Tiny Desk Concerts producer on celebrating hip-hop; plus, therapy-speak : It's Been a Minute When folks think about where to get the latest in hip-hop, NPR doesn't usually come to mind. But that's changing, thanks to the team at the Tiny Desk Concerts, which was just nominated as the Best Hip-Hop Platform for the 2022 BET Awards. Since 2008, Tiny Desk Concerts have delighted millions of listeners and viewers on YouTube with stripped-down performances from their favorite artists. Now the series is proving it's also an authentic space for showcasing all forms of hip-hop. Guest host Elise Hu talks to Tiny Desk Concerts series producer Bobby Carter about bringing new musicians into the mix, what goes on behind the scenes and where the team wants to take the show next.

Then, Elise plays a Tiny Desk edition of 'Who Said That' with Carter and video producer Josh Bryant.

Finally, Elise chats with P.E. Moskowitz, author of the 'Mental Hellth' newsletter, about how terms from therapy have crept into our daily language. Does it help or harm how we think about mental health?

You can follow us on Twitter @NPRItsBeenAMin and email us at ibam@npr.org.

How Tiny Desk became a go-to spot for hip-hop

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ELISE HU, HOST:

Hi, I'm Luna.

LUNA: Hi, I'm Luna. Elise is my mom.

HU: This week on the show...

LUNA: This week on the show...

HU: ...How Tiny Desk Concerts...

LUNA: ...How Tiny Desk Concerts became a huge platform for hip-hop artists.

HU: Also...

LUNA: Also, why some words you might know...

HU: ...Why some words you might know from therapy...

HU: ...Crept into...

LUNA: ...Crept into everyday conversation. All right. Let's start the show.

(SOUNDBITE OF MUSIC)

HU: Hey, y'all. You're listening to IT'S BEEN A MINUTE from NPR, I'm your guest host, Elise Hu. We have a great reason this week to celebrate the Tiny Desk Concert series from NPR Music. The show is up for a BET Award for best hip-hop platform. Tiny Desk Concerts have been a cultural force for years now, thanks to the internet. They're known all over the world as a way to enjoy stripped-down performances from big names you already know. They're also a showcase and a launchpad for lesser-known artists you might not know. Musicians from all genres have played the tiny venue, but now the Tiny Desk Concert has become a legit curator of the best hip-hop music out there. So today we brought on someone who's been central to bringing more hip-hop artists and Black artists to our NPR listeners and our viewers online.

BOBBY CARTER, BYLINE: Hello. I am Bobby Carter. I'm the series producer for the Tiny Desk.

HU: Tiny Desk?

CARTER: Yeah, that thing.

HU: That thing. That thing. I don't think anyone listening to this won't know what a Tiny Desk Concert is. But if folks have been under a rock or they came off a spaceship from another planet, just describe what a Tiny Desk Concert is.

CARTER: Yeah. A Tiny Desk concert is a short, intimate performance behind a desk in a real office space, just three or four songs, about 15 minutes long. You have a small audience of staff members, maybe 5, 6 feet away from the performance itself.

HU: That's right. Some of the world's biggest musicians play during a regular workday on the fourth floor of NPR's Washington headquarters - at the office. Millions of people eventually tune in. The actual desk they're performing at belongs to NPR's Bob Boilen, the host and co-creator of the show. Each tiny concert is filmed for YouTube by a small team that cranks them out - what? - two, three times a week. Bobby says the show's popularity has been a happy accident.

CARTER: You know, it started as Bob's, like, pet project, him bringing in artists that he loved.

HU: Right.

CARTER: You know, a few years later, he started to listen to other people bring their ideas to the table for who they would like to see at the Tiny Desk. And then the fact that what it is now, yeah, it's just - it's the happiest, biggest accident ever.

HU: Bobby was generous enough to talk with me about the history of Tiny Desks, where the producers want to take it and give us a peek at some of the stories from behind the scenes - or behind the desk, I guess.

I've got to ask you, what makes a good Tiny Desk concert? Because I think that there's been - what? - thousands produced now.

CARTER: Literally, today we filmed our 1,003rd.

HU: That's wild.

CARTER: Yeah.

HU: It's so wild.

CARTER: The first thing that makes a good Tiny Desk is attitude and having the artists totally buy in to the concept, especially the bigger the artist. If you have an artist who's used to playing arenas and stadiums or even theaters for that matter, on stage, you have everything sort of set up for you. You can hear yourself clearly with monitors. You have a lot of space to move around. That's not what this is. Tiny Desk is sort of flipping that concept on his head. There's no monitors. People are right in your face. You're fully exposed.

