Tiny Desk Concert: The Roots and Bilal Perform "It Ain't Fair"
NPR continues to deliver the raw goods with this installment of the Tiny Desk Concert. This time - It's the Roots and the incomparable vocalist Bilal...Whoa. The long overdue and much appreciated appearance delivers the goods with the performance of a deeply moving song entitled "It Ain't Fair". The song is the signature track from the film "Detroit", which documents the race riots of 1967.
This haunting hymn speaks to the soul of injustice and the predatory nature of the criminal justice system towards black and brown people - a problem that has continued to plague the African American community for literally hundreds of years. It not only deals with injustice - but rather what happens when injustice is allowed to fester and boil for too long. Uprising.
The lyrics to "It Ain't Fair" (which are listed below) are really strong and soul stirring. The words chosen by both Bilal and Black Thought perfectly encapsulate the feeling of being systematically smudged and denied, all while being told you should be grateful for the opportunity. It ain't fair indeed.
“This song is the slow burning fire inside all of our souls. Watching the movie [Detroit] clearly shows that life in 1967 isn’t that much different in 2017 or 1897 for that matter. We wanted to hit many a bird with one stone: Humanize the pain, confusion and sadness. But also express the overdue anger. Not only to the powers that be but also to those on the sideline that can afford to turn the other way because it doesn’t effect them at the moment.”
Speaking of not being fair, Bilal Oliver is one of the most slept on musicians who ever lived. I remember when Prince died and they had a tribute to him on BET. Bilal performed Princes "The Beautiful Ones", and everyone was like "who was that guy? - he killed it". And I'm like wow! People just don't know. He's appeared with so many other famous musicians from Badu to Jill Scott to Jay Z and Beyonce. Not to mention his all of his albums are amazing, honest and unique. Maybe its a good thing. Bilal being not as famous as he should be has probably helped him preserve his signature rawness for all these years.
The Roots are a legendary, time honored Hip Hop band. They've been doing this for God knows how long, yet somehow it feels like they are just getting started (and I mean that in a good way).
Those of us who have followed them since the 90's are not at all surprised by their uncanny ability to send chills. Their song "Act too (Love of my life)" from the "Things Fall is a testament to that. Black Thought and Common's lyrics on that joint are simply eye watering. Anyway - yeah- Bilal - The Roots - NPR - Check it out.
Set List "It Ain't Fair" MUSICIANS Curtis L. Jones Jr (Trombone), Arnetta Johnson (Trumpet), Hiruy E. Tirfe (Sax), Richard L. Tate II (Sax), Joseph Streater (Trumpet), Norman J. Bradshaw (Trombone), Damon Bryson (Sousaphone), Ahmir (Questlove) Thompson (Drums), Tarik (Black Thought) Trotter (Emcee), Bilal Oliver (Vocals) CREDITS Creative Director: Bob Boilen; Producers: Abby O'Neill, Morgan Noelle Smith; Audio Engineer: Josh Rogosin; Videographers: Morgan Noelle Smith, Maia Stern, Kara Frame, Alyse Young; Photo: Claire Harbage/NPR
[Intro: Bilal] Oh brother, hmm It's a mystery, yeah Will you hear my cry? Won't you my plea, oh? Cause I'll never know (I'll never know) How it feels (how it feels) How it feels (how it feels) Oh, how it feels (how it feels) To be To be Free [Verse 1: Bilal] People swear they woke but they're walking in their sleep I pray the Lord their souls to keep Because wolves disguised as sheep patrol our streets And we all know, that which you sow you shall reap Those who do know, you should teach Through every loophole, we gon' leap until you reach A common ground and become unbound Because when your whole town becomes a battleground Tears raining down [Chorus: Bilal] Because it ain't fair It's hard when you're looking for love And it ain't there Or trying to read what tomorrow holds When it ain't clear Because the well is running dry Race tension is running high Under 21 is far too young to die My salvation's under fire This marks a rising of the tide [Verse 2: Black Thought] Every day I wear a mask like an umpire Guess a nigga gotta laugh to keep from crying Tonight another friend passed on the young side It's bad 'cause a good friend's hard to come by Justice is never color blind, never gun shy For one crime, you may never see the sun shine We know of one times, giving you the finger 'round hearing me, fuck you, it's not the number one sign I hear they turning downtown to the front line It's something like the same place but it ain't safe They took it from the human race to a tank chase The Devil feeding off hate so he gain weight There's tainted waters in the well, so we can't taste People dazed and amazed though it ain't grace Impossible to coexist in the same space Enter the black saint with the war paint face [Verse 3: Bilal] This generation, we've forsaken all that's real What emotions do we feel? Is your poison called a pistol or a pill? Some people say, "Let Jesus take the wheel" Others say, "Thou shall not kill" But that old time religion ain't gon' pay my bills We've come so far yet here we are Ruthless God, presumed inferior We ain't scared o' y'all [Chorus: Bilal] It ain't fair It's hard when you're looking for love And it ain't there Or try to read what tomorrow holds When it ain't clear Because the well is running dry Race tension is running high Under 21 is far too young to die My salvation's under fire Rising and rising, oh!! [Verse 4: Black Thought] To my, Afro, Israelis, Native American, Mexicans Invested in wrestling with Willie Lynch's next to kin The rising of the tide, noose around the necks again Look how they try to hide proof of all the excellence The only tag you know me as is Holy Swag Through any glass window, we smash, and bro we back It's coming fast, I'm unabashed, so we have An awareness of the only flag that's growing fast I guess I'm tryna minimize regrets, I identify with death That don't mean it's not an uninvited guest I'm just tryna answer all of my requests And express in 140 characters or less Why I'm the best educator, re-legislated, premeditated Dedicated, heavy weight that ever paid it with blood Not tuition without a cop's permission I got a pot to piss in despite the opposition Listen [Chorus: Bilal] Oh, it ain't fair It's hard when you're looking for love But it ain't there Try to read what tomorrow holds And it ain't clear Because the well is running dry And it ain't fair No, it ain't there No, it ain't fair Looking for justice and it's just us It ain't fair There's a riot going on out there And it ain't fair When your protector is your predator It ain't fair No, it ain't fair No, it ain't fair Y'all just gon' turn the other way No, it ain't fair Turn a bloody cheek on these bloody streets It ain't fair It ain't fair It ain't fair No, it ain't fair No, no No, no No, no
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