After being invited to a screening of the movie by director Kathryn Bigelow, Questlove was then asked by Bigelow if The Roots could contribute to the film’s soundtrack, which ultimately led to the creation of “It Ain’t Fair.”
“I told Kathryn, ‘For us to really do this justice, I feel like this song may be seven minutes …This will never get an Oscar, so let’s make it eight minutes long,” Questlove said. “The angriest, seethingest truth we could hold up. I’m shocked people actually took to it.”
The track, which is a contender for best original song at the upcoming Oscars, was recorded at Diamond Mine Studios in Long Island City on vintage equipment to capture a sound and reflect the era the film was taking place in.
“It was like we had to be a new band all over again,” he explained. “Especially in the mixing process, we would look at each other and be like, ‘Is this us? Who knew?'”
“And you can’t be loud at all,” Questlove added. “I know it feels, especially when the rap part starts, big and grandiose. No. We’re literally playing as soft as we can. With that sort of equipment, if you hit loud, it distorts. How do you put emotion and anger into something when you’re playing as soft as hell?”
The Roots bandleader also discussed how he instructed Bilal on the track’s final moments saying that he wanted the soul singer to use “all his feelings.”
“In the last 60 seconds – I told Bilal, ‘I want you to go rogue and express what you feel. You’re a father of a teenager…’ Every black father has this moment with his son: ‘Look, you’re not cute anymore. You’re now a man. You could easily be mistaken …'” Questlove said.
Also in the interview the artist talks about his own experiences with police officers, saying that he gets pulled over “six-to-eight times a year.” He also recounts an experience where he was pulled over by Immigration and Customs Enforcement.
“I’m a really heavy sleeper, and coming from a gig in San Diego, my driver, who is a blond female – when we got to the hotel, she said, ‘I think I should let you know, we got stopped by ICE [Immigration and Customs Enforcement] for 20 minutes…You were snoring so hard, I didn’t want to wake you up,'” Questlove said.