"Beggin For Thread" 0:01
Stephen Thompson wrote: When you go to a Dave Matthews Band concert, you expect a super-sized performance, complete with expansive solos and a nice, long set list. So when Matthews shed his backing players to swing by the Tiny Desk for a solo gig, he couldn't just knock out three songs and bail. Instead, he played a set so long — so defiantly un-Tiny — that his between-song banter could have filled a Tiny Desk concert on its own.
After a bit of judicious trimming, we're still left with this warm, winning, utterly game, happily overstuffed performance, which balances songs from Dave Matthews Band's new album Come Tomorrow ("Samurai Cop," "Here on Out") with older material (1998's "Don't Drink the Water," 2012's "Mercy") and a deeper cut from his 2003 solo album ("So Damn Lucky"). And, we had to leave in some of Matthews' banter, which includes a priceless bit in which he enthusiastically illustrates some of the many differences between playing on stage with a band and sitting at an office desk with an acoustic guitar.
"Samurai Cop (Oh Joy Begin)"
"Here on Out"
"Don't Drink the Water"
"So Damn Lucky"
Abby O'Neill wrote:It had been nearly a decade since Rakim released new music, but that drought ended Friday when the godfather of rap lyricism and one half of the revered duo Eric B & Rakim released a new song, "King's Paradise." The track was written for Season 2 of Marvel's Luke Cage, which premiered on Netflix the same day, but it wasn't entirely new to select NPR staff; they heard it days earlier when the God MC performed at the Tiny Desk.
The New York rap icon wasn't the only legend in the building that day. Ali Shaheed Muhammad of A Tribe Called Quest — who produced and co-wrote "King's Paradise" with keyboardist Adrian Younge under their new project The Midnight Hour — played bass, and rising blues torchbearer Christone "Kingfish" Ingram sat in on guitar.
"King's Paradise" pays homage to the heroes of the Harlem Renaissance as well as its fictional superhero, the bulletproof Luke Cage. Rakim tipped his hat to Philip Payton Jr., Joe Lewis, Lena Horne, Malcolm X, Maya Angelou and Louis Armstrong, before concluding with a few bars about the comic book-inspired series.
Younge then led the nine-member backing band through two of Rakim's undeniable classics: "Paid in Full" and "Know the Ledge." For the former, drummer David Henderson rolled right in with the unmistakable breakbeat, — originally sampled from The Soul Searchers "Ashley's Roachclip." Muhammad, who's been playing bass since age 19 despite being known for his production and DJ work, provided the low end for "Know The Ledge."
Rakim released his first single 32 years ago, yet the timbre of his voice and Dali Llama aura remain strong. Let's hope this is the beginning of another renaissance.
"Paid In Full"
"Know The Ledge"
Rakim (vocals), Adrian Younge (keys), Ali Shaheed Muhammad (bass), Jack Waterson (guitar), David Henderson (drums), Loren Oden (vocals), Saudia Mills (vocals), Angela Munoz (vocals), Stephanie Yu (violin), Bryan Hernandez-Luch (violin), DeAndre Shaifer (trumpet) , Jordan Pettay (saxophone), Joi Gilliam (vocalist), Christone Ingram (Kingfish) (guitar)
Bob Boilen wrote:It was a late night at an unfamiliar club in Austin, Texas when the spirit, sound, lights and costumes of the Golden Dawn Arkestra put a huge, dreamy smile on my face. It took more than three years to get ten of the players and performers in this band (there are often even more) to my desk. I tried to transform the bright daylight of the NPR office with some of my handy, previously used holiday laser lights. But honestly, it wasn't until their psychedelic jazz kicked in that the office transformation felt real. Band leader, Topaz squawked through his megaphone to join them on their journey, while singing "Children of the Sun."
Topaz told me that the band's inspiration for both the name and the spirit of the musicians is loosely based on the Hermetic Order of the Golden Dawn. The organization, devoted to the study of the occult and paranormal activities, has been around since the 19th century.
Both of Topaz's parents were heavily into spiritual movements and what happens here falls somewhere between high art and a circus, with music that feels connected to Sun Ra's jazz, the extended musical adventures of The Doors and the surprise elements of Parliament-Funkadelic. You can dance and/or trance, or sit back and enjoy the spectacle.
"Children of the Sun"
"Zapot Mgawi" Topaz McGarrigle (Vocals, Organ, Synth), "Zumbi" Chris Richards (Trombone, Vocals), "Malika" Sarah Malika Boudissa (Baritone Sax, Vocals), "Isis of Devices" Laura Scarborough (Vocals, Vibraphone), "Yeshua Villon" Josh Perdue (Guitar), "Shabuki" Greg Rhoades (Bass), "Lost In Face" Rob Kidd (Drums), "Oso the Great" Alex Marrero (Percussion), "Rosietoes" Christinah Rose Barnett (Vocals, Tambourine)
Bob Boilen wrote:It's as if the pianos were haunted. Somewhere about midway through this Tiny Desk, as Icelandic composer Ólafur Arnalds performed on his electronic keyboard, two upright pianos were playing lilting melodies behind him, absent any performer at the keys. And yet these "ghosts," along with Ólafur's band of strings and percussion, put together some of the most beautiful music I've heard at the Tiny Desk, made all the more mysterious through its presentation.
