Triple threat singer-songwriter-musician and Grammy award winner Rudy Currence entertained students and faculty members last Saturday night with his rich, soulful vocals and relatable humor.
Invited by African Latino American Society (AfLatAm) as a guest performer for Black Arts Weekend, Currence has recently signed with Def Jam Recordings and will be putting out a new album soon. Currence was also featured on Christian hip-hop artist LeCrae’s Grammy-winning album “Gravity” in the song “Lucky Ones.”
Opening for Currence in Susie’s, Azure, Andover’s all-female acapella group, started off the night’s performance with a rendition of Rihanna’s “Take a Bow.” The audience grew significantly by the start of Azure’s next song, a cover of the Black Eyed Peas’ “Where Is the Love?” The audience clapped along throughout the piece as they echoed “I don’t know” during the song’s chorus.
Giving an equally enthusiastic performance, The Yorkies, Andover’s all-male acapella group, took the stage and performed Outkast’s bluesy hip-hop hit “Roses.” Although the group encountered some lyrical problems towards the last verse, they finished strongly and kept the audience in high spirits.
Currence’s first appearance on the stage was met with roaring applause and whistles as Devontae Freeland ’15, a member of the Yorkies, introduced the singer.
Dressed casually in green khakis, brown boots and a chambray shirt, Currence remixed a number of songs, featuring a personalized cover of Roberta Flack’s classic single “Killing Me Softly.”
Currence gave a personal touch to his performances by pausing multiple times to give shout outs to his hometown, Rock Hill, SC and AfLatAm for bringing him to campus, before launching into a heartfelt rendition of Bill Wither’s “Lean on Me.” The audience was shy at first but joined in wholeheartedly when he belted out the chorus to Rihanna’s “Umbrella.”
“I got to meet him before the show started. He introduced himself to me, and I addressed him, ‘Mr. Currence, how are you doing?’ and [Currence] said, ‘Call me Rudy.’ He’s so down to earth,” said Benny Ogando ’15.
Many of the covers Currence performed displayed his love for hip-hop and gospel music. In a cover of “Adorn” by Miguel, Currence showed his mastery of the stage and technical dexterity on the piano.
“My parents put me in piano lessons at age six; I started singing when I was three and I even went to school for music, so my brother and I were always either in chorus or band,” said Currence in an interview.
Departing from his typical rock and R&B discography, Currence launched into Sheryl Crow’s hit, “If It Makes You Happy.” He integrated a remix near the end of the performance, leading the audience to a call-and-response version of “Don’t Worry, Be Happy” by Bobby McFerrin.
“He was a really talented artist. He definitely had a phenomenal range and was extremely talented. There was something about his presence on the stage that just really made his performance enjoyable.” said Scott Simpson ’14.
Currence interacted with the audience during his performance and encouraged them to sing and clap along. His cover of Gnarls Barkley’s “Crazy” and his new song “Weave Ponytail” highlighted his ability to perform a wide range of musical genres.
“I loved his performance because he was both soulful and playful. Even from the audience, you could tell he was charming. Everyone was rapt the entire time because his vocal and musical talent were not only amazing; they gave off a different vibe than what we usually get with performers,” said Chiamaka Okorie ’13.
Currence’s last tribute brought the audience’s attention to the cultural awareness aspect of Black Arts Weekend with two gospel songs: a traditional song with lyrics about reason and God’s guidance, as well as his own gospel composition, “Zion.” Singing in church has always been a big aspect of Currence’s life, and he often implements it in his professional albums.
“I grew up around great music. My dad and all of his brothers sing and play some kind of instrument, so my brother and I had [always] had an opportunity to experience music at an early age. Both my parents loved music,” said Currence. “It can [become tiring being on the road], but you have to be passionate about it, and I am passionate about it, so I enjoy it.”