toggle caption Philip Boakye/Courtesy of the artist

Amaarae cuts it up better than a moon-walking Samurai on "Body Count."

Philip Boakye/Courtesy of the artist

Anyone else starting to feel like the concept of time is a mushy, nebulous, philosophical joke? Feeling fully in the throes of a never-ending limbo, leaning on music as a grounding source of energy has felt more important than ever.

Luckily for fans of R&B, hip-hop, pop and soul, our favorite artists have kept new music coming. Whether they're making daily creations or finally letting go of months' worth of work, we're thankful for new sounds to fill these moments of unrest and static.

Clever storyteller Amaarae talks big and backs it up in spades. Left-of-center savant Dijon breaks the mold of song structure. Ambient architects like Ava Hovanka and Matt McGhee lean into their instincts while Teyana Taylor captures the silver lining of this moment.

These are the new tracks that are putting names and numbers on the swirl of unfamiliar emotions. Stream Heat Check's latest cream of the crop on Spotify now.

Odunsi (The Engine), "Body Count (feat. Amaarae, DETO BLACK and Gigi Atlantis)"

With his latest EP, EVERYTHING YOU HEARD IS TRUE, Odunsi (The Engine) is as an architect of the unpredictable. Throughout the tape's brisk and breezy 14 minutes, it's definitely Amaarae who steals the show on "Body Count." The Ghanaian American singer cuts it up better than a moon-walking sellsword with her whispered tale of a Fed-fighting former fling. Drop down and hit that quarantine twerk to this one.

"That's not my man, that's my migo / Talk big money, yeah he got a big ego / Big dick for me, then he fighting off the R.I.C.O. / Quarter mil in court cases / Flew off to the fort, bored, betting on the races." — Sidney Madden


Tkay Maidza, "Shook"

The Zimbabwe-born, Australia-based rapper is as ferocious as she is refined on "Shook," her first official release under her new label, 4AD. Tkay gets more gully with every verse as her rhymes glide over spiraling, disjointed production before diverging into a swampy NOLA bounce breakdown. — Sidney Madden


Teyana Taylor, "Made It"

In a time when graduation celebrations can't be communally experienced, Teyana Taylor fashioned one of her latest singles, "Made It," into a triumphant, isolation-proof anthem for the Class of 2020. Taylor asked fans to send in their at-home graduation videos and combined them all for a joyful cyber ceremony.

"Unfortunately, this pandemic has stopped us from physically gathering and celebrating all the hard work you've put in through the years," the artist wrote on Instagram when dropping the song and video. "But this pandemic can't stop your spirit, it can't dim your light, and it can't take your degree away from you!! So when you make it out of this dark time, shine bright and light up the world." — Sidney Madden


Matt McGhee, "Muscle Memory"

Washington D.C.-based Matt McGhee clearly knows how to make the most of time. Under two minutes, he crafts a record that vividly explains the role of spirituality in his life over a revved-up sample made famous by A Tribe Called Quest. If that's not enough, we get a complete beat switch before it's over. I'm a sucker for a beat switch. — Bobby Carter


Dornik, "Limboland (feat. Phonte)"

The hiatus is over and Dornik has returned from the future to deliver his sophomore album. The self-produced title track to Limboland yet again displays his masterful ability to tow the line between ambient and hard-hitting sonics. North Carolina's finest, Phonte of Little Brother, adds some bars to take it over the top. — Bobby Carter


Ava Hovanka, "Sleeping"

The Washington D.C.-hailing singer-songwriter stirs up a potion of ambient serenity with "Sleeping." At just over three minutes, the track strikes a balance between haunting and ascendant while Hovanka tries to work through her racing thoughts rather than brush them off. — Sidney Madden


Dijon, "rock n roll"

How Do You Feel About Getting Married?, the latest EP from Dijon, marks a new peak in cerebral, soul-slicing honesty for the LA artist. Drizzled with R&B finesse and brash rock exuberance, "rock n roll" is the cut I keep coming back to. Over a flurry of screeching guitar, Dijon's words capture a fleeting moment of opposites-attract fixation.

"She don't like the Rolling Stones / But I won't give up, it's automatic / I just wanna see her dance around the room / To Joni's Blue / Punk rock won't stop / Roxy music, Iggy Pop."— Sidney Madden


Mk.gee, "cz"

When it comes to influences, this 23-year-old singer-songwriter and producer's cup runneth over. His aptly titled mixtape, A Museum of Contradiction, defies genre while authentically honoring a wide span of musical tastes. The first single "cz" is equal parts dark indie-pop and rock cut with drums that swing toward hip-hop. A hook line and sinker to my ears. — Bobby Carter


All Songs Considered

Jun 08, 2021

Roséwave: Back 2 Basic

Enlarge this image It's not a genre; it's a lifestyle. Kara Frame/NPR hide captiontoggle caption Kara
Dec 29, 2020

Roséwave: Lost Summer

Enlarge this image We danced in kitchens, took long drives, caught up in backyards or on video chat, watched weddings from our
Jun 29, 2020

Heat Check: Underrated And Elevating

Enlarge this image cupcakKe switches her flow up so many times that "Discounts" is a raunchy and hilarious three-minute shopper bargain.
Jun 22, 2020

Heat Check: Can't Get It For Free

Enlarge this image Miami duo City Girls returns with their second full-length album, City on Lock. Prince Williams/WireImage/Getty Images hide…
Jun 15, 2020

Heat Check: Bigger Picture

Enlarge this image Lil Baby's "The Bigger Picture" is a conscious trap anthem for the Black Lives Matter movement. Matthew Geovany
Jun 08, 2020

Meet The 2020 Tiny Desk Contest Community

YouTube Each year, we receive thousands of entries to the Tiny Desk Contest, and the Contest team watches every single one. We get to hear songs from…
May 31, 2020