About ten minutes into the performance Ólafur looked behind him at the two pianos, looked to the NPR crowd and said, "well I guess you're all wondering 'what and why,' to which there's no easy answer." He hit the keys on his electronic keyboard and the two pianos behind responded with cascading, raindrop-like notes. "What I can say," he continued, "is that I've spent two years and all of my money on this — to make my pianos go bleep-bloop." What Ólafur was referring to is software that he and his coder friend, Halldór Eldjárn developed. A computer, loaded with this musical software (which Ólafur calls the Stratus system), "listens" to Ólafur's keyboard performance and responds by creating patterns that are musically in tune with the chord or notes Ólafur performed.
So why do this? Basically, it's a way to break out of the box musicians often fall back on as performers — the familiar responses that years of playing can reinforce. With that is the hope that the computer will create a response that is unfamiliar and, in some cases through speed of performance and the sheer number of notes played, impossible for a human to have made. So, it breathes new life into the music for the listener and the performer.
It was a gently stunning and memorable Tiny Desk. More of these creations can be heard on Ólafur Arnalds' brilliant, fourth solo album re: member. The full album is out August 24 on Mercury KX.
Ólafur Arnalds (keys), Viktor Arnason (violin), Unnur Jónsdóttir (cello), Katie Hyun (violin), Karl James Pestka (viola), Manu Delago (percussion)
Bob Boilen wrote:As the primary booker of the Tiny Desk Concerts, I have this self-imposed rule: No artist can come back for a second visit unless there's something wholly different about what they're doing. The first time alt-J played the Tiny Desk, in 2012, they came as a four-piece; electric guitar, bass, keyboards and drums. They were a pretty new band, their album had been out a few months and they were playing in clubs for a couple hundred people, not much more.
In the five years since the band visited it has found quite a few new fans. When I heard cuts from the newest album Relaxer a few months ago I flipped and tried to think of a way to bring them back. So I wrote them, saying I'd love to have them again but that it would have to be wholly, out-of-the-box different. I told them I'd hire a brass band, an African kora player if need be, a string section... They took up the challenge. They told me to find a cellist and two violinists.
I wrote to my friend Carol Anne Bosco, a cellist, who turned out to be a huge fan of the band and helped find two violinists for the performance. About four days before the performance the band sent the string parts, written by their friend Will Gardner.
On Monday morning, the English band met the American string players and they all gathered behind my desk. As they worked their way through a first pass at "Three Worn Words," I noticed them and relieved — alt-J had actually never heard the string arrangements, this was the first time. They sounded beautiful. By noon, NPR employees and friends gathered around my desk to witness this astonishing concert from alt-J, including two new songs and two old favorites. Magic.
Codeblue wrote:Try vigorously rubbing yer peen on it several times.
Felix Contreras wrote:When the 10 members of Tower of Power were in place behind Bob Boilen's desk, strategically positioned around the band's famous five-piece horn section, their first collective blast three beats into the sound check literally made the video crew jump. It was more a force of nature than a sound, and an impressive display of the "five fingers operating as one hand" concept of band cohesiveness.
From the group's beginning in Oakland in 1968, its soul disciples stood out from the peace-and-love scene in the San Francisco Bay. Their dedication to the horn-driven soul heard on recordings from the Stax and Atlantic record labels evolved to such a sophisticated level as to make the Tower of Power Horns an entity unto themselves. Eventually artists as diverse as Santana, the Grateful Dead and even Elton John enlisted them to give their music an authentic connection to the scene.
I have to confess that this show was mostly a labor of self-indulgent love, since I've been a fan since about 1972. So it was a joy to listen to the unmistakable sounds of my youth as the band delivered both "What Is Hip" and "So Very Hard to Go" with so much vitality, it sounded as if they were just written last week. During the performance of the title track from their new album, "The Soul Side of Town," the playing, the passion and the precision remains unchanged after all the years.
1968 was one hell of a year musically, as we've seen from this year's many anniversary celebrations of albums, events and bands. Add Tower of Power to that shortlist of artists for whom that moment was an early rehearsal for what would become a five decade career. A band this big will inevitably have some members come and go, but it's important to note that the original songwriting nucleus of bari saxophonist Stephen "Funky Doctor" Kupa and bandleader/tenor saxophonist Emilio Castillo continue to write and perform, as does original drummer David Garibaldi.
I want to write that the band has become an institution. But that conjures images of stuffy old men looking down professorially on youthful funksters, occasionally showing them how it was done in a long-lost golden era. Instead, Tower of Power remains as vital and full of life-affirming funk and soul, if not more, as they were in 1968. The band's dedication, hard work and connection to us long-time fans prove that a good idea is timeless. If you need proof, just watch this video.
Congrats, fellas. It's been a very soulful 50 years.
"On the Soul Side of Town"
"So Very Hard to Go"
"What Is Hip?"
