiz Khalifa’s DJ, Bonics, Shares Why New DJs Should Support Their Cities

Life is good when you’re DJ Bonics. Not only are you Wiz Khalifa’s official DJ, but you also get the rare opportunity to DJ for the legendary Snoop Dogg overseas in Europe. This is just one example of the bond Bonics and Wiz share, a friendship that runs 23 years deep.

Real name Brandon Glova, Bonics was born and raised in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, before moving to Pittsburgh for college — where he really began to hone in on the art of DJing. In fact, he attributes those two cities as his biggest influences, growing up to the OGs such as Jay Ski, Touchtone, and Cosmic Kev.

In describing himself, he states, “I’m a DJs DJ. I’ve probably DJed every type of situation you could think of. Even at my age, doing it 25 years, there still continues to be more shit. [laughs] It’s pretty cool. I definitely have some other milestones to make that I have personally, that I want to do. It’s ever-changing, you know? I’m a dude with a big heart.”

With his DJ career spanning 25 years, Bonics worked in radio for nearly 20 of those years. In fact, this serves as the first time he’s not doing radio full-time since the COVID-19 pandemic — all thanks to his venture into the cannabis space. Bonics currently plays the role of Director of Strategic Partnerships at Jardin, an upscale dispensary in Las Vegas.

Fast forward to now, DJ Bonics is as excited as ever to be releasing his new single titled “Standing On Business” featuring Mars Jackson. 

BPM Supreme spoke with DJ Bonics, who was located Pittsburgh at the time. Read below as we discuss his name, how he got into DJing, meeting Wiz Khalifa, DJing for Snoop Dogg, advice for aspiring DJs, and more!

Where did the name Bonics come from?

It’s a derivative off Ebonics. Back in the ‘90s, it was that urban language that was going on. When I was a turntablist, I was B-Bonics, because my name is Brandon. I dropped the ‘B’ because of radio. It saved me a lot of agony because people would always say “Oh, Ebonics? You’re DJ Ebonics?” It actually saved me. It’s just Bonics, which is cool. I’m not mad at the name.

Growing up, did you always want to DJ? How did you get into music?

Growing up listening to Philly radio, you start hearing the best dudes in the world and you don’t even know it. You have this standard that’s already subconscious. I grew up listening to Jay Ski, Touchtone, Cosmic Kev, all these dudes are Philly legends. Philadelphia breeds some of the best DJs in the world, if not the best. 

Obviously, I earned my stripes in Pittsburgh. That’s when I learned the craft, which was cool. Because in Pittsburgh, when you learn to craft in a small city, you learn it as if you’re going to take on the world. Because you’re from a small city, so you have a big point to prove. Pittsburgh and Philly were really two huge influences for me. 

How did you learn how to DJ?

By going to places that were suspect, hip hop shows. Especially then, shit. You gotta go to a certain part of the city, imagine not even having a cell phone at that point. You’re going out and diving into the culture, so I learned from watching real DJs. Vinyl. A lot of Pittsburgh cats, Pittsburgh radio station people. A couple of VHS tapes, and really gravitating toward my like-minded DJs. We taught each other. I gotta give it up to a lot of the University of Pittsburgh kids who were DJs at the time. I owe them a lot.

What was your first gig and for how much?

It was an Asian Student Association gig. It didn’t last too long because someone more qualified took over. That gave me a little bit of a drive, I need to come back strong. But it probably was for free. My first DJ gigs were frat parties and/or student events. That’s where it all started. I’m a man of the people man, that’s who I was. I was the people’s dude. I was always out and around. 

I was always a part of all ethnic student groups, from Asian groups to black student groups. I was in student government. I did a lot in college. I ran the radio station for a few years in college, so all that was telling to what was going to happen in the future. Which is really crazy. I know a lot of people started a music journey and do mortgages now. There’s nothing wrong with that, but I’m still out here being emotional. I’m sensitive about my shit, because I’m an artist you know? [laughs]

What radio were you on?

Pitt radio, WPTS. I went to 96.1 Kiss, which is now an iHeartRadio station. They’re a Clear Channel station. While I was on tour with Wiz, I was able to do radio throughout that which was amazing. I put seven years in at Pittsburgh, I worked my way up. Literally from operating the board, DJing night show, afternoon show, music director. I’ve done all those roles for a little bit of money, because that’s what they teach you in the iHeartRadio radio world. But it gave me a lot of skin in my game. My first full-time job at Clear Channel was $16K a year. But to me, that was a victory because I knew how unlikely it was. 

When I think about Pittsburgh, at the time, I could maybe be on two different stations. When I think about the morning show, midday show, afternoon show, and night show in each station, there’s probably six roles to fill. That’s not a lot. When you add those up, there’s 12 roles that you could possibly have. So the odds were always what I looked at, not whether it was cool or not. Out of the million plus people in this city, I have the night show, I had the afternoon show, and I was the music director. I like to give that perspective a lot to people who interned with me. 

