Ahead of the soundtrack release for Kathryn Bigelow's upcoming film Detroit on Friday, the Roots and Bilal have premiered their newest collaboration, “It Ain’t Fair,” a gorgeous song featuring Bilal's soul-stirring vocals, Black Thought's hard-hitting raps, and the band's powerful instrumentals.
The track draws heavily on black soul influences from the ’60s, as well as imagery from the film, which reimagines the Algiers Motel Incident, in which three young black men were killed and nine other civilians were beaten by police during the infamous 1967 Detroit rebellion.
The lyrics of "It Ain't Fair" are also enhanced with the meaning it holds for the present-day Black Lives Matter movement and the frequent deaths of black men at the hands of law enforcement, in the same manner as Common and John Legend's Oscar-winning song for Selma, "Glory." Said Questlove to Rolling Stone, In addition to this song, Detroit’s soundtrack also features classic Motown singers Marvin Gaye, Brenda Holloway, Martha Reeves and the Vandellas, and Tammi Terrell.
The film, which features John Boyega and Straight Outta Compton's Jason Mitchell in a large ensemble cast, opens in limited release Friday and wide on August 4.
Meeran Karim is a City University of New York Graduate School of Journalism fellow at Slate.