By Katie Kelly
When I walk into the studio that R.U.D.Y is working in, there’s a rare moment of stillness. Everyone is seated around one of the computers quietly immersed in their own world. Then a beat starts playing. It’s subtle at first, but grows louder, causing everyone to stop whatever they were doing and pay attention. R.U.D.Y stands and nods along to the twinkling production. “It’s kind of crazy how the fear go away when I hear the 808,” he raps off the cuff to the beat. He repeats the line a few times then he turns to me. “Ok, now I’m ready. Let’s go.”
This is the type of artist R.U.D.Y is. He has the blessing (and the curse) of a brain that never shuts off. His work ethic is relentless. He’s in a constant cycle of reflecting, writing, and creating. He’d live at the studio if he could and when he’s not there, he’s doing something to better himself for when he’s back. He exists simultaneously between the project he’s currently working on, and the next 50 projects he plans to do.
His hustle might sound motivating, but R.U.D.Y would disagree. “I just really wanna inspire more. Inspire, not motivate, because motivation is bullshit,” he says. I ask him to tell me more. “It’s like when you’re motivated after watching a video about exercising and you can’t wait to go on a jog. Then you put on your shoes, and you open the door, and it’s way hotter than you thought it was gonna be. That motivation is gone. You’re gonna sit right back down on the couch. But when you’re inspired, you go through whatever the fuck you gotta go through to come out the other side and get the goal you want. That’s why inspiration is way more powerful than motivation.”
It’s a belief that’s central to R.U.D.Y, honed in part by his life experiences and in part by his family and upbringing. The son of a preacher and a deacon (his mom, a preacher and his dad, a deacon), R.U.D.Y was raised in a church. His earliest memory of music is singing in the church choir when he was three. Coincidentally, church would also be R.U.D.Y’s first introduction to writing raps.
“It was a Christian based after school program. They made us write raps, like they forced us. Whether you wanted to or not you gotta write a rap and it’s gotta be based on Christianity. I remember the first bar I wrote. It said ‘Jesus Christ is our Lord and our savior, he can even save a pimp and a player’. I was in third grade. I wrote that,” he tells me laughing.
The bar was memorable for more than just the obvious comical reason. Following that, one of the program leaders called R.U.D.Y into his office. Like most kids, he immediately thought he was in trouble for the lyrics. To his surprise, the leader was impressed. “He was like, there’s no way a kid should be able to write this good. You have a talent man, a REAL talent for writing that isn’t normal for a kid your age.” So, R.U.D.Y kept writing.
His talents paid off again in high school. In 2012, R.U.D.Y became part of a hip-hop theater program. It was his first time on stage since rapping in the after school program in third grade. “We had this little cipher to start the show off. I was next to last, and whenever I would finish my verse, I would get a huge response. Like, when everybody else finished theirs, they would get a little applause but when I finished mine, it would be a very noticeable difference. I remember being like, oh shit. I think I really got something.”
Since then, R.U.D.Y’s been working. To be clear, when I say working I don’t mean just making music here and there. Sure he’s released countless EPs and mixtapes, but more than that, R.U.D.Y has been actively and consistently bettering himself. His day job requires him to be outside in the Memphis heat all day but he doesn’t mind because he spends the time listening to self-improvement podcasts, books on tape or the Bible (oh, and of course his own music). He spends hours in the gym purely to build muscle and stamina for live shows. He’s a lifelong learner and every little bit of new information he absorbs somehow presents itself in his music. It’s a fascinating dedication that is increasingly rare in an industry that often values immediacy over quality.
R.U.D.Y sums this up in one word: perseverance. It’s the theme for his music, but more so his life. “With my music, I wanna teach people to persevere through whatever the fuck you’re going through, to make it through to the other side. I want to teach people how to change their mentality because I realized that with the change of mentality comes a change in everything else,” he explains.
“I remember I told myself this is the last job I’ll ever have. After this, I’m going to be a successful artist. I don’t give a fuck. I don’t care how good the job is, this is the last one. And I might look crazy to people because I got a whole ass degree, but I’m building a business and brand with this. Every single day when I go to work, I don’t wanna be comfortable. I’ve learned to become comfortable inside of discomfort. That’s perseverance.”
You hear this idea in his latest single, “Show Improvement.” In it, R.U.D.Y raps about overcoming all life dealt him in order to succeed. Over masterful production by TP 808s, Leemvrs, and Doc Playboi, he confidently drops lines like “I’ve been down so long all I can see is up” and “Those losses turned to lessons, turned to blessings, don’t believe in luck,” before arriving at the song’s triumphant hook “I’m not just gonna fix it bitch, I’m gonna make improvements.” The song is powerful, inspirational, but also just really fucking good.
When I ask what more musically R.U.D.Y has in store, he smiles really big, almost as if he’s still in disbelief of the names he’s about to drop. (No, I can’t disclose specifics, but I can say big things are happening). He’s excited about the now, but as always, he’s more focused on the future. He might be sitting across from me physically, but mentally he’s recording his next project, filming his next music video, and prepping for his next live show. R.U.D.Y is unstoppable because he’s not afraid of failure and he welcomes challenges. His mindset is just different.
“When young artists ask me what advice I have to give them, I say ‘you gotta be ready to make a hit record every day or make the best song that ever existed, every day…and for no one to give a fuck. And that’s okay,” he tells me laughing as he lights his blunt. “I’m at a point where I wanna do this exactly how I wanna do this unapologetically. And if we fail, who gives a fuck?”