Bobby Carter

Anyone else starting to feel like the concept of time is a mushy, nebulous, philosophical joke? Feeling fully in the throes of a never-ending limbo, leaning on music as a grounding source of energy has felt more important than ever.

Luckily for fans of R&B, hip-hop, pop and soul, our favorite artists have kept new music coming. Whether they're making daily creations or finally letting go of months' worth of work, we're thankful for new sounds to fill these moments of unrest and static.

The Tiny Desk is working from home for the foreseeable future. Introducing NPR Music's Tiny Desk (home) concerts, bringing you performances from across the country and the world. It's the same spirit — stripped-down sets, an intimate setting — just a different space.

The Tiny Desk is working from home for the foreseeable future. Introducing NPR Music's Tiny Desk (home) concerts, bringing you performances from across the country and the world. It's the same spirit — stripped-down sets, an intimate setting — just a different space.

Every now and then, you want to be shaken up and thrown off balance just a little, just to make it all still feel fresh. Consider these new tracks from Jenevieve, Yebba, Siddiq and more the audible smelling salts needed to wake up your "new releases" playlist. These Heat Check additions fall into that sweet spot of musical discovery that keeps you on your toes with every flip, pun and chord change. Some might even have you digging for samples and jumping down digital rabbit holes to track the points of musical progression.

Kick-in-the-door debuts, lowkey scorchers and dynamic rap duos fill this memorable edition of Heat Check. These are tracks that stop you in your skips and snuggle up real close with your hippocampus. The kind of songs you'll reference in conversations with your friends as big moments, either for the artists involved or the genres they hopscotch around.

The Tiny Desk is working from home for the foreseeable future. Introducing NPR Music's Tiny Desk (home) concerts, bringing you performances from across the country and the world. It's the same spirit — stripped-down sets, an intimate setting — just a different space.

One silver lining during this isolated reality is that new music is flowing like wine these days. Some artists are moving up album release dates while others are previewing long-held tracks on Instagram Live, Twitter and Soundcloud. Like many things we used to take for granted, the need for good music has never felt more urgent and we're indebted to these creatives who are getting the itch to share.

The Tiny Desk is working from home for the foreseeable future. Introducing NPR Music's Tiny Desk (home) concerts, bringing you performances from across the country and the world. It's the same spirit — stripped-down sets, an intimate setting — just a different space.

I can't recall an artist so committed to making their Tiny Desk concert memorable. I'd met with Allen Stone weeks prior to go over priorities, expectations and the usual formalities, but this was different. His questions about how to prepare for the Tiny Desk signaled to me that he held this platform in the highest regard and that this wasn't just any appearance.

"I just want you to know," Raveena told the NPR office, "that in this space that we're in, you're extremely, extremely loved." I get chills when I think about it now.

Rex Orange County, the low-key British pop star born Alex O'Connor, frames his emotions and struggles in a way that appears simple and linear at first. It's only after a few listens that you realize that most of us are incapable of the courage he demonstrates behind the microphone. The crowd of millennial and Gen Z staffers that gathered early for Rex's soundcheck at the Tiny Desk certainly appreciated that fact.

In a week of news updates on COVID-19, social distancing and looming uncertainty, music serves a unique purpose right now. Music has the power to soothe, amplify and excavate our emotions.

After years of simultaneously trendsetting and meandering in a creative purgatory, Lil Uzi Vert finally unleashed his sophomore album last Friday.

This is not a drill: Heat Check is back! After a short hiatus and some stellar, late-breaking 2019 releases, Heat Check has returned to recap you on the world of experimental R&B, hip-hop and everything in between.

SiR, the R&B singer from Inglewood, CA, seemed lost in thought as he stood behind the Tiny Desk. While his bandmates curiously bounced around the desk, joking and even searching for Bob Boilen, SiR remained particularly focused. About halfway through the performance, he eventually revealed what had been weighing on his heart. He told the NPR crowd he'd lost his infant godson a few days prior and dedicated the performance to him. "We're doing this for him.

