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Tems: Tiny Desk Concert

This Black Music Month, Tiny Desk is giving the ladies their flowers. We’re releasing nine Tiny Desk concerts from Black women artists, from veterans who’ve paved the way for what we hear today in Black music, to those who are carving out their own paths.

To hear Tems tell the audience that she was shy came as a surprise to me. As a performer, she captivates us with such ease and exudes confidence when she’s not, so to see her blushing as the crowd roared was sweet to witness. Unlike most artists who’ve performed at the Desk, the Nigerian singer-songwriter took a chance by playing a set filled with songs from her forthcoming debut album, Born in the Wild.

A lot has happened in Tems’ world since her Tiny Desk (home) concert a couple of years ago. She’s won dozens of awards, including a Grammy, worked with Beyoncé and written for Rihanna, all of which helped to keep her name on our minds and music in the clubs. These new songs indicate time well spent between her breakout moment a few years ago and now. “Unfortunate” is less Afrobeats and more straightforward R&B, flexing her development as a writer. “Forever” is powerful in the way she reaches a vocal range I had no idea she could, while “Love Me JeJe” was the hands-down standout. At the time of the taping, the song had yet to be released, but the rhythm pierced the room and had us all in line for the call and response.

SET LIST

  • “Me & U”
  • “Ice T”
  • “Unfortunate”
  • “Forever”
  • “Love Me JeJe”


MUSICIANS

  • Tems: lead vocals
  • Daniel Crawford: keys, music direction
  • Brett Baker: percussion
  • Erick Walls: guitar
  • Eric Ingram: bass
  • Robert Johnson: drums
  • Olivia Williams: vocals
  • Ashly Williams: vocals
  • Kadeem Nichols: vocals


TINY DESK TEAM

  • Producer: Bobby Carter 
  • Director/Editor: Kara Frame
  • Audio Technical Director: Josephine Nyounai
  • Videographers: Kara Frame, Joshua Bryant, Alanté Serene, Mitra I. Arthur
  • Audio Engineer: Neil Tevault
  • Production Assistant: Ashley Pointer
  • Photographer: Estefania Mitre
  • Animation: Jackie Lay
  • Florist: Kelanda Edwards
  • Tiny Desk Team: Maia Stern, Hazel Cills
  • Executive Producer: Suraya Mohamed
  • Series Creators: Bob Boilen, Stephen Thompson
  • VP, Visuals and Music: Keith Jenkins

Copyright 2024 NPR

Corrected: June 3, 2024 at 8:58 AM PDT
A previous version of this story incorrectly identified the song "Unfortunate" as "Fortunate."
Bobby Carter
Bobby Carter is a leader on the Tiny Desk Concerts team for NPR Music. He's brought an ever growing roster of big names and emerging artists through NPR's HQ to squeeze behind the desk of All Songs Considered host Bob Boilen and record standout performances, including Usher, Mac Miller, Noname, Anderson.Paak and H.E.R.