HU: I think what folks don't realize, if you're watching them from home and if you're just even an artist who has seen it and never played a Tiny Desk before, it's just how close you are to the NPR staffers that are in the audience. Like, you actually have to snake through the crowd if there's a bunch of people there to see. You and you're probably closer to audience members than you normally are or ever are. And then there's no stage, right? You're really just protected (laughter) by a desk. That's the only barrier.

CARTER: That's right. You're eye level with your audience. You're completely disarmed. So it's less about the instrumental setup, and it's more about the message you're trying to convey.

HU: Yeah.

CARTER: So again, I go back to like, attitude and understanding what the concept is. That's going to determine whether or not your show is special or not.

HU: When things are stripped down, a lot of that artifice, a lot of that pomp is stripped down.

CARTER: Yeah.

HU: What does it reveal? Who has done really well or has surprised you just by (inaudible) of the format?

CARTER: I always think about this artist by the name of Nick Hakim, not necessarily a big pop artist. But his music is so highly produced - lots of effects, lots of reverbs and echoes. You just know there's a lot that goes into the production when you hear the record. But he was able to come in, do that, but strip away the effects and create something totally new.

NICK HAKIM: (Singing) Let me inside of your mind. I'll live inside of you to find what you're looking for.

CARTER: He has one of my favorite shows. And I guarantee if people were to go back and watch Nick Hakim's Tiny Desk, they'll say, wow, you know what I mean?

HU: Yeah.

CARTER: And it's a real challenge. And not everybody is going to be up for it. Hip-hop isn't known for live instrumentation. That's not to say there aren't hip-hop bands out there because there are plenty. But, you know, the origin was all sort of deejays and electronic bass and beat machines and stuff like that. So taking that format and making it live, it has created some of the most compelling shows at the Tiny Desk ever.

HU: Yeah. Yeah.

CARTER: When I think about when Freddie Gibbs and Madlib came to the Tiny Desk...

(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "GAT DAMN")

FREDDIE GIBBS: (Rapping) Bacon, ham and cold salami, that's all they serve us.

CARTER: That album, "Pinata," was such a heavily sample-based project. They brought this band, El Michels Affair, and the way that they were able to replay those samples and recreate that sound, and - that was, like, the best.

(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "GAT DAMN")

GIBBS: (Rapping) I take the pot and whip a Cuban link up out it, yeah, yeah.

CARTER: I even remember him saying in the - in between the songs is, like, it's a high degree of difficulty with those rhymes. So, no, I think you're going to get some of the best shows when you have a hip-hop act or an artist or a band who can really, really take those songs in the recorded form and make them new.

HU: I love being surprised by these. You know, I've been at NPR for more than a decade, so I've been to tons of these, and I remember being in the audience, Bobby, for the T-Pain one. And all I knew T-Pain for was autotune, right?

(SOUNDBITE OF YOUTUBE VIDEO, "T-PAIN: NPR MUSIC TINY DESK CONCERT")

T-PAIN: I know everybody's wondering where the autotune is going to come from. It's OK. I got it in my pocket. It's totally fine.

HU: It - we were floored. I remember people's jaws just dropping because he just brought it. He could sing. Like, he was belting stuff out like Jennifer Hudson.

(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "BUY U A DRANK")

T-PAIN: (Singing) I'll buy you a drink, and then I'mma take you home with me.

HU: It was amazing. Did you produce that? Were you involved? Take us back to it.

CARTER: I didn't produce that. I was there. I was able to see it, and that's - I mean, if you boil down and narrow down all of our shows, I want to say T-Pain is our most important show in terms of, like, the shift. And it was our first viral moment. And to watch him sit there with just that voice...

HU: It was wild.

CARTER: ...And a keyboard player, stripped down, it was a big reveal for thousands and millions of people.

(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "BUY U A DRANK")

T-PAIN: (Singing) Got money in the bank, oh...

HU: I have goosebumps on my arms right now just thinking about it because it takes me right back to being there and the energy of that room and all of us just being stunned.

CARTER: Yeah. He was nervous, but he totally bought in. Yeah, it was a special, special - shout out to T-Pain. We owe you, bro.

HU: You were a watershed moment for us and one of my favorite Tiny Desks to see live.

