Bilal and Black Thought, much to the joy of the audience, took the stage after stirring the crowd (and warming up their instruments). Given that the song's music is performed entirely by horns, this version stands out from others we've seen and heard.
Despite this, the song's spirit and the passion of its message are preserved. In fact, the horns give the song a touch more urgency and mood, emphasizing Bilal's grief during the lyrics and giving Black Thoughts' rhymes a little more fire.
After moving the crowd (and warming up their instruments), Bilal and Black Thought came out, much to the audience's delight. Seeing as the song's music is played by all horns, this performance definitely gives a different feel from others that we've seen and heard.
Visit of NPR Headquarters
Can you believe it? Yes, those are The Roots packed behind the Tiny Desk. Black Thought, Questlove, and the crew carved out a few hours in their hectic Tonight Show schedule to visit NPR headquarters in Washington D.C.
Why travel four hours for a 12-minute concert when you own the late-night airwaves? The solution can be found in "It Ain't Fair," a new song by The Roots.
The Roots played the signature track from Detroit, a film about the 1967 race riots, featuring great vocalist Bilal. To cite one of Bilal's verses, "It Ain't Fair," glares unflinchingly, takes a knee, and raises a fist against the societal framework that has systemically denied equality of experience to people "presumed inferior."
It accomplishes all of this while using its right hand to shield its heart. This delicate hymn tugs at your heartstrings and provides a glimpse into the mentality of individuals who would like to stand for the flag but cannot do so on moral grounds, lest the same atrocities persist.
Those who were fortunate enough to be present in the Tiny Desk audience saw masters at work. Black Thought is undoubtedly one of the greatest emcees of all time, and his razor-sharp poetry was on whole show. Questlove, a legendary musician and cultural historian served as a moral and metronomic compass.
Academic Rigor and Boom-Bap Jam Sessions
It felt like the confluence of decades of academic rigor and boom-bap jam sessions, with a seven-piece horn section to back it up. Bilal's warm resonance and falsetto-laced vocals created powerful messaging reminiscent of Curtis Mayfield's "Don't Worry," delivered with Prince's quirkiness.
Common debuted "Letter to the Free" at the Tiny Desk late last year and went on to win an Emmy for the song. When the Oscars come around early next year, I wouldn't be surprised if "It Ain't Fair" became another award-winning performance. This song should be heard by the millions of people who tune in to The Roots every night.