Sidney Madden

Earlier this week, Drake's latest single "Toosie Slide" debuted at No. 1 on the Billboard Hot 100 chart, making the Canadian rapper the first male artist — and second artist ever — in Billboard history to have three singles reach No. 1 upon release. But unlike the rapper's past No. 1 debuts, "God's Plan" and "Nice For What," this new chart-topper is a result of Drizzy's ability to harness social media in a new way.

Death in hip-hop can feel so commonplace that sometimes, we're desensitized to it. A trending topic for the day, a bump in streaming numbers, some kind words about the artist's music and then, we move on. But in the case of Nipsey Hussle, his impact since his 2019 death feels different.

When parts of your world seem unfathomable, music always makes sense. Whether it's a comeback from a dark horse R&B crooner, a surprise drop from a storied rap rule-breaker, a subtle warning from a blossoming soul protege or some island-sourced reggae fire, the songs that take us out of reality for a few minutes at a time are more necessary now than ever.

Brooklyn-hailing rapper Pop Smoke, who was born Bashar Barakah Jackson, died Wednesday morning, according to his record label. The rising act was killed during a Los Angeles home invasion on Feb. 19, 2020. He was 20 years old.

Pop Smoke was a rising start in the New York drill scene because his intensity made him an outlier. Everything about his demeanor and delivery stood out — his tongue-curling ad-lib, a sometimes disorienting flow and the type of gravel-gargling tone that stops music listeners in their tracks.

This is not a drill: Heat Check is back! After a short hiatus and some stellar, late-breaking 2019 releases, Heat Check has returned to recap you on the world of experimental R&B, hip-hop and everything in between.

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After first premiering the song exclusively at NPR Music during 2019's Tiny Desk Fest,

"It's been a fairly short musical journey and we have seen fairly much success," Koffee told the NPR Music offices between songs during her Tiny Desk set. Flashing her braces with each grin, Jamaica's 19-year old tour de force wasn't exaggerating. Her debut EP, Rapture, just won a 2020 Grammy for Best Reggae Album, making her the first woman and the youngest artist to ever win in the category.

Don't say she didn't warn you!

Back when Megan Thee Stallion graced the Tiny Desk Fest in the fall of 2019, she gave fans a hint about what — or who — her new music would sound like.

"My next project I will be introducing a new lady. Her name is Suga. She's besties with Tina Snow," Megan said in an exclusive post-show interview.

From the moment Raveena Aurora stepped into NPR's Music Department and looked at the Tiny Desk for the first time, she was ready. The Queens, N.Y. singer-songwriter and her team showed up early (which rarely happens) to meticulously arrange her stage props of homemade mushrooms and flowers, in the already endearingly cluttered space. These extra touches were meant to make clear that this performance would be all about community and safe spaces.

This Tiny Desk concert was part of Tiny Desk Fest, a four-night series of extended concerts performed in front of a live audience and streamed live on YouTube, Twitter and Facebook.

"I'm gonna get real comfortable with y'all, so I'm need y'all to get real comfortable with me," Megan Thee Stallion told the excited Tiny Desk Fest crowd as soon as she assumed her position behind the desk. After promptly switching out her patent leather heels for some fuzzy Louis Vuitton slippers, she let the room know, "Now, don't be scared to get ratchet."

BJ the Chicago Kid took the roughly 15 minutes we generally allot for a Tiny Desk performance as a challenge. The 34-year old R&B mainstay used his moment at the desk to fit in as many of his most cherished songs as possible — Nine songs in 17 minutes to be exact.

Don't be fooled. Spooky season isn't just reserved for the weeks leading up to Halloween. As the season shifts into colder temps, cradling death is just part of the process.

"I can twerk to anything. I'd twerk to Mozart!"

A bold statement. One I overheard through the chatter and bass of a Halloween party this past weekend. From across the living room-turned-dance floor, whose hardwood bore the scuff marks from shoes, scrapes from Ikea couches and a weird, sticky splotch that definitely fell into the category of "We'll worry about that later," homegirl in a Guy Fieri costume (let that part sink in) proclaimed herself to be a cross-genre twerker.

After some confusion, mixed messaging and conflicting timelines, Kanye West's ninth studio album, Jesus Is King, has arrived. In conjunction with the music, the Chicago rapper announced a new documentary film, also called Jesus is King, due out Oct. 25 exclusively on IMAX theaters.

Where FOMO and self-care has become commercialized to justify ridiculous purchases (please don't look at my Amazon Prime history), these songs of catharsis are just what you need to disconnect. Whether you're scorned, scathed and in the midst of plotting or just peacefully seeking a reset, these artists know the feeling.

As always, check out the Heat Check playlist in its entirety on Spotify.


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Tyler, The Creator's fifth studio album, IGOR, arrived with little notice back in May.

A lot of the albums out this week deal with self-discovery and deep reflection on the nature of being human. The members of MUNA look at aging and personal growth on their latest, Saves the World; Lower Dens weighs the madness of a country driven by competition; and the country super group The Highwomen releases its highly anticipated, self-titled album, one that celebrates the power of women while pushing back on the unwritten rules that have allowed men to dominate country radio for so long.

Playground ridicule has a way of sticking in your memory. It can haunt you, motivate you or barely phase you now, but still, it lingers. Like many of us, the quality that's most striking about Baby Rose is the same one that used to get her bullied in school. "When I was younger, I used to be teased about my voice," she says with a raspy laugh.

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