The Roots Release A Song To Humanize The Pain, Confusion & Sadness Many Feel (Audio)
Six years ago, Bilal appeared on The Roots’ 10th album, undun. That Philadelphia chemistry was also not done. In the time since 2011, Bilal has heavily contributed to important Hip-Hop albums from Kendrick Lamar, Mac Miller, and Common. Now, he re-crosses paths with The Roots for a precise take on injustice, inequality, and a world inadequate.
“It Ain’t Fair” belongs to Detroit. The film that travels back to the 1967 for the 12th Street Riot. Specifically, the work examines the Algiers Motel incident whereby three teenage civilians, all of them Black, were killed. Nine others, two white females, and seven Black males, were badly beaten and/or humiliated by city and state law enforcement.
In the song, Bilal and The Roots crew make a song that seemingly fits 1967 and sadly fits 50 years later. That was just the point, according to Questlove. “This song is the slow burning fire inside all of our souls,” he told Rolling Stone. “Watching the movie 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. 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.”
Bilal croons the song pained beginnings. With a piano arrangement, he carries the song through its emphatic rise. When the music explodes with brass, drums, and all the trimmings, Black Thought enters. “Every day I wear a mask, like a umpire / Guess a ni**a gotta laugh, to keep from cryin’ / Tonight another friend passed, on the young side / It’s bad, ’cause a good friend is hard to come by / Justice is never color-blind / Never gun-shy / For one crime, you may never see the sunshine / You know if one-time / Is given you the finger / Around here it mean ‘f*ck you’ / It’s not the #1 sign / I hear they turning Downtown to the front line.” Black Thought alludes to tainted water too, something that still haunts the state of Michigan.
Bilal comes back in with a Curtis Mayfield sung-rap, filled with feeling and Soul. It the nearly seven-minute song, it is a balanced collaboration. Tariq returns for a second verse when the track mounts. “I guess / I’m trying to minimize regrets / I identify with death / That don’t mean it’s not an uninvited guest / I’m just trying to answer all of my requests / I express / In 140 characters or less / Why I’m the best,” he spits amid another dazzling display of swagger and substance. Previously, Thought did another soundtrack historical travel to the ’60s with 2000’s “Hurricane” (featuring Common, Mos Def, Dice Raw, Jazzyfatnastees, and Flo Brown).
The Roots are currently recording End Game. 9th Wonder and Salaam Remi have been confirmed as guest producers on the independent LP. Bilal last released In Another Life in ’15, produced by PRhyme’s Adrian Younge.
Notably, a recent video makes the case for Black Thought as the Greatest MC of All Time:
This is part of the TBD series created by Justin “The Company Man” Hunte.