Most of The Roots’ job as the house band for “The Tonight Show Starring Jimmy Fallon” involves scoring its recurring segments, backing celebrity guests and composing short songs on the spot. The group took a break from that levity to close out last night’s (August 7) episode with an impassioned performance of “It Ain’t Fair,” its song from the “Detroit” movie soundtrack.
It ain’t fairIt’s hard when you’re looking for loveAnd it ain’t thereOr try to read what tomorrow holdsWhen it ain’t clearBecause the well is running dryRace tension is running highUnder 21 is far too young to dieMy salvation’s under fireRising and rising, oh!
Bilal’s lyrics compliment head MC Black Thought’s meditations on American racism, which adeptly weave through the song’s multiple movements and tempo changes:
To my, Afro, Israelis, Native American, MexicansInvested in wrestling with Willie Lynch’s next to kinThe rising of the tide, noose surrounding necks againLook at how they try to hide proof of all the inexcellence
The song’s lyrics plays off “Detroit’s” theme of racist police violence during the city’s 1967 unrest, which the Detroit Police Department, Michigan State Police and Michigan Army National Guard violently suppressed with military arms and tactics. The movie currently has an 86 percent “fresh” score on critical aggregator Rotten Tomatoes. The film and its White director Kathryn Bigelow also faced criticism for omitting Black women from the leading cast and trailer.
The “Detroit” soundtrack also points towards the city’s mid-to-late-1960s culture with songs from Motown artists like Marvin Gaye and Tammi Terrell. “It Ain’t Fair” uses string and horn arrangements similar to Motown hits.
Watch the performance above.