As the atmosphere of Penn this past Thursday night slowly picked up, the members of Jazz & Grooves were especially busy. Known for bringing up–and–coming musical acts such as Daniel Caesar, Smino, and Kevin Abstract to campus, the SPEC–affiliated group was gearing up for their first show of the year—free for all Penn students. With a stage, sound, and lighting system all set up inside the house, the event was ready for opener and headliner .
DJ Haram, a Philadelphia–based DJ who primarily executes electronic sets, but also draws upon Middle Eastern and experimental music to craft her sounds, is part of the noise/rap duo . Having performed at various festivals, clubs, and other events across North America and Europe, DJ Haram is a versatile artist who is expanding the definition of dance music.
The main act, Injury Reserve, is an alternative hip–hop trio formed in Phoenix, Arizona in 2013, and is composed of rappers Stepa J. Groggs and Ritchie With a T, and producer Parker Corey. Creating eclectic, DIY jazz rap, the group incorporates genres as diverse as . Injury Reserve’s first mixtape, , began to give them a small following; it paid off in the form of their critically acclaimed second mixtape, , with features from Vic Mensa and Cakes da Killa. They even performed their sincere yet danceable form of rap at Made in America this past September.
At around 11 p.m., DJ Haram started spinning her set. Initially, her mixes leaned heavily into EDM, with the bouncing, rhythmic music being mostly wordless. However, as the night went on and the groups of students started pouring in, the set transformed into innovative, club–ready mixes of popular songs. Blending different drumbeats, sampling a variety of melodies, and seamlessly transitioning between songs, some of DJ Haram’s highlights were her mixes of “Let Me Know” by Kelela, “Respect” by Aretha Franklin, “The Weekend” by SZA, “Chun–Li” by Nicki Minaj, and “Plain Jane” by A$AP Ferg. DJ Haram concentrated intensely on her equipment, only punctuating her absorption with faint smiles once in a while—a contrast to the raucous response her music was inspiring in the lively, dancing crowd. By the end of her set, DJ Haram had shown herself as a talented artist who knew how to read an audience, build a vibe, and get people moving.
Injury Reserve’s headlining performance had people body–slamming each other in quasi–mosh pits while jumping to the beat. Suffice to say, their powerful, vigorous brand of rap, at times sounding like traditional hip–hop and at other times hard rock, riled up the crowd. With the rappers alternating between a free–flowing casual effect and parts where they yelled out the lyrics with gusto, Injury Reserve’s highlights included songs like and The group demonstrated its talent at varying flows, sometimes spitting out lyrics at high speeds, but other times sticking with an unconfined, fluid style. Despite technical issues, Injury Reserve proved fantastic at keeping a crowd hyped up and maintaining high energy levels.
Jazz & Grooves’ successful first show of the year introduced Penn students to up–and–coming artists intent upon making their mark on the world. Jess Sandoval (W '19), one of three co–directors of the organization, has aspirations for future events, stating they want to “dip into other genres that we haven’t reached before” and “promote artists from minority backgrounds that don’t get spotlighted as often as they deserve.” To keep up with future Jazz & Grooves events, follow them on or attend one of their meetings, held weekly on Sundays at 2 p.m. in the basement of Harnwell College House.