Rodney Carmichael wrote:Tip "T.I." Harris has lived the last 15 years of his life on the big stage. Fans have watched him rise, fall and ascend to new heights again, remaking himself each step of the way. From dope boy to dope emcee. From inmate to activist. From reality star and box-office draw to real estate developer and film producer.
But the Tiny Desk has a way of stripping even the biggest acts back down to their musical essence. For Tip, that meant stretching beyond his comfort zone again, this time by rapping along to a group of high school string players instead of his classic tracks. Without his usual audio prompts, he kept lyric sheets close at hand while running through the definitive street hits "Rubber Band Man," "What You Know" and the Billboard 100 chart topper featuring Rihanna, "Live Your Life." He may have stumbled a few times, but when you've successfully reinvented your career as often as Tip has had to it's probably hard to stick to the same old script.
As for Tip's Tiny Desk transformation, he brought along his mini orchestra of young talent from Atlanta to fill in for Rihanna. The artists in training, from the non-profit Atlanta Music Project, put a classical twist on his street anthems, adding strings and brass in place of 808 bass. "That's a true example that really says that you're never defined by your environment unless you want to be," Tip said, crediting the youngsters for their commitment to craft. Meanwhile, he kept his set funky with off-the-cuff stories of the drama behind his music — like the time when he found out, after shooting the video for "Rubber Band Man" with Puff Daddy, that his home had been raided by police. "This music was about the elements that people have to endure in their lives every day and find a brighter side and make a way out of no way," he said. "That's what this music represents."
This year marks the 15th anniversary of Trap Muzik, the sophomore album that branded T.I. King of the South and birthed an Atlanta movement that would eventually give hip-hop a global makeover. The music gave voice to a discarded generation stuck between socioeconomic despair and criminal exploits. In a genre where the performance of authenticity snares talented artists in their own trap, Tip has conquered those demons. His last album, Us Or Else found him raising a conscious fist in unity against the systemic inequality highlighted by the Movement for Black Lives. Now, with more movie credits to his name than solo albums, his most respected role has been serving as part of Atlanta Mayor Keisha Lance Bottoms' transition team. But Tip's past is still present. In addition to investing in the redevelopment of Bankhead — the west Atlanta community that raised him and gave him game — he plans to return to his metaphoric roots on his next studio album, The Dime Trap.
Indeed, Tip still knows all about that.
"Rubber Band Man"
"What You Know"
"Live Your Life"
Rodney Carmichael wrote:During a career nearly three decades in the making, Tech N9ne has dodged the fickle rap industry while surfing his own wave, stylistically and professionally. The Kansas City native has been a beast for years now, a musical misfit who laid a track record of underground success and struggle before building his own independent empire with Strange Music.
"This is how we laugh at all the other rappers," Strange Music comrade Krizz Kaliko says, letting out a belly laugh near the end of duo's Tiny Desk set. Kaliko is another K.C. native and kindred spirit of Tech N9ne's. Together, they've carved out an unorthodox niche: chopper-style speed rap that often plumbs dark, emotional depths.
Their playful banter between songs personifies that creative connection, as Krizz delivers backing vocals and guest verses from the soul. Backed by a guitar, drums and bass for their Tiny Desk, the trio brought out the rock-tinged hues of such definitive Tech N9ne songs as "Dysfunctional," "Aw Yeah? (interVENTion)" – dedicated to his mother who died from lupus in 2014 – and "Fragile," originally assisted by Kendrick Lamar, Mayday and Kendall Morgan.
To close the set, Tech and Krizz performed "Speedom (Worldwide Choppers 2)," a song inspired by folk rocker Richie Havens' original classic "Freedom." After years traveling his own path, it's a fitting way to define Tech N9ne's wildly independent approach.
"Aw Yeah? (interVENTion)"
"Speedom (Worldwide Choppers 2)"
Bob Boilen wrote:About a year ago, Ten Flowers, the debut album from Kalbells, came out and brought me a great deal of joy. At the Tiny Desk, the solo project morphed into a full-fledged band, where they debuted the tune "Droolerz." That song opens with camaraderie - "I want a house / where everybody comes" – and continues with a line that epitomizes the carefree humor of singer Kalmia Traver: "We could play drums and eat lobster at the opera." The band makes life-affirming music that Kalmia created over the past few years, filled with the triumph of being cancer free. The joie de vivre is palpable.
This isn't the first time Kalmia has performed a Tiny Desk concert. Her other band, Rubblebucket, brought their circus of contagious fun here more than three years ago. But for Kalbells and for Kalmia, Ten Flowers was about healing through expression, exploring uncharted musical landscapes and finding her voice outside of her tight partnership with Rubblebucket's Alex Toth. She used a tiny little synthesizer called the Critter & Guitari Pocket Piano to create random patterns that she improvised lyrics over before tearing it apart and pulling it back together, tightening the melody and lyrics. She then was joined by drummer Ian Chang, and though not in the band that came to NPR, he certainly helped shaped the rhythms of these songs. Her own saxophone playing at the Tiny Desk demonstrates the width of her musical palette adding harshness and deep character to these somewhat airy songs, and her talented minimalist band let her shine.
"Craving Art Droplets"