The Roots recruited neo-soul singer Bilal to perform the feral, funky “It Ain’t Fair” on NPR‘s “Tiny Desk” concert series. A modified version of the eclectic hip-hop band – drummer Questlove, rapper Black Thought and a seven-piece horn section – stormed through a 12-minute mini-set centered around the socially conscious track.
Questlove and the horn players opened the performance by strutting in the room to NPR employee handclaps. After a brief, instrumental funk workout highlighted by a seductive trombone solo, Bilal and Black Thought walked in the room to kick off “It Ain’t Fair,” trading croons and nimble rhymes.
“It Ain’t Fair” first appeared on the soundtrack to Kathryn Bigelow’s film Detroit, which chronicles the 1967 12th Street riot. Questlove told Rolling Stone in July that the song represents “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,” he added. “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.”