This Tiny Desk concert was part of Tiny Desk Fest, a four-night series of extended concerts performed in front of a live audience and streamed live on YouTube, Twitter and Facebook.

Many bands make considerable adjustments to their playing style in order for their sound to properly fill the Tiny Desk space. LA-based trio Moonchild, along with three background singers and a drummer, arrived promptly for their load-in time, unpacked their gear and were ready to go within minutes. Aside from being especially efficient, their natural musical instincts made for a custom fit in our corner.

While preparing for Burna Boy's Tiny Desk appearance, it was evident early on that his performance would be strictly business. After exchanging pleasantries on the phone with his mother and manager, Bose Ogulu, she made it clear there wouldn't be time for much of anything else. "Burna has been working really hard so please bear with us," she told me. "The band will arrive well before him. Let me know the latest time at which he can arrive."

Washington D.C. rapper Wale stands as one of the most distinctive figures in hip-hop today. More than 10 years ago, the man born Olubowale Victor Akintimehin created a local buzz in the D.C. area through a host of mixtapes showcasing his skills atop popular instrumentals. What separated him from the hundreds of hopeful MCs trying to make names for themselves online was his ability to fuse go-go music — D.C.'s homegrown spin on funk — with hip-hop. Well, that and a mixtape tribute to Seinfeld.

When Ari Lennox entered NPR Headquarters to perform at the Tiny Desk, we soon learned she was a little under the weather. Draped in a long, leopard-print coat, she greeted the band and approached the desk. I asked her if she was in any shape to sing, and she assured me she was. "Oh, I'm fine and I'm ready!" With that, she slipped off her coat, took her place behind the desk and began her warm up.

Today, Aug. 8, marks the one-year anniversary of when NPR Music published the late Mac Miller's Tiny Desk. Last week, Ty Dolla $ign visited NPR headquarters to record a fantastic Tiny Desk concert of his own that will air in its entirety soon.

After giving us a series of baffling ads in the London Tube and the back pages of the Dallas Observer, Radiohead frontman Thom Yorke finally released his third solo album, ANIMA, on Thursday — meaning you won't have to listen to "Not The News" on speakerphone anymore. On this week's New Music Friday, we dive into Yorke's vivid dreamscape and its accompanying film, as well as The Black Keys' electrifying Let's Rock (their first record in five years), Freddie Gibbs and Madlib's fresh collab Bandana and more.

Georgia Anne Muldrow is all about showing and spreading love. That fact became clear as we discussed the set list for her Tiny Desk performance. She and the band were floating the possibility of swapping the duet with her partner in music and life, Dudley Perkins with another song. But she decided it was more important to showcase their shared love on the song "Flowers," originally from Perkins' 2003 album A Lil' Light.

"I wish I could've savored that moment longer," Phony Ppl lead singer Elbee Thrie said to me as we rode the elevator down, following the band's Tiny Desk performance. "I'll never forget this."

Throughout the set, you see Thrie scan the entire office, taking mental inventory of the entire experience. Phony Ppl is a group that emits a vigorous energy on and off stage. In this case, the spirit was exchanged between the band and the NPR staff from the moment they gathered behind the desk and gave a zesty greeting.

Note: NPR's First Listen audio comes down after the album is released. However, you can still listen with the Spotify and Apple Music playlists at the bottom of the page.

It was the year that trolls and tabloid fodder took over. It was the year that beef became the chief marketing strategy. It was the year that hype trumped truth. And we're not even talking politics yet.

It's been said that you only get one chance to make a first impression. In H.E.R.'s case, you get two. She stunned us as a special guest for Daniel Caesar's Tiny Desk concert earlier this year, in an appearance that showcased her vocal mastery. That earned her an invite to play again, front-and-center. She attacked her second go 'round with more fervor than the first, highlighting her skills as a multi-instrumentalist, maneuvering between acoustic and electric guitars, then the Fender Rhodes.

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