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Meet Z The Author, a standout artist from the 2021 Tiny Desk Contest

Z The Author submitted the song "Khali's Interlude" to the 2021 Tiny Desk Contest.
Erin Porter
Courtesy of the artist
Z The Author submitted the song "Khali's Interlude" to the 2021 Tiny Desk Contest.

The 2021 Tiny Desk Contest wrapped up last month with the announcement of this year's winner, Neffy, and her song "Wait Up." But the Contest's panel of judges saw thousands of incredible entries from around the country, and Weekend Edition has been highlighting some of them.

One of those standout entry videos came from Zavier Thompson, aka Z The Author, a rapper from Albuquerque, N.M. He entered the 2021 Contest with his song "Khali's Interlude" and was featured on the first episode of our Tiny Desk Contest Top Shelf series.

"Khali's Interlude" is a powerful track that reflects on racial injustice. Thompson says it was written almost overnight in the midst of the Black Lives Matter protests in the summer of 2020.

"Originally, I wrote the song in my dorm room in the middle of the night," he says, "trying to find some type of closure for myself in what had been happening in the world — and honestly, in my neighborhood, in my backyard. Going outside and seeing people protest — my family members and my friends and people I grew up around, seeing them outraged and seeing them so passionate about somebody that looked like me ... I just pondered it for so long. I feel like the best way for me to be able to cope with what I was seeing, and to process what I was seeing, was to write a song about it."

Thompson is also inspired by the diversity of sounds and styles coming from the artists in his local Albuquerque scene — including fellow musician Khalisol, for whom the song is named — and the friends who encouraged him to enter this year's Tiny Desk Contest. He says that since sending in his entry on the very last day of submissions, he's received encouraging feedback from people all over the world.

"Honestly, I just plan to take this music thing as far as I can take it," he says, "[to] continue to inspire the next generation, and continue to speak what's on my mind and make my family happy and my community happy."

Listen to Scott Simon's interview with Z The Author in the audio player above, and watch his 2021 Tiny Desk Contest entry below.

Copyright 2022 NPR. To see more, visit https://www.npr.org.

Scott Simon is one of America's most admired writers and broadcasters. He is the host of Weekend Edition Saturday and is one of the hosts of NPR's morning news podcast Up First. He has reported from all fifty states, five continents, and ten wars, from El Salvador to Sarajevo to Afghanistan and Iraq. His books have chronicled character and characters, in war and peace, sports and art, tragedy and comedy.
Ned Wharton is a senior producer and music director for Weekend Edition.