CARTER: Yeah.

HU: And then did that really put Tiny Desk on the map with hip-hop artists, artists that hadn't been really drawn to the Tiny Desk before?

CARTER: Yeah. I think T-Pain definitely helped, but after that - that was 2014. It was a gradual thing. We kept chipping away. There were other people on the team who just eat, sleep and breathe hip-hop who wanted to bring more to the format. So I remember when Gucci Mane came.

(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "FIRST DAY OUT")

GUCCI MANE: (Rapping) I'm starting out my day with a blunt of purp.

CARTER: That one was really important, not necessarily for the performance but just to show that Tiny Desk can sort of allow and create a platform for artists who don't necessarily create the feel-good hip-hop or the safe hip-hop. You know, Gucci Mane is known - he's a gutter street trap rapper, and not everyone in the building was happy that Gucci Mane was coming for a Tiny Desk.

HU: Got it.

CARTER: You know what? We aren't going to make everybody happy. In fact, I love making people uncomfortable every now and again. It's OK, you know what I mean? So it took a while for Tiny Desk to really sort of embrace all of the subgenres of hip-hop. There's so much between, like, a "Fight The Power" and a - whatever the feel-good hip-hop song is, and listen, hip-hop isn't necessarily the first thing that comes to mind when you think about NPR.

HU: Sure.

CARTER: Because there are just people here that don't necessarily understand the full scope of hip-hop, right?

HU: I mean, I think wider audiences might have still not really accepted the full spectrum of hip-hop.

CARTER: Depending on who and where you are, it isn't necessarily accepted or respected the way I feel it should be, right? So internally, there is - with respect, there is a fight for these artists. There's a respect to say, hey, they may not necessarily be speaking the language that you speak or you understand, but it's representing someone out there. I always say, if - just because a picture isn't pretty, it doesn't mean it isn't valuable. There's someone out there who, you know, who understands the world that Gucci Mane came from. And, you know, Tiny Desk has the most youngest and diverse audience at NPR, so that says there is an audience that understands these artists, and they want to hear more of it.

HU: For sure. And for you as a producer of Tiny Desks, why was it important for you to really bring these artists on the show and to put them on the map for audiences who hadn't been exposed before?

CARTER: Well, I'm a man in my 40s, which means that my upbringing was pretty parallel to hip-hop.

HU: For sure.

CARTER: So I am hip-hop to the core. You know what I mean? So...

HU: You grew up with it.

CARTER: It's who I am. So it's just very important for me to represent, sort of show people the power of hip-hop. You know, if we aren't bringing that type of music to our desk, we are doing the culture a disservice.

HU: Well, now, Bobby, after your uphill struggle internally a bit, NPR's Tiny Desk is now considered a real tastemaker for hip-hop in a way that it wasn't before.

CARTER: Yeah.

HU: And there's a BET awards nomination. Congratulations.

CARTER: Isn't that hilarious?

HU: It sounds funny to you?

CARTER: Every time I hear that, I just - it just tickles me.

HU: But does it feel like at this point that you have kind of won that struggle to get hip-hop taken seriously by audiences that maybe previously didn't?

CARTER: I don't know. Because when people think - like, again, NPR is not the first, second, third, fourth or fifth thing that comes to mind, right? I think it's...

HU: When it comes to hip-hop? Yeah.

CARTER: Yeah. You know, NPR isn't necessarily your source for hip-hop, but this nomination from BET is - lets us know that, hey, you know, we think Tiny Desk is authentic. So the nomination for me is just, like, really encouragement to continue to bring more hip-hop to the table.

HU: You talked a little bit about this, but let me just ask the question. What do you think Tiny Desk is for? What do you think the purpose of it is?

CARTER: An escape, really. We all deal with a lot, especially after the two years where we were inside putting on these Tiny Desk home concerts. I spend a lot of time in our YouTube comments, and I hear a lot of and see a lot of I survived on Tiny Desk Concerts. You guys don't know how much I've leaned on these shows. Because you got to think about it - those two years, for a lot of people, we were the concerts that they would normally attend. So it's an escape from this everyday struggle, to quote Notorious B.I.G. Like, it's a struggle for a lot of us to just maintain.

HU: Yeah, it's healing.

CARTER: Yeah. Yeah, I think so.

HU: All right. I don't want to make you choose between your kids, but do you have a favorite performance?

