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Steven Hiroyuki Aoki was born in Miami, Florida, and grew up in Newport Beach, California. He graduated from Newport Harbor High School in 1995, where he was a player on the varsity badminton team. He is of Japanese descent, the third child of Rocky Aoki and Chizuru Kobayashi. His father was a former wrestler who also founded the restaurant chain Benihana. He has two older siblings, sister Kana (who is sometimes called by her middle name “Grace”), and brother Kevin (owner of Doraku Sushi restaurant). His half-sister is model and actress Devon Aoki.
Aoki attended the University of California, Santa Barbara and graduated with two B.A. degrees, one in feminist studies and the other in sociology. In college, he produced do-it-yourself records and ran underground concerts out of his Biko room in the Santa Barbara Student Housing Cooperative, which was located in Isla Vista, a section of residential land adjacent to UCSB. As a concert venue, the apartment became known as The Pickle Patch. Aoki was also involved in student activism at UCSB, being the founder of a Revolutionary Anti-Imperialist League chapter on campus. By his early 20s, Aoki had built his own record label, which he named Dim Mak – a reference to his childhood hero, Bruce Lee