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Noname: Tiny Desk Concert

Out of the thousand and some Tiny Desk concerts to date, it's seldom an artist returns to the Desk. But when they do, there are a couple requirements: come in a new iteration or present something completely different. In this case, the Chicago-bred, MC-activist Noname does both when she performs some revolutionary raps from her third album, Sundial, and premieres an unreleased single from hip-hop trio Ghetto Sage, made up of her and frequent collaborators, Smino and Saba.

A lot has changed since Fatimah Warner dropped her classic debut, Telefone, in 2016 and made her first appearance behind the Tiny Desk in 2017. She released a stunning follow-up, Room 25, and she even briefly paused her music career to delve deep into her work as an activist. However, holding a mirror up to herself, her community and the music industry is a signature that persists across her career, and even more so on her album Sundial.

Complemented by her dynamic six-piece band, she performs a few selects from this album including the gospel-infused "hold me down," which Noname describes perfectly as "a petty love letter to my community." Then she gets into "boomboom" featuring the vocalist Ayoni, who delivers a raw and powerful performance. She then invites Smino and Saba up to perform the unreleased "kush and love songs," delivering clever and conscious bars on top of a swing groove. Concluding the show in true Noname fashion with "balloons," she asks the audience: "Where better to do my most controversial song than NPR? Real journalism."

SET LIST

  • "namesake"
  • "hold me down"
  • "boomboom" (feat. Ayoni)
  • "Don't Forget about me"
  • "kush and love songs" (as Ghetto Sage)
  • "balloons"


MUSICIANS

  • Noname: vocals
  • Smino: vocals 
  • Saba: vocals
  • Ayoni: vocals
  • Greg Paul: drums 
  • Brooke Skye: bass
  • Cisco Swank: keys, vocals 
  • David Otis: sax, effects 
  • Kamilah: vocals, loop station 
  • Claudia Abena: vocals 


TINY DESK TEAM

  • Producer: Ashley Pointer
  • Director/Editor: Kara Frame
  • Audio Engineer: Josh Rogosin 
  • Series Producer: Bobby Carter
  • Videographers: Kara Frame, Maia Stern, Joshua Bryant, Alanté Serene
  • Audio Assistant: Josephine Nyuoni 
  • Photographer: Michael Zamora
  • Tiny Desk Team: Suraya Mohamed, Hazel Cills 
  • Series Creators: Bob Boilen, Stephen Thompson
  • VP, Visuals and Music: Keith Jenkins
  • Senior VP, Programming: Anya Grundmann

Copyright 2023 NPR. To see more, visit https://www.npr.org.

Ashley Pointer
Ashley Pointer is a news assistant for NPR Music.

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