CARTER: Well, listen, I'll put Anderson .Paak and Mac Miller on...

HU: Oh, yes.

CARTER: ...A platform in a world of their own. Like, they - it's hard to even count them.

HU: Next level.

CARTER: They're just like, you know - yeah. But Sesame Street...

(SOUNDBITE OF YOUTUBE VIDEO, "SESAME STREET: NPR MUSIC TINY DESK CONCERT")

MATT VOGEL: (As Count von Count) Greetings, everyone, and welcome to Tiny Desk.

HU: Oh, my gosh. That brings me chills, too.

CARTER: Were you here for that?

HU: I wasn't. And I wanted to meet Grover my whole life.

(SOUNDBITE OF YOUTUBE VIDEO, "SESAME STREET: NPR MUSIC TINY DESK CONCERT")

ERIC JACOBSON: (As Grover) This does not look like Sesame Street to my cute and adorable eyes.

CARTER: You would have thought the Beatles were here.

HU: Yeah, I know. I remember there was a photo of one of our NPR producers...

CARTER: She was in tears. Yeah. I was standing right there.

HU: ...Burst into tears, and then I teared up seeing her burst into tears.

CARTER: She wasn't the only one that day. It was just a feeling. And they - I mean, they were everywhere. They were in studios. They were down in the lobby. They were all over the place.

HU: We're talking about the "Sesame Street" Muppets, the characters. They were all over our building.

CARTER: All over. Like, Big Bird was bumping into everything.

(SOUNDBITE OF YOUTUBE VIDEO, "SESAME STREET: NPR MUSIC TINY DESK CONCERT")

VOGEL: (As Big Bird) All right, guys, remember - use your NPR voices.

CARTER: It was just - it was such a magical day - two days, actually. We spent time with them for two days. But for me, that was, like, the most gratifying show ever.

HU: All right. Before we let you go, any new projects we can get the scoop on?

CARTER: What do we have coming up? Just stay tuned this fall. We have some new stuff that you are going to fall in love with. I'll just say that. But yeah. Stay tuned. We aren't done this year.

HU: All right. Bobby Carter, producer of NPR's iconic Tiny Desk series. Bobby, thank you so much.

CARTER: Elise, thank you so much.

HU: Coming up, another Tiny Desk producer joins Bobby to play a game of Who Said That - Tiny Desk edition.

(SOUNDBITE OF FLEVANS' "FLICKER")

HU: Hey, y'all, you're listening to IT'S BEEN A MINUTE from NPR. I'm Elise Hu, and I'm here with two of my colleagues from NPR's Tiny Desk Concerts. Can y'all introduce yourselves?

JOSHUA BRYANT, BYLINE: Hey, how's it going, everybody? I'm Joshua Bryant. I'm an assistant video producer for Tiny Desk. I'm relatively new, but, hey, we're here.

CARTER: I am Bobby Carter, series producer for The Tiny Desk. And I'm not that new. In fact, I'm old.

HU: (Laughter) Bobby and I were making references to Rump Shaker. That's how old we are.

CARTER: That's right.

BRYANT: Going back.

CARTER: Have you ever recorded one of these so bad that it didn't even make the cut?

HU: No, there's never been that bad.

BRYANT: This might be the first one.

CARTER: Let's make some history.

(LAUGHTER)

HU: All right. We are doing the ultimate crossover episode because we're playing a Tiny Desk edition of a game we call Who Said That? Here's how it works - I'll read a quote from a Tiny Desk performance, and you two, whoever can guess it, you guess who the artist is. First one to yell out the right answer gets the point. As usual, there are no buzzers and no prizes, just bragging rights.

CARTER: Right.

BRYANT: Are there negative points? Because I have a feeling I might get in that category here.

HU: Oh, come on. I want to hear more confidence out of you, Josh.

BRYANT: You'll see it. Maybe when we get - keep going. I may have to work my way up to that, but...

HU: Just to be clear, these are two guys who produce Tiny Desk Concerts, and I'm going to be reading quotes from Tiny Desk Concerts, so this could not be easier for you all.

CARTER: Sounds easy.

HU: I know. That's what I'm saying. I'm setting it up. OK, y'all ready? You feeling ready?

CARTER: I'm feeling ready.

BRYANT: Let's do it.

HU: OK, here's the first quote - "here we are. I got the final song for your ass at this tiny, tiny little ass desk. This desk is so damn small, my thigh barely fit underneath it."

