The 9 Most Memorable NPR Tiny Desk Concerts, Ranked
Big Bird, Bert and Ernie, Elmo, even that crazy motherfucker Cookie Monster pulled up to NPR in celebration of the franchise’s 50th anniversary two years ago. But their discrimination continues — Oscar the Grouch only briefly appears after the closing credits. More like Trashy Desk, amirite?
One of hip-hop’s most legendary producers scratching on a turntable while a live band plays instrumentals like Gang Starr’s “Moment of Truth” and Nas’ “Nas Is Like”? Inject this directly into our veins, please.
Aside from singing and playing the hell out of a saxophone, Masego had social media funnyman Renny stand in for him in the opening moments of his Tiny Desk concert. We still wanna know where dude got his sequined Michael Jackson glove.
6. Erykah Badu
A whole. Damn. Vibe.
Using red and blue lighting that was just *chef’s kiss*, Tyler set the mood for a half-sung, half-rapped performance of songs from his album Flower Boy. He wrapped things up with a hilarious call-and-response with the audience before insisting that everyone on stage share a fun fact about themselves. (We still don’t know if Tyler is actually 35% Siberian.)
4. Mac Miller
Mac Miller was a soulful dude, a fact that’s never been more apparent than his Tiny Desk performance. Released to the world just one month before Mac’s untimely death, this mini concert captures one of the final glimpses of his musical and humanly journey, singing and rhyming songs from his Swimming album with guitarists, violinists, a drummer, and a pianist holding him down.
Dweebs on the internet actually fixed their fingers to criticize this bona fide R&B star’s perceived lack of energy and enthusiasm while performing on Tiny Desk, despite her disclaimer of “freaking the hell out” due to social anxiety. First of all, Summer sounded amazing — even better than her studio recordings. And secondly, you try singing in a cramped-ass cubicle space while 300 people stare at you. Just say y’all hate Black women and go!
We already knew Anderson was hella talented when he graced Tiny Desk shortly after the release of his 2016 breakout album, Malibu. But those gifts — singing, rapping, drumming — were on full display here, which went a long way toward solidifying his star. His performance remains the series’ most streamed on YouTube to date. Yes, lawd!
In retrospect, it’s hard to fathom that a large swath of music listeners — including us and probably you, too — ever doubted T-Pain’s ability to sing well without Auto-Tune. Tiny Desk changed all of that. But according to Pain, the instantly viral, now legendary performance was impromptu. He told the Gus & Eddie Podcast that he expected a talk radio-style interview when he visited NPR; in fact, he finished a cigarette shortly before entering the building. Twenty million views later, neither T-Pain nor Tiny Desk has ever been the same. Salute.