The Tiny Desk Concert. It’s a dream and a milestone for bands all over the country, even the world. Musicians of all backgrounds have made their way here: DC go-go bands. Atlanta rappers. British superstars. Spanish crooners. The Blue Man Group. Even Korean folk groups dressed in drag have performed at NPR HQ. So for the fourth year in a row, NPR held the Tiny Desk Contest to find the country’s best unsigned artist (as decided by a panel of NPR Music writers and a few musicians) and give them the opportunity to perform at the Tiny Desk and reach thousands (if not hundreds of thousands) of eager listeners. This year’s winner was LA-based guitarist and busker Naia Izumi, whose simply-filmed, slightly-cramped recording featured a drum machine, a loop pedal, and some impressive guitar skills. On the night of his Tiny Desk Concert filming, NPR’s Studio 1 room was opened to the public for a performance before he embarks on a nationwide Tiny Desk Contest tour. While the other tour stops will feature local bands that ranked high on the final list of entries, the DC performance was all about Izumi.
For the past two years, Lil Uzi Vert has stood out as one of rap's brightest stars. The ascension from Soundcloud sensation to self-proclaimed "rock star" has been fast-tracked, powered by multiple mixtapes, two top ten Billboard singles ("XO TOUR Llif3" and "Bad and Boujee"), and a #1 debut album in Luv Is Rage 2 released in late August. The Philadelphia native took advantage of his momentum this year by kicking off his holiday tour A Very Uzi Christmas with 6,000 fans in attendance for the Anthem's first hip-hop concert.
Yes, NPR Music is only ten years old. Although All Songs Considered is going on 18 years strong, the coalition of NPR member stations from across the country was founded in 2007 to centralize the regional tastemakers that bring us shows like World Cafe or Jazz Night in America. It's hard to overstate its cultural influence on music in that short time, most notably with the Tiny Desk Concert video series, where up-and-comers like Diane Coffee and established arena acts like Adele come to perform. In the spirit of the brevity-focused music series, seven bands and musicians took to the stage to play three or four songs each. The event quickly sold out the day it went on sale. But the plot twist? NPR kept the lineup a secret until the moment they came on stage. Of course, when you're NPR Music, it's not hard to ask the public to place your trust in them.