CARTER: You want to take that one, Josh?

HU: This is a competition. You're not handing it to him.

CARTER: Lizzo.

HU: Yeah.

(SOUNDBITE OF YOUTUBE VIDEO, "LIZZO: NPR MUSIC TINY DESK CONCERT")

LIZZO: So here we are. Got the final song for your ass, at this tiny, tiny little ass desk.

HU: Bobby, you guessed it, right? You yelled it?

CARTER: Absolutely. How could I forget that one?

(SOUNDBITE OF YOUTUBE VIDEO, "LIZZO: NPR MUSIC TINY DESK CONCERT")

LIZZO: Can I get one more hallelujah?

UNIDENTIFIED CROWD: Hallelujah.

LIZZO: Can I get a ya-ya-ee (ph)?

UNIDENTIFIED CROWD: Ya-ya-ee.

CARTER: That was probably the most packed Tiny Desk that we've ever had in terms of actual bodies in the space. It was so packed, I will now admit that I did not even see the performance live.

HU: Oh, my gosh.

CARTER: I was stuck behind - Josh Rogosin, our engineer - his locker on the other side of the desk. So I only heard that show.

BRYANT: That's crazy.

HU: (Laughter) You're so self-sacrificing. But, Bobby Carter, you got the point. That was Lizzo from her 2019 performance at the Tiny Desk.

CARTER: Heyo.

HU: Heyo. All right. One to nothing.

CARTER: What you got, Josh? Come on, man, let's play.

HU: This is your time...

BRYANT: I'm working on it.

HU: ...To tie it up.

BRYANT: We'll get there. I got to - I'm going to get at least two of these.

HU: OK. Next quote - "ladies and gentlemen, I want to thank Tiny Desk for forecasting so many different talents from around the world. We need spaces like this because the world is just shrinking. They want us to believe that we cannot lean on one another. We can. We surely can."

CARTER: I want to guess, but I don't think I'm right.

BRYANT: I don't think I'm right, either.

CARTER: That's not Taylor Swift, is it?

(SOUNDBITE OF BUZZER)

HU: Nope.

CARTER: OK. That's the guess that I had.

HU: Keep going. One of the problems is I don't sound like the artists actually saying them.

CARTER: You did Lizzo really well.

HU: Did I?

CARTER: Yes. That was a convincing Lizzo. No, I'm stumped.

BRYANT: Yeah, I'm drawing a blank.

HU: All right. Hint - this was a fairly recent concert. Like, this year.

BRYANT: Oh, OK. This is bad because I was here.

(LAUGHTER)

HU: Josh can't be like, oh, this sounds like it was way before my time. No, this was 2022.

CARTER: Oh, wait a minute. Was it Usher?

(SOUNDBITE OF BUZZER)

HU: Nope.

CARTER: Man.

HU: OK. I'm calling time.

CARTER: OK.

HU: That was Angelique Kidjo.

CARTER: Oh, my God.

BRYANT: Oh, that's bad.

CARTER: That was, like, three weeks ago.

BRYANT: In my defense, though, I was out of town for that shoot. Doesn't excuse me from watching the video.

HU: Angelique gave the 1,000th Tiny Desk Concert...

CARTER: That's right.

HU: ...Just this past month. And she talked about how she watched the Tiny Desk Concert of Sampa the Great, and that led to her asking the younger artist to perform on her album, and then they performed the song together.

(SOUNDBITE OF YOUTUBE VIDEO, "ANGELIQUE KIDJO: TINY DESK CONCERT")

ANGELIQUE KIDJO: It is my immense privilege and honor to invite with me today Sampa the Great.

(APPLAUSE)

HU: OK, neither of you got it. Bobby, you're still up. You could tie this with the third clue. This is best of three, so - this one is a music clue. We're going to play a clip and you have to guess either who the artist is or what the song is called.

BRYANT: OK.

(SOUNDBITE OF ANDERSON .PAAK SONG, "PUT ME THRU")

CARTER: Oh, Anderson .Paak.

BRYANT: Oh, that's Anderson .Paak.

(SOUNDBITE OF VICTORY TUNE)

HU: Bobby again.

BRYANT: I definitely answered, though.

HU: But you were a beat too late, my friend.

BRYANT: It's all good.

HU: Anderson .Paak - he and his band, the Free Nationals - they played the Tiny Desk - what? - in 2016.

