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'Hope, Rage And Cries For Help': 5 Essential Tiny Desk Concerts

As a black man on the Tiny Desk team, I've always felt a responsibility to amplify black artistry. In the aftermath of the death of George Floyd, the subsequent protests and the fight for legislative reform, I sit in this moment and reflect on how many artists have used their Tiny Desk concerts to express themselves, including songs of protest, cries for help, and messages of hope and rage.

As I rewatched "Bells (Ring Loudly)" from Terri Lyne Carrington + Social Science's Tiny Desk concert, the frustration and pain set in instantly and dozens of other shows came to mind. Amber Navran of Moonchild issued a call to action for black lives during the band's set. "Blue Lights," from Jorja Smith's set, highlights the injustices that black people have endured at the hands of police officers and Brittany Howard's stunning "Goat Head" tells a traumatic story from her own childhood, when her interracial family was targeted and harassed. Common's powerful "Letter to the Free" took on new meaning as he performed from the White House Library.

There's no one statement to fix any of this. But we can look and listen to the people who've helped to expose these societal woes at the Tiny Desk to get a better understanding of where we were, where we are and where we could be.

Tiny Desks In This Playlist

Terri Lyne Carrington + Social Science


Jorja Smith

Brittany Howard

Common At The White House

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Bobby Carter is a leader on the Tiny Desk Concerts team for NPR Music. He's brought an ever growing roster of big names and emerging artists through NPR's HQ to squeeze behind the desk of All Songs Considered host Bob Boilen and record standout performances, including Usher, Mac Miller, Noname, Anderson.Paak and H.E.R.