POEMS FROM A TINY DESK

CHANCE THE RAPPER AT NPR'S TINY DESK SERIES

NPR's Tiny Desk concert series is turning into a serious game-changer for artists who understand the value in an intimate connection to their audience. Cool kid of hip-hop, Chance The Rapper, blesses the NPR offices with a soul-stirring rendition of Stevie Wonder's "They Won't Go When I Go", a sampling from his Grammy-winning album "Coloring Book" and a surprise poem. 

If you're an internet junkie, then you've probably seen this re-blogged about nine times already, but here's a deeper dive into the 13-minute concert given by one of the hottest in the game right now. No matter how you feel about his artistry, you have to admit that Chancelor Bennett is poised to be a major force as a musician and a community organizer. 

After opening with "Juke Jam", Chance The Rapper performed something he claimed he hadn't done in a while (but we all know music and poetry go hand-in-hand). After taking the time to transcribe the poem,  I see something poignant written on his way to perform for National Public Radio, that's really a brief reflection on an old life transforming into something new. Read it below:

NPR's Tiny Desk Concerts are a series of intimate video performances recorded live at the desk of All Songs Considered host Bob Boilen

NPR's Tiny Desk Concerts are a series of intimate video performances recorded live at the desk of All Songs Considered host Bob Boilen

The Other Side

I still have all the keys that are of no use to me/

they used to though/

on the other side was a mansion on the hill/

complete with LA pools and fireplaces/

and a rim made specifically for people that lie about being 6 feet/

to dunk on/

where a piano was for decoration/

and an old record player was actually for the hoes/

I was never awaken by the twisting of a doorknob/

benzos kissed me goodnight/

the bars finally stopped working/

they used to though/

on the other side was a presidential suite/

complete with living rooms and empty beds and a rainfall showerhead fixture/

and the freedom to smoke big dope/

and smoking fees also/

and the possibility of making a beautiful girl I just met map out in her mind just how many times her apartment can fit in this room/

if I could just get in, but the card stopped working/

they used to though/

on the other side was a family complete with carpet stains and big love/

 and "it's your turns"/

and toys all over the place/

i almost fell and broke my fucking neck/

and responsibility and refrigerator magnets/

and days on the couch and nights on the couch/

and lines drawn in the sand and comebacks that cross the line/

and the horn line from my favorite makeup song plays/

and just like that we've rehabbed the home/

the bars stopped working/

I still have all the keys that are of no use to me/ 

they used to work though/

Watch the raspy-voiced rapper serenade his audience (and you) below:

To close out the concert, Chance covers a song from Stevie Wonder's 1974 album Fulfillingness' First Finale , "They Won't Go When I Go". Together with his solid backing band and singers, the cover introduces another classic to youngins' like you and me. This song is the only one on the album that Wonder did not write by himself. His co-writer was Yvonne Lowrene Wright, who co-wrote songs with Wonder for other albums. Wonder performed this song, along with "Never Dreamed You'd Leave in Summer", at Michael Jackson's memorial service on July 7, 2009.

Via Wikipedia: The song has been considered a "retro composition" comparing the piano to that of Beethoven and Chopin. Critics noted that the song takes a more dramatic tone than most of Wonder's other compositions. The fact that the song specifically says "They won't go when I go" was said to imply the friends Wonder is talking about may get to heaven eventually, just not before he does. Many consider this song to be a dark consequence of Stevie's 1973 car accident. 

It's no secret that Chance enjoys a solid wall-of-sound. His connection to soulful music makes this cover make sense. 

You can listen to Stevie Wonder's version below:

They Won't Go When I Go

No more lying friends
Wanting tragic ends
Though they do pretend
They won't go when I go

All those bleeding hearts
With sorrows to impart
Were right here from the start
And they won't go when I go

And I'll go where I've longed
To go so long
Away from tears
Ah, ah, ah, ah, ah
Gone from painful cries
Away from saddened eyes
Along with him I'll bide
And they won't go when I go

Oh, oh, oh, oh, oh, oh

Big men feeling small
Weak ones standing tall
I will watch them fall
'Cause they won't go when I go
And I'll go where I've longed
To go so long
Away from tears
Unclean minds mislead the pure
The innocent will leave for sure
For them there is a resting place
People sinning just for fun
They will never see the sun
For they can never show their faces
There ain't no room for the hopeless sinner
Who will take more than he will give
He'll give, he'll give
He ain't hardly gonna give, oh yeah

The greed of man will be
Far away from me
And my soul will be free
They won't go when I go
Oh, oh, oh, oh, oh, oh
Since my soul conceived
All that I believe
The kingdom I will see
'Cause they won't go when I go
And I'll go
Where I'll go
No one can keep me
From my destiny, yeah
Oh, oh, oh, oh
They won't go when I go

Songwriters: Yvonne Lowrene Wright / Stevie Wonder

Set List

  • "Juke Jam"
  • "The Other Side" (Poem)
  • "They Won't Go When I Go" (written by Stevie Wonder)

Musicians

Chance The Rapper (vocals); Nico Segal (trumpet); Peter Wilkins (keys); Rachele Robinson (background vocals); Ben Lusher (background vocals); Elliot Skinner (background vocals); Richard Saunders (background vocals); Greg Landfair Jr., aka "Stix" (drums)