Drummer Ahmir Thompson, also known as Questlove, and rapper Tariq Trotter, aka Black Thought, started The Roots when they were in high school in Philadelphia in 1987. Over the last thirty years, the band has released 17 albums. They’ve received a bunch Grammy nominations including three wins. They’re also the house band for The Tonight Show Starring Jimmy Fallon. In this episode, Questlove tells the story of how they made the song “It Ain’t Fair.” It was created for the film Detroit, directed by oscar-winner Kathryn Bigelow, who also made the films The Hurt Locker and Zero Dark Thirty. Detroit is about the 1967 Detroit riots, centered around the events at the Algiers Motel, where police killed three young black men and beat and tortured nine others. The Roots recruited the singer Bilal to contribute vocals to the song, and they worked with The Dap-Kings, the backing band for the late soul singer Sharon Jones, to create a sound that evoked the music of 1967.
You can get “It Ain’t Fair” on iTunes. Watch the trailer for Detroit below.
Illustration by Carlos Lerma.