Like all of us, NPR Music had to pivot during the pandemic. With their Washington, D.C. headquarters shut down, their long-running Tiny Desk Concert series suffered the same fate. That is until someone had the bright idea to take the productions directly into artists' personal spaces and other places for Tiny Desk (Home) Concerts, which have kept us entertained since 2020. Now that outside is back open, so is the NPR building and Tiny Desk is back in business! For their return to the office, Tiny Desk welcomed Chicago singer-songwriter Ravyn Lenae to the “stage.”
Lenae’s performance is part of NPR Music’s Black Music Month series, and she performed a few songs from her Hypnos album, which debuted last month to rave reviews. Ravyn was joined by her four-piece band – Marcus Reddick on bass, Garrett Jones on guitar, Danielle “Dee” Thompson on drums and music director Harrison “Achee” Hawkins on keys – and they kept it tight throughout. Background singers Aja Grant and Phylicia Hill added depth to each song and complemented Ravyn’s vocal tones perfectly.
Ravyn kicked off the set with the uptempo “Venom,” which tells the story of a good girl gone bad (when provoked by the behavior of her love interest). Her pure soprano vocals ride the hypnotic beat as she sings, "Why would you play me for a fool? / You know it’s true / Why do you make me become cruel?"
After applause from NPR employees and guests in attendance, Ravyn expressed how happy she was to be there then slowed it down with her single “Skin Tight.” The mellow groove about a relationship ending but neither party being ready to make a clean break sounded excellent in this intimate live setting.
She took a quick sip of water before diving into the next song, “Inside Out” also from Hypnos. Rayvn's vocals and her background singers' harmonies to the track into the stratosphere. Towards the end of the song, Rayvn provided some insight on her motivation for writing it. “It’s a lifelong journey, learning to love yourself. And to trust yourself and believe in the skin you’re in. I wrote this song when I wasn’t so sure, that’s why we sing it together,” she spoke.
For her final song, Lenae took everyone back to her 2017 single “Sticky,” which she co-wrote with The Internet's Steve Lacy. An obvious favorite of hers, she told the audience, "I love this song," before the band started to play. Ravyn was very expressive as she sang the lyrics, making sure everyone watching felt her energy – and we did.
Ravyn Lenae's considerable vocal talent, stage presence and personality were on full display during her flawless Tiny Desk Concert. She is primed to elevate her status in the game, and this live performance will no doubt endear her to her existing fans and earn her many more. Press play to fall in love with Ravyn Lenae (all over again or for the first time) and to welcome Tiny Desk back into the office.