Yo, out of the million people in the world, who’s sitting in the studio right now? It’d blow their mind. You’ve got to frame it like that sometimes, for people to really recognize where they are, how far they come. And the people you brush shoulders with. You, you’re damn near with everybody. That’s not by accident. Even when it first started, it’s a shout out to what you’re going to accomplish later. And we still don’t think we’re even where we want to be, so I’m glad that I’m here. Last week in Saudi for a festival killed me, but it’s okay.

How did you get connected with Wiz?

Long story short, I was doing my thing. What I was supposed to be doing in the culture of Pittsburgh was DJing events and being supportive of people doing it. His main producer, ID Labs, E. Dan, I was best friends with. We were really close, I DJed his wedding. I sold his first beat. But when Wiz started coming around, he said “There’s this kid Cam who’s better than all his friends. They come after school and rap.” He was on my radar since then. If I could help him at any opportunity I had, whether it was the college radio station. The real radio station I was at at the time, playing his music when I shouldn’t have. Playing his music at the clubs, booking him for shows. It really started right there. 

He had a few DJs before I hopped on, like Jasmine Solano and DJ Huggy. But it was right before “Black and Yellow.” It was weird, God’s timing. I was unhappy. I was on pop radio when it was the Jason Derulo era, and Wiz needed a DJ. I was #1 afternoons in Pittsburgh, gave that up with benefits and a salary to take this chance. Because people were like, “What’s a Wiz Khalifa?” It was an omen. When I go through these moments, I know I have to do this, but it’s hard to accept because you’re giving up something that you worked for. 

I remember my boss at the time wasn’t very favorable of me at the radio station, so I felt he was excited when I had told him I wanted to leave. But a lot of people asked, “You really gonna do that?” I’m like, yeah. My sister said, “Risk big, reward big.” What are the chances that Wiz drops “Black and Yellow” and the Steelers go to the Super Bowl that year? Become part of that whole history. Again, it’s written for you, but it’s never necessarily the way you want it to go. 

I’ve been rocking with Wiz for a long f***ing time. I’ve known him since he was 13, which is pretty dope. And to still be along with the adventure and still have so much care for it, I care about him as a person. We’re a family. I don’t think I even scratched the surface of stuff that I’m going to do with him in the future. It’s just a matter of when.

What is the bond you guys share? 

We don’t talk to each other every day. But if I wanted to, I could. I’m his OG to a degree. I was helping him when I was in my late ‘20s. When he was 16, or however old he was. I love the kid.

What is your setup?

DJ wise, preferable setup is two turntables and a Pioneer DJ mixer. I have an S9 at the moment. With Wiz, we do an S11 with turntables. I’m slowly thinking about going super digital with the CDJs. With Snoop, we use the CDJs. But right now, I’m a turntable guy.

Favorite song to drop in a set?

Truthfully, I’ll say this and not be ashamed: I like dropping “Apache” by Sugar Hill Gang. I think some people may be sensitive about that song because we’re natives. But what Will Smith did to it, what it did in the ‘70s, it’s a fun dropper that all ages can identify with a little bit. That’s a fun song to drop because it can go anywhere from there.

What about when you’re DJing for Wiz, do you have a favorite Wiz song?

Man, “Mesmerized.” Because I remember when that dropped, that’s when I quit my job. That’s when LeBron James was tweeting about Wiz. That’s when Wiz was driving the city in his yellow car, and it was real. That’s one thing I love about Wiz when I hear his music: I’ve experienced most of the shit he’s talking about. So much pride for his city. 

I remember they said, “He’s got a song called ‘Black and Yellow’.” I remember them playing for me like, this is what he’s going to drop? A song about Pittsburgh, how’s the whole world going to feel that? I love being proved wrong because I was. It was a great song, but I wasn’t sure how the world would feel about “Black and Yellow.” The whole world made their own versions, which was incredible. From Lil Wayne to Chet Hanks making their own versions, it’s crazy. Unfortunately, we didn’t win the Super Bowl that year. 

What’s the wildest show you guys have ever DJed?

There was a couple. One time we DJed somewhere in Europe. Right at the end of our performance, there was a storm anomaly that happened at the festival. Everyone had to hunker down. I stayed with the equipment back under the tent. Minutes later, a storm ripped through the festival. Killing people in the festival, killing people that worked there. Tearing down a tent. This is when I was carrying a camera around, I took all this footage and posted it on YouTube. Pretty consistently, every year or two, I have The Weather Channel or some nature show reaching out, talking about it. That’s pretty wild.

