Celebrating Black Music Month with NPR's best Tiny Desk performances

With the announcement of an amazing rollout of Tiny Desk performances this month, let's take a look back at some of the best performances ever.
Chaka Kahn in Atlanta, GA
Chaka Kahn in Atlanta, GA / Paras Griffin/GettyImages

Created in 1979 by former President Jimmy Carter, Black Music Month became a platform to celebrate the African American influences that played a key role in America's most treasured cultural heritage. Dating back to the years of slavery, music has been what's considered a preservation of African culture.

While being transported to America, slaves would use musical tribal chants as a way to maintain their faith (which would eventually be labeled as gospel). This is believed to be the developing point for black music.

Black Music Month pays homage to this culture because it paved the way for the birth of new music genres such as jazz, neo-soul, soul, rap, hip-hop, R&B, funk, and much more. African American music helped the world express ourselves freely through song for several decades and for the decades to come.

Some excellent Tiny Desk performances to help celebrate Black Music Month

During Black Music Month, NPR Music announced that there will be a rollout of Tiny Desk performances as a tribute to Black Music. For those unaware, Tiny Desk is a live concert that happens in a "library/classroom style" setting. Each show highlights a legend in the music industry or an up-and-coming artist. Today's article will highlight some of the best performances to date.


What makes this entry hilarious is the fact that Juvenile had no idea that the Tiny Desk performances existed. Once he did his research, he was sold and was down to perform. This was a spectacular performance for so many reasons, but the main reason is this....hearing the intro to Back That A** Up "Classical" style. What a way to do it for the 99 and the 2000.

Anderson .Paak & The Free Nationals

This performance happened seven years ago, yet fans still flock to YouTube to watch this masterpiece. It's safe to say that Anderson .Paak's Tink Desk concert is hands down one of their top five. Anderson approaches music like an artist with his canvas...pure art. We witnessed something majestic: Anderson being able to rap against a beat all while perfectly keeping the timing on the drums.

Tyler, the Creator

When it comes to the vibes of enjoying music, setting the mood is a top priority. Nothing sets the tone like the ambiance of the room and Tyler, the Creator became the first artist in Tiny Desk history to add the mood lights in the room. To match the vibes of his performance, he snatched away the simple lighting and replaced it with fuchsia hues. This was absolute perfection.


COVID-19 changed this world forever and because of the lockdown, civilians had to find unique ways to remain entertained. Once certain restrictions were lifted, NPR decided to continue with the Tiny Desk performances. The twist? Tiny Desk "Home" Concerts.

Instead of the typical library/classroom setting, artists were able to perform in Living Room settings. While acts such as Kirk Franklin were good, the Migos did a stellar job. Using a live band, the Migos took us on a lyrical journey. What's enjoyable about this performance is how laid back it was.

Durand Bernarr

If fans don't know the name Durand Bernarr, then they may be familiar with his social media presence. Durand Bernarr is known for his amazing singing videos and being Erykah Badu's background singer. So if one is familiar with his work, they know that he knows how to put on a show. Durand was perfect for a Tiny Desk performance.

This felt like Parliament-Funkadelic, Earth, Wind & Fire, Rick James, and James Brown all rolled into one package. The biggest compliment to Durand is that his artistry is not boiled down to one genre and he let that be known. Probably the best thing about this entire performance is Durand dressing up as one of the greatest cartoon characters of all time: Bobby Proud from The Proud Family.

Alicia Keys

Alicia Keys was one of the artists who was hard to get on Tiny Desk because it was a constant rejection. NPR wanted to feature Keys for years. Finally, they got a response from her team. This is another example of an artist being the best fit for Tiny Desk because Alicia has a way of capturing the audience's attention through those 88s. It seems as though this performance was highly anticipated being that it was one of the most watched Tink Desk performances in NPR history.


Kudos to NPR for taking on a complicated task when it came to having Babyface on Tiny Desk: being able to narrow down his performance. Why? Because Babyface has his own catalog as an artist, plus the catalog of his work as a producer/songwriter. I mean come on, Babyface has two soundtracks that he penned.

This shows the true legend status of the one Kenneth "Babyface" Edmonds. What was amazing about this performance was Babyface's storytelling. Each time he performed a song that he wrote for someone else, he told the story of how the collaborations came to be. This is one of the most mesmerizing things about him; other than his outstanding talent on the mic, piano, and guitar.

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Honestly? There are no words to describe H.E.R.'s Tiny Desk performance. Take my word for it. If not, click the link above and let H.E.R. take you on a musical journey. Timeless.

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