CARTER: Yeah. Classic. Classic. Now, our - I want to say our No. 2. I think recently he just gave up the crown, but yes, one of our biggest, most popular Tiny Desks of all time. That was a great day. They didn't know what to expect, we didn't know what to expect, and 92 million views later, here we are.

HU: Ninety-two million views later - second-highest number of YouTube streams of any Tiny Desk Concert. Who did he give up the crown to?

CARTER: Mac Miller. I guess he just...

HU: Mac Miller. Yeah. I should have guessed that.

BRYANT: I mean, if you're going to give that up, like, that's the one where it's definitely OK for it.

CARTER: That was the opening of "Put Me Thru" - right? - the song "Put Me Thru."

BRYANT: That is "Put Me Thru."

(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "PUT ME THRU")

ANDERSON .PAAK: (Singing) Both my hands are tied, afraid of thinking I dug my own grave...

HU: You got that point back. I'm going to give you three. You know what? There's no buzzers or prizes, so might as well give you an extra point for knowing not only the artist but also the song.

CARTER: I like this game, Elise. I really do.

(LAUGHTER)

HU: Bobby Carter, you are the winner of Who Said That? Bobby Carter and Josh Bryant both are producers of NPR's amazing Tiny Desk Concert series. Thank y'all so much.

CARTER: Thank you.

BRYANT: Thank you for having us.

HU: Coming up, it seems like everyone's talking like a therapist these days. How does it help or harm us in thinking about mental health? I talk about it with author and journalist P.E. Moskowitz.

(SOUNDBITE OF FLEVANS' "FLICKER")

HU: You've probably heard terms like trauma, toxic traits, narcissist or ADD thrown around in conversation and in your online memes.

(SOUNDBITE OF MUSIC)

HU: Remember all the hubbub around the slap...

(SOUNDBITE OF TV SHOW, "THE ELLEN DEGENERES SHOW")

WANDA SYKES: I physically fell ill, and I'm still a little traumatized by it.

ELLEN DEGENERES: Me too. Me too.

HU: ...Or when everyone was diagnosing President Trump?

(SOUNDBITE OF TV SHOW, "REAL TIME WITH BILL MAHER")

BILL MAHER: Trump is a narcissist, but we have to stop treating that like it's an unfortunate personality tick and start treating it like what it is - a serious and dangerous mental illness.

(APPLAUSE)

HU: You just heard Wanda Sykes and Bill Maher, just two examples of how therapy speak or diagnostic language has gone mainstream, and we're using it more and more to describe ourselves and our states of being.

P E MOSKOWITZ: People seem very keen to place every single thing they're feeling within a kind of category, but it seems like we might be overcategorizing a little bit.

HU: That's P.E. Moskowitz, a journalist, author and writer of a newsletter called "Mental Hellth," spelled H-E-L-L-T-H. I talk with them about why therapy speak is so common in everyday conversation now, how it helps and how it can keep us from having a more collective understanding of mental health too.

We use words like hold space or...

MOSKOWITZ: Right.

HU: ...Trauma or toxicity or this is toxic or, you know, we call people narcissists. These are actually all part of a set of terms and a kind of vernacular that is usually used by psychologists and psychiatrists. Is that right?

MOSKOWITZ: Yeah. I think what's interesting is that I think most psychologists and psychiatrists probably don't use these terms as much as we do at this point. You know, when you talk to a therapist, they're not going to say, like, all these buzzwords every single second. But they've become such a part of our vocabulary that I feel like we use them to describe everyday experiences. And, you know, that can be helpful. I mean, the use of the word trauma - I don't even think anyone was really using the word trauma 40, 50 years ago, right? And to be able to discuss what's happened to us in the past and how that can affect what's happening to us now can be really useful.

But I think what happens is when we use these terms, what we also do is kind of give ourselves this authority that we maybe don't have to describe these experiences or categorize them in a way that might not be so helpful, and that is very different than, you know, a professional who has studied for 12 or 16 years on these topics. And I think when we tend to use these terms, we end up obfuscating the more specific uses of them and end up kind of ruining the power of them.

HU: When did you first start noticing these terms in the culture?

