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‘Insecure’ singers take over NPR’s Tiny Desk via Inglewood’s Hilltop Coffee + Kitchen

Issa Rae smiles in her kitchen in an episode of "Insecure"
Women featured on the soundtrack of Issa Rae’s HBO series “Insecure” took over NPR’s Tiny Desk on Friday.
(Anne Marie Fox / HBO)

The final episode of “Insecure” is rapidly approaching, but before that day comes, Issa Rae’s Emmy-winning HBO comedy has musical goodies to share.

The show took over NPR Music’s Tiny Desk on Friday, highlighting three Black performers whose songs were featured in the final season’s soundtrack. B.K. Habermehl, Nnena and TeaMarrr shared their music live from Hilltop Coffee + Kitchen, the Inglewood coffee shop co-owned by Rae.

Habermehl kicked off the show with a lush rendition of her song “Time Off” from the cafe’s upper level. After walking viewers downstairs, she passed it off to Nigerian American singer Nnena, whose song “Fun” wrapped up the first episode of Insecure’s fifth and final season. Last but not least, show regular TeaMarrr closed the performance with her song “Pipe Dreams,” waving an incense stick while making apt Harry Potter references in her lyrics.

The artists were backed by 1500 or Nothin’, the L.A. hip-hop band that has shared the stage with a laundry list of icons including Kendrick Lamar and Jay-Z.

With her HBO comedy, Issa Rae set out to tell a different kind of story about her hometown. She and other key creatives look back on how they did it.

“When it comes to curation, I think the common denominator between Tiny Desk and ‘Insecure’ is Black women,” Tiny Desk concert producer Bobby Carter said via NPR.

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“When we’re curating at the Tiny Desk, we want to make sure these gaps are filled. Obviously, looking at what ‘Insecure’ does, that’s what carries them — the Black women, the independent Black artists on the show. That’s the parallel.”

(Tiny Desk concerts are taking place remotely for the foreseeable future, according to NPR, due to the COVID-19 pandemic.)

Hilltop Coffee and other Black businesses frequently received the spotlight treatment via “Insecure.” Rae and other show creators told The Times last week that that was a conscious decision, breathing life into sections of Los Angeles typically overlooked by Hollywood.

“For us, there’s so much credibility and authenticity about shooting where you actually are. There’s nothing that makes me feel happier than when I see people who are from L.A. identify the streets and the locations,” Rae said.

“Right now, we are in a real-life DMV, which definitely has some interesting vibes to it,” Olivia Rodrigo said during her NPR Tiny Desk concert.

“It’s a richer experience if you’re watching the show as a native because you understand. Like in the ‘Lowkey Happy’ episode, it cracked me up that people from here could identify how far Issa walked [back home] after having sex with Lawrence. ... They were like, ‘I know the d— must have been great,’ and that’s just getting an extra piece of authenticity from that,” she continued.

The series finale of “Insecure” is set to air Dec. 26. Watch the new Tiny Desk concert below.


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