The Roots and Bilal delivered a sweeping performance of “It Ain’t Fair” with assistance from a squadron of string and brass players on The Tonight Show on Monday. “It Ain’t Fair” appeared recently on the soundtrack to Detroit, Kathryn Bigelow’s new movie about the 1967 riots in Motor City.
The ensemble channeled the full majesty of late-Sixties orchestral soul on The Tonight Show. The mournful opening section was helmed by Bilal, who described racial injustice – “wolves disguised as sheep patrol our streets” – in his falsetto. The orchestra ratcheted up the tension as the Roots’ Black Thought took over for a scorching verse, then returned to more relaxed evocations of beauty as Bilal sang his second verse.
“It Ain’t Fair” is one of the few new songs on the Detroit soundtrack – most of the music in the film is period-specific soul from the Dramatics, Martha Reeves & the Vandellas and Brenda Holloway. Speaking recently with Rolling Stone, Roots drummer Questlove described his group’s contribution to the soundtrack as “the slow burning fire inside all of our souls.”
“Watching [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 affect them at the moment.”
Detroit opened wide in U.S. theaters last weekend. The film has grossed over $7 million to date, according to Box Office Mojo.