8 Kansas City Artists Who Marked Their Communities | KCUR 89.3

Every moment, Kansas City creatives bare their souls in concert venues, studios and metro neighborhoods. The urban scene has experienced a renaissance at the hands of these artists—some of whom are musicians deeply rooted in their communities, illuminating civic issues, amplifying historically silenced voices, and developing future leaders through the power of music.

In this edition of Slingshot City Scenes, 90.9 The Bridge highlights eight musicians who are agents of change in Kansas City and surrounding areas.

Eddie Moore

Often forgotten about Kansas City’s coveted place in jazz history is the improvisational and experimental spirit that fueled pioneers like Charlie Parker, Mary Lou Williams and Count Basie. Pianist Eddie Moore keeps this tradition alive in his modern interpretation of jazz with colorful filigrees of R&B, rock and hip-hop, as he demonstrates here with his band We The People. The musician and lecturer at the University of Kansas also runs Tribe Studios KC, a full-service arts incubator that aims to nurture and develop the profile of professional Black artists in Kansas City.

Ibérica file

Thanks in part to cultural institutions like Ensemble Ibérica, Kansas City boasts a diverse, world-class music and arts scene. Led by artistic director and prodigious musician Beau Bledsoe—whose musical focus ranges from Spanish flamenco and Portuguese fado to Turkish oud and classical country—Ensemble Ibérica offers a more comprehensive look at musical history through the lens of the Iberian diaspora. Drawing heavily on the classical and folkloric traditions of Spain, Portugal, Mexico and Central America, the ensemble offers a music exchange program that immerses local artists in other cultures and brings that music back to the Heartland to enrich local audiences.

Flare Tha Rebel

Through his Art To Empower initiative, social justice is at the forefront of Flare Tha Rebel’s music career. The host deftly dissects the topics of gun violence, police brutality and mass incarceration with a fluid flow and energetic scene. Through his musical endeavors, he has also raised funds for non-profit organizations such as the Metropolitan Organization to Counter Sexual Assault, the Equal Justice Initiative, and Change The Ref.

Kemet Coleman

Over the past decade, rapper, singer and producer Kemet Coleman has shined through the cultural center of hip-hop and R&B in Kansas City. His musical activities are extensive as a solo showman, the leader of the funky party band The Phantastics and the main player in the 25-piece hip-hop big band Brass and Boujee. These creative outlets give Coleman a valuable opportunity to engage the community; one of his ventures is Troostival, a music festival that celebrates the diversity of local black creativity.


It’s easy to get swept up in Making Movies’ fusion of lively Latin rhythms and kinetic rock and roll, but that might be the least remarkable thing about this band. The band’s songs are vessels for social change—an exploration of identity and culture that pushes boundaries and finds connection through digging into the authentic roots of American music. All of this feeds into the group’s Art as Youth Mentorship music program, which gives underrepresented young musicians a unique voice through artistic development, mental health support and invaluable mentorship; several notable instructors included Kevin Morby, Jake Luppen of Hippo Campus, and Steve Berlin of Los Lobos.

They call me Sauce / NuBlvckCity

Royce Handy is a man who wears many hats—from his solo emcee project They Call Me Sauce and hip-hop collective NuBlvckCity to his work as a community organizer. Together with colleague Kartez Marcel, they founded the We Are RAP (Real And Positive) Hip Hop Education Workshop, which aims to equip teenagers with positive ways of expressing themselves through a medium they enjoy. In these multi-week workshops, students will learn literary and creative writing techniques, music theory, performance, recording tips and marketing strategies.

Black Creature (Jade Green)

Apple juice Healthy minds series will look at the role music plays in mental health, featuring songs and stories of healing and catharsis, along with the unique challenges artists and musicians face. This is a path familiar to The Black Creatures duo, who build interdimensional worlds through commentary on racial injustice, intergenerational trauma, and the human condition. In her songwriting, singer Jade Green turns to storytellers like Octavia Butler and Toni Morrison, who have built fantasy worlds to defy conventional notions of race, sexuality and gender.

Purple and undercurrents

Our final spotlight takes us about 100 miles east on I-70 from Kansas City to Columbia, Mo., where the musical duo has opened creative doors to the youth community in mid-Missouri. Over the summer, Violet Vonder Haar and Phylshawn Johnson of Violet & the Undercurrents spearheaded the opening of the Compass Music Center, a safe, creative community music space in the heart of a college town. The center fulfills the couple’s longtime dream—expanding their capacity to host year-round music camps, provide free music lessons for low-income students, and cultivate the community by providing students with invaluable knowledge to launch their music careers.

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