MOSKOWITZ: I guess probably in high school, and I'm older now. That was, like, 20 years ago at this point. ADHD, back then, was the diagnosis of the time. And I was diagnosed with it, actually, when I was in high school and prescribed medication for it. But everything was ADHD. Like, oh, I'm so ADHD, I forgot to do my homework. Or I'm so ADHD, I wasn't paying attention to what my friend was saying or whatever. And it became a kind of personality trait more than a diagnosis. But I think the internet really ramped all of this up a lot. You know, whereas before it was kind of these things people would talk about amongst friends, now it's become this entire culture online of diagnosis, of defining yourself by trauma or a personality disorder or whatever it may be. I think it's - the internet has kind of ramped up this categorization a lot.

HU: All right. So we are seeing an increase of diagnosis speak, therapy language in mainstream culture. But aren't we also seeing more diagnosis of mental illness?

MOSKOWITZ: Yes. And I think those things are obviously related. I mean, we can't ignore how hard things are for people right now and encourage people to get all the help that they can. And, you know, when I speak on these things, people sometimes say, oh, I'm being anti-medication or anti-therapy, and I'm not anti any of those things. I'm on medication. I go to therapy. But what I am saying is that those things are not enough. Like, yes, we should all be encouraging people to really work on their mental health, go to therapy, take whatever medications they may need. But that is not a systemic solution to the severe, severe crisis we are facing with the pandemic and with how people live these days. You might feel unsatisfied at work. You might feel like you're really lonely or whatever. And I think by defining yourself in a category, it allows you to kind of reach across that divide and find other people who share similar experiences or attitudes towards life as you do. And I think that can be a good thing. You know, you find community, you find people who feel like you do.

But I think the other thing is that it kind of lets us excuse those same conditions of life - you know, that maybe what's really going on is that we are really lonely or that we do feel like our jobs don't fulfill us, or that we feel like we have to work way too hard. And instead of identifying those legitimate and material concerns, we say, oh, well, it's a problem with my brain. And I think that becomes much easier and in a way more attractive because to look at your own life or to look at the world and say so many things need to change is very scary. It's much easier to say this is a symptom of something within myself.

HU: Something that's individually wrong with me, rather than something that's wrong with the system or the collective, right?

MOSKOWITZ: Yes, exactly.

HU: Earlier, I heard you say, though, that labeling can kind of create community, right? There is something helpful about being able to say, like, I have anxiety. This is the thing that I have. This is a problem that I identify with. And then if you have the same thing, you and I can kind of have a shorthand for being able to relate to one another. And I can see how that's helpful. But where could it be harmful when we really mainstream this classification or psychological classifications for one another?

MOSKOWITZ: I think it becomes harmful when it becomes the overarching thing of your life. And I think this is true of kind of any categorization. I mean, I think about my personal life - being trans, being nonbinary - and, you know, those are labels too, right? Using those labels, I can find community. I can find people online and offline that I relate to. But, you know, it's one thing to say you have ADHD or you have anxiety or whatever and find community through that. I think that's great. I think what - when it becomes harmful is when it allows you to ignore the nuance of your own life and the nuance of your own personality and the nuance of what your actual problems are in life in favor of using this label as a tool to paper over everything.

HU: Yeah, there's more to life and there's more to us, right? I love what you said in your newsletter about how queer people and people of color aren't inherently more likely to be anxious or depressed because it's not necessarily a problem of our brains - right...

MOSKOWITZ: Right.

HU: ...To be depressed in modern life. It's really about society. We all live under capitalism. We all live under white supremacy. And that's hard.

MOSKOWITZ: Exactly. And I think that's one of the most confounding aspects of this kind of diagnosis culture, is that a lot of the people who are doing it are queer people, are people who are interested in social justice. And they say, you know, if you say that my - that this kind of diagnosis culture is illegitimate, then you're illegitimatizing my identity. But as you said, you know, like, if you believe that, then you believe that, you know, people of color's brains are inherently more anxious than white people's brains, or that trans people's brains are more inherently schizophrenic than cis people's brains. And it's like, obviously, the world, racism, transphobia is affecting how we're functioning and affecting our daily lives. To call it something inherent to the brain erases, you know, the things we're supposed to be battling against - the transphobia, the racism and everything else.

HU: And really, the things that we could be battling against together, right? So it sounds like what you're saying is that the biggest problem that we're facing when we use therapy speak too much is that it takes the focus off the collective and focuses too much on us - right? - as individuals.

MOSKOWITZ: Exactly. I think that we're so hyper focused on the individual. And, you know, there is this kind of duality of, as I was saying, it does allow people to find community, but it is a community of individualism where everything is about one's own behavior, one's own diagnosis, one's own categorization. And that's why, you know, I've found it much more useful in life to build community around what one does as opposed to the identity they have.

