Issa Rae’s Favorite Tiny Desk Concerts


For Tiny Desk Playlists, we’re asking musicians, creators, and people we admire to choose the Tiny Desk concerts they love. For this edition, we asked actor Issa Rae to pick his favorites.

In terms of musical curation, the synergy between HBO Unsafe and the Tiny Desk Concert series is unmistakable. It was natural that the two joined forces. Unsafe creator and star Issa Rae and music supervisor Kier Lehman have the same passion for authentic R&B and the same commitment to championing new artists as we do at the Tiny Desk. We both keep our ears on the sidewalk to find the next emerging black music star, so we can hear the sweet phrase “I first discovered them on (Unsafe or small office). Since we have so many artists in common, I was curious to hear Issa’s five best concerts at Tiny Desk by Unsafe the old ones are. – Bobby Carter


• Raphael Saadiq – Well, first I have to praise Raphael Saadiq and his artistry. He composes the music for our show, so whatever you hear that isn’t a drop of a needle, all the vibrations you hear, they’re all personally composed by him. And watching his Tiny Desk, when he teamed up with Lucky Daye for “You Should Be Here,” was just phenomenal. It’s just a reminder, like: you’re a legend and we’re so lucky to have you with us on our show. I become a fan over and over again whenever I hear it.

• Nick Hakim – Kier Lehman [Insecure‘s music supervisor] put me on Nick Hakim and being able to play “Needy Bees” in season two – falling in love with that song and putting it on such a key moment was so essential to me. I just followed his career, and he’s on our soundtrack, and he produced a track for us again this season. And he’s so talented and unique. It does everything too. I also like everyone who plays instruments, so it wins.

• Baby Rose – Baby Rose has such a unique voice. Looks like she’s been here before, and you can’t believe that voice is coming out of her body at her age, nothing less. “Show You” was one of my favorite song placements. It was a song I had known since Jump, I was like, “Oh, I want this to be the reconciliation of Issa and Lawrence.” I was just super, super scared that it would be played elsewhere, as I usually am every season if I have a song that excites me. There are two songs in the series finale where I say to myself, I swear to god if anyone plays these songs, I’ll be pissed off.

• Sampha – Sampha has an amazing voice and it has been so common throughout the series. And hearing it live, it sounds the same! Sometimes I worry when you hear a song the way it is on the album, and if it doesn’t sound the same [live], you’re like, “Oh, what happened?” But with his, everything fits so perfectly. Sampha is just one of my favorites. I was introduced to Sampha by Solange when she was doing the music for the first season, so he has a special place in my heart.

• Thundercat – I said I love people who play instruments, and Thundercat is just out of this world. Watching his Tiny Desk was so much fun because sometimes the lyrics escape me because it sounds so melodic. And to hear … What song was it? It’s so crazy, I think it was the song “Friend Zone”. Hearing him sing and hearing the lyrics is a little silly. But hearing it sounding so melodic was like a treat for me. So I have to give this place to Thundercat.

• SiR – The finalist, I have to give SiR because, you know, Inglewood. This is my guy. Her voice is incredibly beautiful. So I can make the top 5 and the finalist 6. … [His Tiny Desk concert] it is so much a family affair. And that’s why they’re so amazing. This whole family is amazing.


Small offices in this reading list

• Raphaël Saadiq
• Nick Hakim
• baby pink
• Sampha
• Thunder Cat
• Sir

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