On a hip hop level… recently, being on tour with Snoop this summer. Some people aren’t doing it, who were poppin’ when Wiz started. Being on stage with Snoop, Wiz, and Green Lantern, celebrating 50 years of hip hop, it always blows our mind. It wasn’t the first time we toured with Wiz, but that’s amazing. We’ve done so many shows. The festivals like Coachella, we’ve been around the world. It’s wild. I’ve DJed every single thing possible. From Nickelodeon to Saturday Night Live to AFC championships, it’s crazy. The Steelers go to the Super Bowl, it’s always big business for Wiz. 

What was the highlight from the Wiz & Snoop tour this summer?

Seeing those two still go at it after years. Yo, I had this poster of Snoop in my room growing up. The more I think about it, it’s God leaving a trail. I’m laughing now because that was a poster in my room. I was telling someone: there’s no way you could have told me in 1993 that I’d stand on stage with Snoop Dogg. That’s impossible. It felt so far away. To be able to have that experience, to be able to hit all these cities over the summer.

Then having the opportunity to cover for Green Lantern for Snoop’s latest run in Europe. We went to a few countries. To DJ for Snoop Dogg in Europe, we went to Dublin, Ireland. We got invited to Conor McGregor’s restaurant. Ate at his restaurant, he came to greet us. We held his belt. We met his mom, we saw his kids. Conor McGregor came to the show. Imagine Conor McGregor being absolutely excited to see Snoop. I’m excited to see Connor and Connor is excited to see Snoop. I’m excited to be with them, so a lot of excitement.

What advice do you have for aspiring DJs, who want to do what you do?

Don’t be afraid to build a legend. No one wants to read a book that says chapter one, and they live happily ever after. You gotta write your story. You gotta engulf yourself in the culture, the culture’s going to give back to you. Support your city, support the DJs. I have 18-year-olds hit me up like, “I’m 18 now. I can DJ clubs, what’s your advice?” Go to a club, you gotta support the scene that you want to be involved in. 

A lot of people try to skip that step. When they have success, but nobody in their city knows they’re from their city. What did you do to give back to your city? I’m always a fan of people who contribute in a way. Play local music, support local music. Go visit other people’s DJ nights. Really, giving your city a hug is what I like to call it. There’s no secret that you can get pretty far without necessarily being a master. But if you’re going to take that route, be kind and go engage with people. Really learn. I love that I can get together with homies and scratch shit. That’s what we did 20 years ago. What do kids do now? They TikTok or whatever.

That shit pays off later. Especially when I travel to each city, this was over a decade ago. I’d seek out who’s the guy in their city, then I parlay. “Hey, I’m with Wiz, you want to come?” That’s how a lot of my relationships were built, because I was excited to see who did it in their city. We’re talking about worldwide, not just in the United States. There’s such a rich DJ culture and real recognize real. When you see someone who’s their city’s guy and you meet that person, you really get a first-hand experience. Yo, I’m telling you the secrets of visiting other city’s DJs. You get in for free, you drink for free. You know where the hotspots are, and it’s music based. They’re going to take you to the ill dope spots. 

Hug a DJ. Don’t think what can DJing do for me? How lit can I get? Listen, there’s a million different avenues. But hug the culture, because that’s what it is. Being able to put your arms around as many versions of it as well. There might be a dude who’s not technical, but his crates are deep. There’s a dude who may be technical, but may not know how to rock a party. But there’s something to learn from both of those guys.

Anything else you want to let the people know?

Look out for the different versions of Bonics coming up. Follow me at DJ Bonics: Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, and Twitch. Come to Vegas, reach out to me if you want to talk about weed. I’m going to put this out there as a manifest thing, but hoping to make some records very soon. That’s something I flirt with here and there, but being more intentional about it. Just having fun with it and not approaching it like I need to be DJ Khaled.

I haven’t even really built the road to it, but I’ma put out culture records first. Fun shit for people who may know people in their respective cities. I’m not going to jump into the “ Wiz” records right away, I want to earn that. I’d like Wiz to see me make some records on my own before I do something like that. But I’d love to put out a project with Wiz, something in the future. Produce more, and really tailor my life so people can learn from it. Have success and be creative, and still be human. That’s really important, for people to see people like me be human. That’s super important. It takes a village, so we gotta apply that. Whether we’re the receiver or the giver.

Follow Bonics on Instagram for more.

About the Writer
Shirley Ju is a Los Angeles-based journalist and on-camera host with her own show called Shirley’s Temple (with a focus on mental health). She lives, breathes, and sleeps music, and if there’s a show in LA, you can find her there. Born in the Bay Area, the Hyphy movement is in her blood. Shirley contributes to several publications and also does interviews for VLAD TV. Follow her at @shirju on both Instagram and Twitter.
Related News