HU: What would you like to see? How should we talk about mental health in a maybe more affirmative way?

MOSKOWITZ: I think that I would like to see people being honest about what is affecting them. I think we're very scared to say how hard our lives are right now, and that feels very vulnerable. You know, to say the pandemic has made me severely depressed, or to say I can't concentrate at work anymore because I feel broken down by this system, is a very hard thing to say to someone. It's very hard to find a community even where you feel like you can say those things.

HU: It sounds like you're actually calling for specificity, right? Like in describing my bad day, I should actually talk about why I feel badly about my day rather than just simply saying I'm depressed.

MOSKOWITZ: Right. And I think when we lose that specificity, you can't necessarily address the problems that are causing your mental health crisis or your whatever it may be if you're not being specific about it. So I think when we start putting everything into categories, those categories again can be helpful, but we also need to be specific. We also need to be honest about the reasons that we're feeling this way. And I wish we were building more of those communities. I wish we were building more of those friendships and relationships where people could say things like that. And I think that would enable people to get beyond the, oh, my brain is different than everyone else's brain, kind of thinking, into more of a collective understanding of our mental health.

HU: P.E., thank you so much.

MOSKOWITZ: Thank you.

HU: Thanks again to journalist and author P.E. Moskowitz. Their newsletter is called "Mental Hellth," spelled Hellth, and their upcoming book is called "Rabbit Hole."

Before we end, y'all, something bittersweet. I want to give a special shout-out to Andrea Gutierrez, one of this show's amazing producers. You may have heard Andrea co-hosting with me for a couple of episodes this month, and now she's spreading her wings and moving on to another awesome NPR production, the TED Radio Hour. That means this is her last week at IT'S BEEN A MINUTE. It really snuck up on us. Andrea, we love you. We love your good humor, your vulnerability about the ideas we're constantly throwing around, even the zany ones. You're such a generous colleague, a true joy to have gotten to know and to be able to count as a friend. Andrea has made beautiful work for this show for 2 1/2 years, and it truly wouldn't be the same without her. And so I'm going to let the rest of the team jump on to say more.

LIAM MCBAIN, BYLINE: Andrea, from the first few months that I was here as an intern, you've been an amazing colleague and I've learned so much from you as a producer. Thank you for everything.

VERALYN WILLIAMS, BYLINE: This is Veralyn. I want to say congratulations, I want to say good luck, and I want to say thank you. Thank you for your leadership and all the ways you supported IBAM.

JANET WOOJEONG LEE, BYLINE: Andrea, thank you always for making time to listen to any questions I've had. I could really feel that you care about how much the more junior producers on this team are growing, so I'll really miss that.

UNIDENTIFIED PERSON #1: Hey, Andrea, you are sharp as heck and you've got a very clear vision for yourself, and I cannot wait for you to achieve it.

BRITTANY LUSE, BYLINE: Hi, Andrea, it's Brittany. Congratulations on your new job. I'm so happy for you. Of course, I'm disappointed that we're not going to be able to work together, but I'm really excited for your next steps.

BARTON GIRDWOOD, BYLINE: Hi, Andrea. It has been such an honor to work with you, and I could not have imagined making this show without you. Wishing you the best of luck on your next journey. You are going to do so many amazing things in your career, and we're just so proud of you.

KITTY EISELE, BYLINE: Andrea, this is Kitty, and I wish we'd been able to work together more. IBAM has been lucky to have you, and TED Radio Hour even luckier to get you. I wish you all the best.

JAMILA HUXTABLE, BYLINE: Congratulations on this next journey for you. I know you're about to kill it over at TED. I am definitely pulling for you and know that this won't be the last time we speak.

UNIDENTIFIED PERSON #2: One of the best things about Andrea is how expansive she is as a person. But, Andrea, I know you're going to do fantastic, and this is just such a great opportunity. Good luck. And yeah, we'll miss you.

HU: This episode was produced by Barton Girdwood, Andrea Gutierrez, Liam McBain, Jessica Mendoza, Janet Woojeong Lee and Jamila Huxtable. It was edited by Kitty Eisele and Jessica Placzek. Our executive producer is Veralyn Williams. Our VP of programming is Yolanda Sangweni, and our big boss is NPR's senior VP of programming, Anya Grundmann. Thanks for listening, y'all. I'm Elise Hu. Take care.

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