Erykah Badu: Tiny Desk Concert The singer's performance at the Tiny Desk was an almost spiritual experience, leaving many at the NPR Music offices in awe.

Tiny Desk

Erykah Badu

Some folks around the NPR Music office said they felt an almost spiritual connection to Erykah Badu during her visit to the Tiny Desk. And that was before she and her band even played a single note. It came from the waft of earthly scents that followed in her wake, to the flowing dreads and clothes that hung on her like robes.

After her self-introduction, which included a rundown of her spiritual and creative aliases, Badu rolled into one of her earliest musical calling cards, "Rimshot." It's an ode to the sound the percussionist makes when a drumstick is struck against the metal edge of the snare drum. On this performance, as on her 1997 album Baduizm, it becomes a device to play with time — stretching it, stopping it, suspending it. Propelled by jazz chords on the piano and the steady pulse of the acoustic bass, the playful performance unfolded in the tradition of the best bebop.

But the panoramic song "Green Eyes" is the centerpiece of Badu's Tiny Desk performance. It's wide-ranging in scope and musical arrangement and brilliantly executed by the jazz and hip-hop musicians in her backing band. The story of heartbreak is striking enough, but her interpretation showcases her formidable vocal skills. By the time it was over, we were all just as emotionally and spiritually spent as she was from the experience.

Erykah Badu is an artist for the ages. To old-school jazz fans like myself, names like Nina Simone, Betty Carter and Shirley Horn come to mind as much as Billie Holiday because of Badu's singular approach to a lyric. They all cut their own creative path and left behind a legacy that you can identify with just one note. Erykah Badu is on that same path, and one day her name will be mentioned along with the other Elders who share her spirit of musical adventure.

Set List

  • "Rimshot"
  • "Green Eyes"

Musicians

Erykah Badu (lead vocals), RC Williams (Keys), Braylon Lacy (bass), Cleon Edwards (Drums), Frank Moka (Percussion), Kenneth Whalum (Sax), Keyon Harrold (Trumpet), Dwayne Kerr (Flute)

Credits

Producers: Abby O'Neill, Morgan Noelle Smith; Creative Director: Bob Boilen; Audio Engineer: Josh Rogosin; Videographers: Morgan Noelle Smith, Maia Stern, Kara Frame, Khun Minn Ohn, CJ Riculan; Production Assistants: Catherine Zhang, Téa Mottolese; Photo: Morgan Noelle Smith/NPR.

[+] read more[-] less

More From Tiny Desk

&More performs a Tiny Desk Concert on March 4, 2019 (Amr Alfiky/NPR). Amr Alfiky/NPR hide caption

toggle caption Amr Alfiky/NPR

&More (Chill Moody & Donn T)

Philadelphia Rapper Chill Moody and singer Donn T, along with their crew known as &More, were one of the standout entrants in last year's Tiny Desk Contest. They bring a message of hope and love.

Alejandro Escovedo performs a Tiny Desk Concert on Jan. 16, 2019 (Claire Harbage/NPR). Claire Harbage/NPR hide caption

toggle caption Claire Harbage/NPR

Alejandro Escovedo

The veteran rocker and a backup band from Italy play songs from their album The Crossing, chronicling an American Dream of rock and roll and Beat poetry.

Nao performs a Tiny Desk Concert on Feb. 11, 2019 (Amr Alfiky/NPR). Amr Alfiky/NPR hide caption

toggle caption Amr Alfiky/NPR

Nao

The U.K.-based singer-songwriter takes the Tiny Desk on a cosmic journey through her Saturn return.

John Paul White performs at the Tiny Desk Family Hour at Central Presbyterian Church in Austin, Texas, during the SXSW 2019 music festival. Aaron Rogosin/NPR hide caption

toggle caption Aaron Rogosin/NPR

Tiny Desk Family Hour: John Paul White

The former Civil Wars star performed a new song that even makes his kids cry.

Back To Top