Last Wednesday, the Union Programming Board (UPB) held their bi-weekly Unplugged open-mic event. This event takes place on Wednesdays and features an open-mic one week, then a spotlight artist performance for the next one. The event is organized by UMKC student and Fine Arts coordinator for the UPB, Stacy Branson, with the help of others like UMKC Alumni, student and UPB activities coordinator, Lashondra Randolph.
This weeks’ event featured a spotlight artist. Rudy Currence, the Grammy and Dove award winning singer/songwriter and multiple time performer at UMKC, was booked once again. When you think of a Grammy award winner, you should automatically think amazing. Rudy was every inch of the word and more. The Rockhill, South Carolina native, who just released his smash hit single “Royal Blue,” received his Grammy by featuring on Lecrae’s 2012 Best Gospel Album “Gravity.” Rudy recently featured on David Banner’s “Marry Me,” a song about defying the stereotypes surrounding black men, families and their love for marriage. He was also featured in October’s “Soul Train” magazine.
Stacy introduced him as the “beautiful Rudy Currence,” followed by an impressive list of his accomplishments. He returned the love and began to warm the crowd up with a soulful rendition of Lil Jon’s “Snap Ya Fingers.” This transitioned into original verses that spoke of his spiritual upbringing and falling in love with the “message in the music.” His piano skills separated him from just being a singer but his soul-filled voice, waterfall like runs that go from gentle to explosive in seconds, his grace and rhythm made you forget he was even playing the keys. He was funny, interactive, creative and obviously professional.
He did a series of cover songs, remixed with his personal flavor, that we all knew. First, “Killing Me Softly,” which has disputes about the original creator but made famous in urban areas by Lauryn Hill and The Fugees, followed by Cee Lo Green’s “Crazy,” John Legend’s “Lonely People” and more. Random screams and moans could be heard all throughout the student union, mostly from the UMKC ladies who loved his music. Rudy asked, “Ladies can I sing to you?” The collective response of “please” led to him to sing an improv love song to one of the students.
I noticed how Rudy was so comfortable around us. I knew he’d been here before, but he has also developed relationships with some of the alumni. He even introduced himself to me without hesitation. One of those alumni (and also Rudy’s fraternity brother) is Zach Hinton a former special event coordinator for the UPB and recent graduate. Zach says Rudy is a “regular” and that “students are constantly requesting and saying his name.” Rudy knew a lot of the students by name and he even honored other singers who he knew on campus. One student, Julius Carpenter, who just happened to sing background vocals for the legendary Stevie Wonder at the Sprint Center, was asked to come onstage with Rudy and perform a duet to Musiq Soulchild’s “Love.” That was one of the best parts of this event. Rudy called Zach and a couple other singers on stage with him, as well.
After the last cover song, Rudy went into a segment featuring his original songs. My favorite was “Bye Felicia,” a bass-heavy and soulful piece that used the popular term – from Ice Cube’s hit movie “Friday” – to describe his wanting to give his time, money and love to a girl that he can’t trust. Instead of those things, he gives her the “gift of goodbye Felicia.” Lastly he performed one of his most known songs “Zion.” This inspirational soul ballad was featured on BET’s Music Matters program and the exposure made it a well-loved song.
If you’re familiar with Rudy Currence and his music, you know how great he is, if you were there last Wednesday you probably saw me in the front row scribbling down notes, and if you missed it, you missed something special. Be sure to stay connected with the UPB for all upcoming open-mics and spotlight artist performances.