Armed with the incredible vocalist Bilal, The Roots performed the signature track from Detroit, a film about the race riots in 1967. “It Ain’t Fair” glares unflinchingly, takes a knee and raises a fist against the societal construct that has systematically denied equality of experience to those “presumed inferior,” to quote one of Bilal’s verses. And it achieves all this while covering its heart with its right hand. This reflective hymn tenderly yanks your heart strings and offers a window into the ethos of those who would like to stand for the flag but cannot in good principle, lest these same evils continue to exist.
Those lucky enough to be in the Tiny Desk audience witnessed masters at work. Black Thought is truly one of the most intelligent emcees ever, and his razor-sharp lyricism was on full display. Questlove, a musical and cultural historian nonpareil, was both a metronomical and moral anchor. It felt like the culmination of decades of academic rigor and boom-bap sessions, fittingly backed by a seven-piece horn section. Bilal’s falsetto-laced vocals and warm resonance evoked powerful messaging reminiscent of Curtis Mayfield’s “Don’t Worry,” delivered with the eccentricity of Prince.
Late last year, Common premiered “Letter to the Free” at the Tiny Desk and later won an Emmy for the song. It wouldn’t surprise me if “It Ain’t Fair” becomes another award-winning performance when the Oscars roll around early next year. This is a song that deserves to be heard in the millions of households that watch The Roots every night.
“It Ain’t Fair”
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)
Filmed in the The Fordham Metro-North Railroad station, The Avalanches’ charming new video for “Because I’m Me” features a young Michael Jackson look-alike dancing along to the track as an entire horn section follows him. Paired with the inimitable talents of Camp Lo’s Sonny Cheeba, the song is infectious from beginning to end.
“We started filming about three weeks ago,” Cheeba tells DX. “My verse is about when I was coming up and things that were going on around that time. As far as the texture of the video, it looks just like I envisioned it.”
Dressed in fly ’70s clothes, including a cabbie hat and vintage shades, Cheeba executes his rhymes like the seasoned vet he is. They clearly had a blast filming the video, which effortlessly captures the spirit of the song.
“The little kid in the video is real cool,” he says. “He’s a dancer and I guess he’s been taking classes for years. It was really fun to shoot. I was laughing as they were doing it. I had a great time.”
“Can I Kick It?” is the third single from A Tribe Called Quest’s debut album People’s Instinctive Travels and the Paths of Rhythm. The song was first recorded in 1989, when the members of A Tribe Called Quest, Q-Tip, Phife Dawg, and Ali Shaheed, were just 19.
It contains samples of “Walk on the Wild Side” by Lou Reed, “What a Waste” by Ian Dury and the Blockheads, “Spinning Wheel” by Dr. Lonnie Smith, “Dance of the Knights” by Sergei Prokofiev and “Sunshower” by Dr. Buzzard’s Original Savannah Band. Band rapper Phife Dawg has stated that, because of the use of the “Walk on the Wild Side” sample, the group didn’t receive any money from the single, with Lou Reed instead claiming the profits.
“Can I kick It?” appears on The Anthology, where the outro of “Bonita Applebaum” is added to the beginning of the song.
The music video, directed by Jim Swaffield, features A Tribe Called Quest and various others, including members of De La Soul, literally kicking the word “it” while rapping in a film set, an alley, and a construction site. On the film set, they are seen playing with the dot for the “i” in “it”. In the alley, they are walking around and are flipping on top of the “it”. Other things, such as throwing drumsticks around and landing them on drums, are also seen in the video. A “flying record player” is featured, to play the Lou Reed sample. Also, there is a slightly different beat in the video, but the same lyrics from the album are used.
Love the Wizard of Ozzy colors, Anderson. Paak’s slippers and the smooth guitar theme!
Brandon Paak Anderson (born February 8, 1986), known professionally as Anderson .Paak, is an American recording artist and music producer from Oxnard, California. He released his debut album, O.B.E. Vol. 1 in 2012, under the pseudonym Breezy Lovejoy. He went on to release Venice in 2014, under his current moniker. Paak followed with Malibu, in 2016.
October 4, 2016 by BOB BOILEN •
We’ve never done a Tiny Desk Concert that wasn’t behind my desk at NPR. But when the White House called and said they were putting on an event called South by South Lawn, a day-long festival filled with innovators and creators from the worlds of technology and art, including music, we jumped at the chance to get involved. We chose Common as the performer and the White House library as the space.
This Tiny Desk Concert was a convergence of art and soul, mixing politics with heart. Common’s choice of songs dealt with incarceration as the new slavery, imagined a time where women rule the world and honored the man he looked up to all his life, his father. For this occasion Common put together a special six-piece band of close friends that includes the great Robert Glasper, with his eloquent and delicate touch, on keyboards and Derrick Hodge, whose music spans from hip-hop to folk and has made a big imprint on the world of jazz, on bass. Common also asked his longtime friend and collaborator Bilal to sing on two songs. The performance includes three brand new songs, along with one classic, “I Used To Love H.E.R.”
Arian Arsllani (born December 2, 1983), better known by his stage name Action Bronson.
He may sound like Wu-Tang Clan’s Ghostface Killah, but when rapper Action Bronson calls upon his past life as a chef and spits heavy culinary knowledge, you certainly wouldn’t confuse the two. Born and raised in Flushing, Queens, Bronson wasn’t even ten when an illicit copy of the Wu-Tang Clan album 36 Chambers landed in the tape deck at a friend’s sleepover party. His life was changed forever, and soon he discovered another idol, Kool G Rap. Bronson later studied at the Art Institute of New York City’s culinary program and went on to join the restaurant business as a chef, but in 2009 he exited the kitchen and entered the studio. In 2011 he would release his debut album, Dr. Lecter. That same year he appeared beside Ghostface as a guest artist on the Wu-Tang collection Legendary Weapons. In 2012, the Fools Gold label released Blue Chips, a collaborative album with Brooklyn-based producers Party Supplies, while the Alchemist-helmed mixtape Rare Chandeliers followed later in the year. His 2013 EP Saaab Stories was produced by Harry Fraud and launched his major-label deal with Warner Bros. via the Vice imprint. Two years later the full-length Mr. Wonderful arrived, with production from Mark Ronson, the Alchemist, and Party Supplies. Chance the Rapper and Kool G Rap were among the debut album’s few guests.
The Richard Dastardly Identity.2008