Nelson George's 5 Favorite Tiny Desk Concerts

Nelson George, author, cultural critic and filmmaker with a passion for African American culture, picks his favorite soulful Tiny Desk concerts.

Daniel Caesar performs a Tiny Desk Concert on April 30, 2018. // NPR, Morgan Noelle Smith

It's hard to pick five out of the rich cannon of Tiny Desk concerts, but since you've asked...

  • Daniel Caesar's falsetto is a gem, one that sparkles particularly well in tandem with female vocalists. So it's not surprising that the high point of an excellent 2018 performance is a duet with H.E.R. on the slow jam "Best Part."
  • Michael Kiwanuka has a soul man's voice and a folk singer's vision. These two sides of the British performer are quite apparent on his poignant 2020 pandemic year appearance.
  • Raphael Saadiq has done multiple Tiny Desk sets, but none present his deeply soulful songwriting and vocals better than this 2009 appearance in support of his superb The Way I See It album. Dressed suit and tie fly, playing acoustic guitar and backed by just another guitar, Saadiq graces the Tiny Desk with a set of retro-nuevo songs that honors the rich storytelling tradition of R&B.
  • Been a fan of Tank and the Bangas since I saw them light up a Brooklyn club with their spirit and electric stage presence. Their 2017 Tiny Desk gig captures that magic.
  • Anderson .Paak raps, sings, and does both while playing a trap drum set. He and his Free Nationals did a dynamic set in 2016 when .Paak was just emerging from the underground. —Nelson George, author, cultural critic and filmmaker.


Tiny Desks In This Playlist

Daniel Caesar
Michael Kiwanuka
Raphael Saadiq
Tank And The Bangas
Anderson .Paak & The Free Nationals

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