Homegrown talent

J KCHARMZ told the crowd he was nervous. Eighteen years old and housing unstable, the rapper was jittery about his first time on a stage.

Thankfully, he wasn’t alone for his set at Harlow’s Restaurant & Nightclub. His pal Tony B joined him, and they traded bars over a deep-bass club banger that blared through the sound system. Their nerves were apparent, but a few minutes into the song, they held a smile-filled battle rap and seemed at home. The audience cheered louder with each diss.

It was one of eight performances that night on September 12, sets by six youth ages 18-26 who were living in shelters, on the streets or in some form of transitional housing. It was the release show for the Creation District Records’ premiere compilation album, which featured songs by all these newbie artists, and more who didn’t perform that night.

The project was conceived by Grace Loescher, director of Creation District, an art studio space that aims to help disadvantaged youth in various ways and give them an opportunity to have their stories be heard. It’s part of Walking The Village, a nonprofit that supports the homeless parenting youth and their children.

For the past eight months, Loescher, with the help of Damien Verrett and Frank Lopes, aka artists So Much Light and Hobo Johnson, have been traveling to different parts of Sacramento—Oak Park especially—with Loescher’s mobile recording studio to help disadvantaged youth turn their thoughts and notepaper scribbles into professional recordings for the album.

So Much Light opened with a short funky electo-dance set, just him and his gear.

“I think it’s important to highlight the voices that are heard the least,” he told the crowd between songs. One woman after the set told him emphatically that his voice sounded like soul-singer Miguel.

Loescher emceed the performances by the Creation District kids. You could feel her excitement for each performance. Multiple times, she told the crowd to be sure and get the kids’ autographs, and that they’d be famous one day.

Like J KCHARMZ, it was the first time for many of them on a real stage. But they were anxious to tell their stories. King Gabe sung a passionate soul-folksy song called “Everyone Deserves To Be Famous.”

“I’m speaking for all of ya’ll. I grew up in a hard time,” he told Harlow’s after his song. Other Creation District artists included Enz-Zoh, Jessie Deville, Pull Up Nate and TrapGod Dolla.

Hobo Johnson closed the show out. He became an international star six months ago when his song “Peach Scone” went viral. His band have gotten tight after spending the summer touring and have developed a harder edge to their sound. Not a lot of young artists-suddenly-turned-celebrities find time to prioritize giving back to their community, so credit to him. Clearly, he has a big heart and appreciates the needs of his city. “It’s important to me because music is the purest outlet of all time,” Lopes said after the Harlow’s show. “It’s something to hope for in your life, to be a musician. It’s something that made me not want to die.”

It was his first show since selling out the Ace of Spades last May. Since then, he’s literally sold out every club he’s played, in every country he’s visited. Kudos to him for using his celebrity to bring heads to see these struggling kids.