An artist having an NPR Tiny Desk concert is no small feat (pun intended). But it’s also one of the best ways we as fans can indulge in our favorite musician’s music. The sets are so raw, authentic, and way more low-key than watching a live stream from a festival. You can definitely rely on a Tiny Desk performance for a much-needed way to relax and see different, unfamiliar sides of some your favorite musicians.
Last year, we shared our first list of the 15 Best NPR Tiny Desk Concerts and you really seemed to like it. So we’re back at it again with 15 more of our top picks.
Experience some good music with us by checkout out our list below!
If you’re missing that old-school soulful R&B sound from the late ’90s and early 2000s and you haven’t heard of H.E.R. yet, you’re sleeping. But this Tiny Desk concert might be the perfect introduction to the singer. She enlists two backup singers and h.e.r. band to create just the right backdrop to spotlight her tender vocals and romantic lyrics.
Big Boi (2018)
Antwan “Big Boi” Patton from the ground-breaking, pioneering (and my favorite music act of all time) Outkast introduces this set as his “3 big songs behind one tiny ass desk.” Pretty much the perfect way to sum it up, actually. Big Boi and his crew perform “So Fresh, So Clean”, “All Night” and “The Way You Move” so get ready to throw it all the way back to the golden era of hip-hop. We love a good throwback, but the scratching, trumpets, and rest of the band truly bring this set to the next level.
Masego murders this tiny desk set. He starts off strong with his most notable work “Tadow” and keeps the energy up with “Nayhoo”, “Queen Things”, “Black Love” and “I Do Everything.” The R&B vocalist even takes a few minutes to make the crowd smile between sets, really giving us the full concert experience. And of course, you can definitely expect Masego‘s signature sexy saxophone solo.
Run The Jewels (2017)
To take things up a notch, watch legendary hip-hop duo Run The Jewels take over the Tiny Desk series. The two really engage with the crowd, giving a different edge to the usual vibe of the series. Trackstar the DJ joins to bring the beats to Killer Mike and El-P’s conversational streams of consciousness and effortless flows. The relationship between the two is actually really cute to watch, too.
Alycia Keys (2020)
The Queen of R&B needs no introduction. Everyone and their moms know Alicia Keys. So you can understand why she’s on our list of the best Tiny Desk Concerts. As she starts off by playing the piano, she gives a small speech about how the world needs love right now. The set was posted during the peak of the Black Lives Matter movement in June of last year, and coincidentally, was recorded right before we went into a worldwide lockdown. Truly a must-watch if you’re looking for some comfort. She even ends the set with her hit, “Fallin'”, if you’re in the mood for a throwback. You can also read our full review on her performance here.
Toro y Moi (2019)
Chaz Bear, famously known as Toro y Moi has such an eclectic range of musical talent, that we weren’t sure what type of vibe he was going to pull up with. In this fresh and funky set, he shows off his masterful musicality and wide range of influences from every genre. With the help of his band, Toro y Moi gives us 15 minutes of heaven here.
Noname is not only one of the best rising talents of the last few years, but she has also become one of the most powerful Black voices in progressive politics. But if you’re anything like us and need a 15-minute break from the harsh realities of the world before getting back to work, then this set is for you. Noname’s flow is so melodic and unique, really making her a rapper you should have on your radar. Watch her soothingly spit bars from her critically-acclaimed mixtape, Telefone.
Florence + The Machine (2018)
Florence Welch’s haunting vocals take the spotlight in this Tiny Desk concert. Florence + The Machine has never been known for huge cinematics, but the even more stripped-down version of their concerts is so organic, genuine, and beautiful. Funnily enough though, in this set, you can find the band’s big ass harp behind NPR’s tiny desk.
There aren’t many musicians as versatile as Thundercat. The Suicidal Tendencies graduate shows off his skills in this performance, performing “Lava Lamp”, “Friend Zone” and “Them Changes”. This set is short and sweet, but gives you 10 minutes of exactly what you need.
Rex Orange County (2020)
Rex Orange County is a true Soundcloud success story. We were very hyped to see him snag a set at Tiny Desk and we’re even more hyped to include him in this list. If you’re going to watch this, get ready to simp because Rex always goes heavy on the romance. And the live instruments take it even a step further.
Big K.R.I.T. (2018)
Big K.R.I.T.‘s Tiny Desk is criminally underrated. The rapper and record producer’s voice will soothe your soul, his rhymes are both creative and comforting, and his passion truly shines through as he performs. Enjoy Big K.R.I.T. and his band playing “Mixed Messages”, “Keep The Devil Off”, “Bury Me In Gold.”
Jorja Smith (2018)
Jorja Smith and her angelic voice are quite literally immaculate. In this set, with the help of her band, she gives a jazz take on her bangers, “On My Mind”, “Teenage Fantasy” and “Blue Lights.” The English songstress actually ended her 2018 tour by stopping by the NPR office and we can’t thank her enough for it.
Multi-faceted Canadian outfit BADBADNOTGOOD gained notoriety for their instrumental renditions of songs from hip-hop icons, leading them to even produce an LP for Ghostface Killah. In this set, they showcase their brilliant technical music skill via their jazzy, vintage, soulful sound. They also enlist Charlotte Day Wilson for their collaborative hit, “In Your Eyes.”
Randy Newman (2017)
Randy Newman might have one of the most iconic and recognizable sounds of all time. Newman has won three Emmys and seven Grammys and is widely recognized as a Disney Legend (Toy Story), so you already know this set isn’t one to miss. This tender performance will definitely give you a lighthearted laugh and bring some warmth to your heart.
Tedeschi Trucks Band (2016)
The combined talent of married couple Derek Trucks and Susan Tedeschi is off the charts. While Derek shows off some amazing licks on his one-of-a-kind sounding slide guitar, Susan has the absolute perfect southern rock / blues voice to go with it. The two complement each other to create immaculate synergy. Their band backs them both splendidly during this grand Tiny Desk performance.