Heat Check: 'Black Joy Is Radical'

Enlarge this image Nubya Garcia's latest single "Pace" is all about diving into the many layers of joy. Adama Jalloh/Courtesy of
May 03, 2020

Heat Check: Hippocampus Two-Steps

Enlarge this image Dreya Mac spits bars at a level far beyond a novice on her debut track "Skippin." Clara Setian/Courtesy
Apr 26, 2020

Heat Check: Shake Your Senses

Enlarge this image Rooted in languid rhythm, Octavian's "Poison" featuring Santi with OBONGJAYAR sounds like nothing else out. Crowns & Owls/Courtesy…
Apr 19, 2020

Heat Check: Double My W's

Enlarge this image Kenny Mason unveils his debut project Angelic Hoodrat with a cool-under-pressure, low-lid resolve. Nasser Boulaich/Courtesy of the…
Apr 12, 2020

Heat Check: Money In My Hand

Enlarge this image Don't play with Kari Faux. Play with your kids. Quil Lemons /Courtesy of the artist hide captiontoggle caption Quil
Apr 05, 2020

Heat Check: I Feel Void

Enlarge this image Empress Of's "Void" feels like a euphoric cross-genre culture clash, a dance party in a summer storm. Dorian Lopez/Courtesy
Mar 29, 2020

Heat Check: Teleport And Transform

Enlarge this image Bongeziwe Mabandla's "masiziyekelele" sends you racing through the streets of Johannesburg. Justice Mukheli/Courtesy of the artist…
Mar 22, 2020

Heat Check: Make It Make Sense

Enlarge this image Alex Isley's "Gone" perfects the art of subtle, fear-inducing seduction. Lauren Desberg /Courtesy of the artist hide captiontoggle…
Mar 08, 2020

Heat Check: Homecoming

Enlarge this image The laboriously-delayed Eternal Atake finally delivered big time for Lil Uzi Vert fans. Erika Goldring/FilmMagic/Getty Images hide…
Feb 23, 2020

Heat Check: Caught Up And Curious

Enlarge this image Linda Diaz's "Magic" swirls in the watercolor pools of a quirky, young love. Jonah Zorn Koplin/Courtesy of the artist
Feb 17, 2020

Heat Check: Répéter, Répéter

Enlarge this image Arlo Parks' "Eugene" spins a stinging reminder of getting left for convention. Charlie Cummings/Courtesy of the artist hide…
Feb 09, 2020

Heat Check: Going All Out

Enlarge this image Victoria Monét melds fantasy with reality for her latest, "Moment." Dana Trippe/Courtesy of the artist hide captiontoggle caption…
Feb 03, 2020

The Tiny Desk Contest Is Back For 2020

YouTube In the past year, we've had some pretty big names come perform at the Tiny Desk: Lizzo, Jimmy Eat World and Taylor Swift, to name a few.
Default Image
Dec 17, 2019

Bob Boilen's Top 20 Albums For 2019

Big Thief released two of Bob Boilen's favorite albums in 2019: U.F.O.F. and Two Hands. Michael Buishas hide captiontoggle caption Michael Buishas
Dec 16, 2019

Heat Check: Favorite Discoveries Of 2019

Enlarge this image Kirby, Odunsi (The Engine) and Hope Tala Courtney Loo & David Karp/Folarin Omolayole/Freddie Stisted/Courtesy of the artists hide…
Dec 01, 2019

Heat Check: Ode To The Cap

Enlarge this image Kilo Kish's glitchy, pithy "SPARK" sets fire to procrastination, pushing you to keep creating. Kish Robinson/Courtesy of the artist
Nov 17, 2019

Poll: Your Favorite Songs Of The 2010s

Oivind Hovland/Getty Images/Ikon Images What are your favorite songs of the past decade? These are tracks released between 2010 and 2019. We know
Nov 17, 2019

Heat Check: Charge The Haters Interest

Enlarge this image Denzel Curry's Super Saiyan energy offsets Glass Animals' eerie, horn-submerged production on "Tokyo Drifting." Elliot Arndt…
Nov 10, 2019

Heat Check: Lived-In R&B, Rap And Ragga

Enlarge this image With rich, cascading runs, Ayoni's "September" is a stand-out on this week's Heat Check. Caleb Griffin/Courtesy of the artist
Nov 10, 2019

Heat Check: Lived-In R&B, Rap And Ragga

Enlarge this image With rich, cascading runs, Ayoni's "September" is a stand-out on this week's Heat Check. Caleb Griffin/Courtesy of the artist
Oct 20, 2019

Heat Check: Getting Lost, Giving In

Enlarge this image TeaMarrr's mesmerizing new single "Kinda Love" is the type of daydream to put into action. Tyren Redd/Courtesy of the
Oct 06, 2019

Heat Check: Songs That Let It All Out

Enlarge this image The Pendletons provide a jazzy, dancing-in-your-living-room soundtrack to self-care. Ivan Noble/Courtesy of the artist hide…
Sep 29, 2019

Heat Check: Euphoric Shuffle Play

Enlarge this image Daniela Andrade's "Ayayai" (single artwork pictured here) shows off the artist's linguistic versatility. Yi-Shuan Lee/Courtesy of…
Sep 15, 2019

Heat Check: Future Nostalgia

Enlarge this image KIRBY's "Kool Aid" injects just the right doses of doo-wop and soul. Courtney Loo & David Karp/Courtesy of the
Sep 02, 2019

Heat Check: Friends Of Friends Of Friends

Enlarge this image Sudan Archives' "Confessions" is included in this week's Heat Check. Alex Black/Courtesy of the artist hide captiontoggle caption…

Northern California
Public Media Newsletter

Get the latest updates on programs and events.