School of the Art Institute of Chicago sound student Namjoo Kim (BFA 2024), aka DJ NVM, has a spirit so loud even his silence is melodic. Born in South Korea in 1999, his love for music began early on.
“I was listening to Tupac since I was like 12,” Kim said.
From a young age, he built up a vast reservoir of different inspirations, establishing the foundation of his practice of DJing and beatmaking.
From Afrobeat, to bossa nova, to hip-hop, to Brazilian dance music Nam’s range of musical tastes inform his developing musical style. But jazz had a particularly strong influence on him.
“[the] build-ups and improv[isational]” scenes in jazz music evoke the same rollercoaster of suspense that he imbues in his dance music,” he said.”
When Nam first moved to the U.S. in 2017, English didn’t come easily to him and he frequently holed up in his room, struggling to make friends. In his isolation, he started to learn DJ techniques by watching YouTube.
Four years later, Nam’s apartment was regularly flooded with people excited to lose themselves in one of his iconic weekend “rager parties.” With party themes like “The Matrix” and “Someone Broke Our Neighbor’s Door,” Nam’s apartment (aka 1127) became a weekend staple for SAIC students and general Chicago party goers alike.
From these modest beginnings, DJ NVM has grown into an artist capable of drawing huge crowds. He was one of three performers on Oct. 5 at Book Club Chicago — an underground music venue in Wrigleyville — for a charity concert series called “Audio Awareness.” The primary goal of “Audio Awareness” is to raise awareness about and funds for small charities, while spotlighting local artists.
“We really want to have an underground approach towards nonprofit fundraising. When you think about fundraisers, you might think of pretentious galas or grade school barbecues, [but] for our shows we want people to be surprised that it is even a fundraiser,” said Graeme Phillips, — the founder of the art nonprofit Agora Chicago, which organized “Audio Awareness.”
This down-to-earth excitement is exactly what Nam’s sets evoke from his listeners: shouting, dancing, moshing, and overall freneticism.
Nam and the other artists raised over $700 in ticket sale proceeds donated to Apna Ghar, a Chicago-based nonprofit that aims to end gender violence.
Commenting on the trajectory of his career — from DJing his own house parties to performing sets at bustling venues — Nam said, “I don’t really mind, as long as I’m having fun.”
His practice dedicates itself to the conflation of artmaking and partying, something that has consistently risen in quality and popularity over the last several years. “Nam doesn’t like drinking really, [although] he doesn’t mind being surrounded by drunk people because he’s dedicated to creating a good time,” said Momo Ishibashi, who is one of his closest peers.
After he graduates in 2024, at the rate he’s progressing, Nam’s potential in the Chicago DJ scene is limitless. His endgame, however, is to one day own a mixed-purpose establishment that serves as a clothing store on weekdays, a nightclub on Fridays and Saturdays, and a restaurant on Sundays. Regardless, one thing’s for certain: Wherever he goes, fun is sure to follow.
For more information on the “Audio Awareness” charity concert series and Nam’s upcoming events, check out their Instagram pages: @audio.awareness and @follow_nam.
F.T. Cald is a Los Angeles born writer intrigued by the stories of complex interpersonal relationships conceived in urban nightlife. He specializes in the fields of non-fiction and personal essay and will be graduating the School of the Art Institute of Chicago in Spring of 2024.