Sidney Madden

There's a certain unspoken euphoria in knowing exactly who you are. It's like a tiny party-of-one celebration when you check in with yourself, verifying that you're actually living your truth out loud. And yes, the practice of that check-in is always changing because your truth is subject to change. But the moving target is always worth the pursuit.

This week's Heat Check picks stand out not for sounding different, but for already feeling oddly familiar. Though all of these tracks are new releases, there's something lived-in about each one. Sometimes close to home is the best jumping off point.

BJ the Chicago Kid took the roughly 15 minutes we generally allot for a Tiny Desk performance as a challenge. The 34-year old R&B mainstay used his moment at the desk to fit in as many of his most cherished songs as possible — Nine songs in 17 minutes to be exact.

Don't be fooled. Spooky season isn't just reserved for the weeks leading up to Halloween. As the season shifts into colder temps, cradling death is just part of the process.

"I can twerk to anything. I'd twerk to Mozart!"

A bold statement. One I overheard through the chatter and bass of a Halloween party this past weekend. From across the living room-turned-dance floor, whose hardwood bore the scuff marks from shoes, scrapes from Ikea couches and a weird, sticky splotch that definitely fell into the category of "We'll worry about that later," homegirl in a Guy Fieri costume (let that part sink in) proclaimed herself to be a cross-genre twerker.

It's crazy what can change in a year. This time last fall, Megan Thee Stallion was rapping her heart out at local shows, balancing classes at Texas Southern University and occasionally dropping a fire freestyle video shot in a suburban cul-de-sac driveway. Since then, the brilliant and bodacious Houston rapper has ascended to major festival stages, become one of the most sought-after features on other stars' songs and electrified late-night television.

After some confusion, mixed messaging and conflicting timelines, Kanye West's ninth studio album, Jesus Is King, has arrived. In conjunction with the music, the Chicago rapper announced a new documentary film, also called Jesus is King, due out Oct. 25 exclusively on IMAX theaters.

You can stream this playlist on Spotify.

Letting a song take you away has become increasingly difficult. Using music to get through life often means multitasking while you listen; getting ready, commuting, working, studying, showering, practicing, cooking, eating, cleaning...

Letting your thoughts swim in its zenosyne to a curated soundtrack almost sounds like a luxury.

Where FOMO and self-care has become commercialized to justify ridiculous purchases (please don't look at my Amazon Prime history), these songs of catharsis are just what you need to disconnect. Whether you're scorned, scathed and in the midst of plotting or just peacefully seeking a reset, these artists know the feeling.

As always, check out the Heat Check playlist in its entirety on Spotify.


"Music discovery" isn't just some catchy tagline we deploy in press releases. The staff of NPR Music lives for finding compelling, exhilarating, jaw-dropping talent from every genre and giving those artists the space to shine. And not to pat ourselves on the back or anything — *pat pat* — but out of the nearly 900 Tiny Desk concerts we've published, a bunch have created star-making moments for boldface names in popular music.

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