NPR Music

Depending on who you are and how your heart is built, you might know this modus operandi well: it's easier to be nice to other people than to yourself. If that's an idea you can relate to, you'll find something in common with Erika Wennerstrom. She says each song on her new album Sweet Unknown is a mantra about being kinder to yourself.

In the annals of American culture, Kendrick Lamar's unprecedented Pulitzer win in music for DAMN. will stand alongside a recent influx of hip-hop firsts: Jay-Z's 2017 induction into the Songwriter's Hall of Fame, LL Cool J's 2017 Kennedy Center Honors and the entire slew of artists who — to paraphrase a George Clinton classic — helped paint the White House rap during Obama's presidency.

Crank "Up The Street" to a volume that shakes the dust from your creaky bones. Made stiff from years of rock and roll neglect, you are now redeemed by the nasty howl and stomp of Rat the Magnificent. Hallelujah and hot damn.

Just a year ago, after sifting through almost seven-thousand video entries to the Tiny Desk Contest, we discovered Tank and the Bangas. The band would go on to win the Contest and the response was one of overwhelming joy. The way this New Orleans group blends hip-hop, R&B, poetry, jazz and rock is unlike anything I'd seen before and I wasn't alone.

First Listen: Liz Brasher, 'Outcast'

Apr 19, 2018

Getting to know a new artist's music can feel like falling in love. One's senses are awakened, and every nuance is noted and internalized. When it comes to Liz Brasher, this is especially true, as each layer brings forth new things to ponder. There is, first, the remarkable instrument of her voice, which can deliver a power-pop howl as easily as it croons a stormy country ballad. Then the guitar captures you, at once crunchy and percussive.

Nandi Rose Plunkett is a seeker. As frontwoman of synth-pop outfit Half Waif, Plunkett writes songs that travel profoundly inward — asking questions about who we are and how we relate to each other — over beds of electronic instrumentation that expand and recede like ocean tides. There is a darkness that cuts through Half Waif's songs, hinting at a searching that is often born of loss and struggle.

Fifty years ago, Johnny Cash performed at Folsom State Prison in Folsom, Calif. The January 1968 concert and live album it produced, At Folsom Prison, helped revitalize Cash's career, inspiring him to testify for prison reform and cementing his reputation as a voice for the downtrodden.

A Dallas woman, wishing to remain anonymous, claims she was emotionally manipulated and knowingly given a sexually transmitted disease by singer R. Kelly during an 11-month relationship she had with the singer.

Lee Merritt, the attorney for the 20-year-old woman, has turned over evidence to Dallas police hoping that the department will bring criminal charges against Kelly, who Merritt claims "intentionally and knowingly" transmitted herpes to his client, served her alcohol while underage and provided her with illegal substances.

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