The Roots have shared a new song featuring frequent collaborator Bilal called “It Ain’t Fair.” The song was written for Katheryn Bigalow’s new film Detroit, which focuses on the 12th Street riot in 1967. The riot saw the city erupt “in one of the deadliest and costliest riots in the history of the United States,” brought on by a police raid on an illegal bar.
The new track is an homage to the music of the time, specifically the music coming out of Motown Records. Bilal opens the song soulfully, almost painfully, singing, “People swear they won’t 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 what you sow, you shall reap.”
In an interview with Rolling Stone, Roots drummer Questlove says, “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.”
— Motown Records (@motown) June 29, 2017
That anger, in part, comes in the form of a fiery pair of verses from Black Thought. “They took it from the human race to a tank chase, the Devil feeding off hate so he gain weight,” he raps.
Bilal ends the song singing about “looking for justice and it’s just us” and expressing his deep frustrations with a chorus of “it ain’t fair” over and over again.
The Detroit soundtrack features Sixties soul, doo-wop and R&B, with classic Motown acts including Marvin Gaye.
The film, opening August 4, is Bigalow’s first directorial effort since 2012’s Zero Dark Thirty and Detroit finds the Oscar-winner reunited with screenwriter Mark Boal who wrote Zero Dark Thirty and The Hurt Locker.