Downtown Sacramento hair salon transforms into intimate venue for Black music and spoken word

Seven44 performs a mix of spoken word and hip-hop at Out the Way on J on June 15. (Photo by Cristian Gonzalez)

By Cristian Gonzalez

Overlooking J Street, Mahogany and Rose converts from a salon specializing in curly hair and locs, to a space dedicated to celebrating Black artists.

Out the Way on J is a monthly show that invites audiences to share in an intimate experience with independent musicians, rappers, poets and soul artists. It is curated by Mahogany and Rose CEO and founder Camille Janae, and community leader and organizer Andreas “Dre-T” Tilman Jr.

“I just wanted it to be a space beyond providing hair care, and to engage the community and kind of bring people together,” Janae said. “And with knowing Dre through poetry, and just through the Black community in Sacramento, and his experience with bringing people together, I wanted to reach out and see how he felt around activating the space.”

One aspect of Out the Way on J that distinguishes it from live music at traditional venues is its intimacy. Whether through events, or artist retreats, an important part of Out the Way on J’s mission is to “humanize artists, create spaces for them to connect with each other, and for them to connect with their supporters on a more intimate level,” according to Janae.

NPR Tiny Desk Contest winner Christian Gates, known as The Philharmonik, performed at the September 2023 Out the Way on J show, though at the time he wasn’t picked for his ability to sell tickets. Dre-T and Janae make it a point to feature artists that they have cultivated relationships with.

“I’ve known Christian since we were in high school. So I’d tell him all the time, ‘I’m just waiting on the rest of the world to catch up,’” said Dre-T, who attended Rosemont High School with Gates. He said they used to skip lunch to practice in the piano lab.

Back in 2021, Dre-T had organized a festival featuring 23 artists, including The Philharmonik. Things didn’t go smoothly as there were issues with sound, a vehicle caught fire and someone damaged the water system.

“His music wasn’t working right. He just did a spoken word piece — he wasn’t trippin’,” Dre-T said about the mishaps. “He wouldn’t leave until me and my mom left. It’s like one, two in the morning. Christian stayed to help us clean. He stayed to at least make sure my mom would leave.”

Dre-T, co-curator of Out the Way on J, introduces the next artist during the Out The Way on J show on June 15. (Photo by Cristian Gonzalez)

Out the Way on J also raises money to pay its artists, including members of the house band, while also offering groceries to performers thanks to Dre-T’s work with the Community Movement Builders Neighbor Program. (Standing tickets for a show cost $25 and seated tickets cost $30.)

Isaiah Guerrero, the event’s resident guitarist, moved to Sacramento after graduating from California State University East Bay in Hayward and found both community and resource-based support through working with Out the Way on J.

“I’m happy to get to work with so many cool artists,” Guerrero said. “Going from not really having too many support systems out here to being able to just contribute to Out the Way really has saved me in a couple ways.”

And the series has given artists opportunities to find new sources of inspiration while providing a space for the community to appreciate Black culture. Josh P., a hip-hop artist based in Sacramento, had never performed with a live band before his experience at Out the Way on J.

“It was a great growing moment for me. Now, because of that, I don’t ever want to play without instruments again,” said Josh P, who was featured in the April 20 show. “And I feel like it’s helping the Black community because it’s bringing us all together to a spot where we can all connect and advance our careers and just provide intimate settings for everyone to be in.”

Now, one of the main goals of the monthly event is to provide a safe place for Black women artists, in particular, as the music industry has historically been known to be predatory toward women, discouraging them from working toward their creative aspirations.

“Our mission for Out the Way on J is to create a safe space for Black people as a whole. But particularly for Black women,” Dre-T said. “In terms of the artists that are out there, there’s more men than there are women. Many of our sisters don’t feel safe to be artists. So we’re very intentional with making sure that balance is felt.”

From left: Ally Grace and Diamond Key perform during a Sunday Session at Torch Club in Downtown Sacramento on June 4, 2023. (Photo by Cristian Gonzalez)

Diamond Key, a woman vocalist and musician, has performed at Out the Way on J several times as both a featured artist and member of the house band.

“My mind usually runs around before I go do a set with myself or anyone else,” Key said. “As soon as I walked into the space — it’s very peaceful. The people are authentic and it’s done with a lot of care so I just felt very relaxed.”

Attendees also appreciate the relaxed atmosphere of the series. Kiarra Jean, a Sacramento-based urban planner, attended the June 15 concert and noted the importance of having such a hub for Black artists during a time when Black Sacramentans are being displaced from the downtown area.

“It is so important having these Black communities, especially a space for Black music,” Jean said. “You feel a part of the community as well as finding a space where you feel safe and you feel seen and heard.”

Out the Way on J has been able to facilitate a space and experience geared toward sharing the inseparable connection between Black culture and popular music.

“People that value Black artists, Black artistry, community connection, authenticity — Out the Way on J is a place for that,” Janae said.

This story was funded by the City of Sacramento’s Arts and Creative Economy Journalism Grant to Solving Sacramento. Following our journalism code of ethics and protocols, the city had no editorial influence over this story and no city official reviewed this story before it was published. Our partners include California Groundbreakers, Capital Public Radio, Outword, Russian America Media, Sacramento Business Journal, Sacramento News & Review, Sacramento Observer and Univision 19.

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1 Comment on "Downtown Sacramento hair salon transforms into intimate venue for Black music and spoken word"

  1. This was very well articulated.
    A journey painted quite nicely… your canvas is appreciated. As an Artist, as a WOman, as a Black Female Artist… I have found a safety here at this spot as well, that does not exist everywhere in Sac.

    And the elegance of the atmosphere provided & procured
    , I feel allows for a sumwhat grown and sexy, chill and relaxed evening. Out The Way On J, is a hott asHed ticket.
    Get it…

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