Sidney Madden

The Tiny Desk is working from home for the foreseeable future. Introducing NPR Music's Tiny Desk (home) concerts, bringing you performances from across the country and the world. It's the same spirit — stripped-down sets, an intimate setting — just a different space.

You gotta respect when an artist stays consistent with their artistry, no matter how long they're deemed to be "still bubbling," niche or just generally under the radar. Sometimes it's those who stay underrated for years and then finally "pop" who savor the success in more humble and innovative ways.

In a week of rapid headlines, surprise releases and cautious re-opening of businesses, the world is attempting to get back to some semblance of normalcy. Still, on the other side of the 2020, the COVID-19 outbreak and the reinvigorated Black Lives Matter movement offer proof that nothing will really ever be the same. This week's Heat Check picks attempt to balance the high-wire of restoring the feeling without disregarding reality.

Music is canonizing this moment in history at rapid speed. Across rap, R&B and avant-garde soul, we're hearing the creative juices flowing, giving reason and song to racing thoughts. Some artists remain on the front lines of the Black Lives Matter movement. Others turn inward to journal their time in isolation. And some commit to album roll-outs that show their maturation even in the mayhem.

Whether it's a trap anthem for the protests or a tale of petty deceit, this week's Heat Check considers the bigger picture during a period of time that we're never going to forget.

The Tiny Desk is working from home for the foreseeable future. Introducing NPR Music's Tiny Desk (home) concerts, bringing you performances from across the country and the world. It's the same spirit — stripped-down sets, an intimate setting — just a different space.

The Tiny Desk is working from home for the foreseeable future. Introducing NPR Music's Tiny Desk (home) concerts, bringing you performances from across the country and the world. It's the same spirit — stripped-down sets, an intimate setting — just a different space.

As Black Lives Matter protesters remain loud and consistent in the streets of America, the artists who've always spoken truth to power are doing so once again, giving the fight a beat to stay on course. Hip-hop has always carried the message of Black resistance in its cultural DNA — you can hear rowdy escapism, intimate self-preservation, glitzy and iced-out opulence or straight-up defiance against oppression. As for soul and R&B?

Even in the best of times, many look to live music as a crucial resource — a place to turn for comfort, community and relief from anxiety — and can scarcely imagine their lives without it. For the past few months, the coronavirus pandemic has closed down venues around the country, and it's hard to picture when gathering in nightclubs or amphitheaters will be deemed safe again.

If you saw the first Heat Check Live on NPR Music's Instagram this past weekend, you rocked with us for a live DJ set of all your favorite new songs. Afterward, New York-based artist Linda Diaz, whose work has been featured on Heat Check before, reminded us why we create spaces for the playlist to exist: "Community is invaluable. Black joy is radical," she wrote.

Anyone else starting to feel like the concept of time is a mushy, nebulous, philosophical joke? Feeling fully in the throes of a never-ending limbo, leaning on music as a grounding source of energy has felt more important than ever.

Luckily for fans of R&B, hip-hop, pop and soul, our favorite artists have kept new music coming. Whether they're making daily creations or finally letting go of months' worth of work, we're thankful for new sounds to fill these moments of unrest and static.

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