By Shannon Frost Greenstein

When Questlove speaks, Philadelphia listens.

And, regarding “It Ain’t Fair”, the song which The Roots contributed to the film “Detroit” (which is also up for best original song at the upcoming Oscars), Questlove has a lot to say.  And some of it is surprising, and some of it is very, very real.

To begin with, Questlove originally did not think The Roots were the correct band for Kathryn Bigelow’s controversial film regarding the Detroit race riots in 1967, which left three black teenagers dead.  He knew he could not, in good faith, write an upbeat song about race relations amidst the current social tensions between police forces and communities of people of color.   In terms of what he wasn’t willing to do, he said, “You know, like that sort of ‘rise to the occasion and hope’ thing,” he says. What resulted was “It Ain’t Fair”, which plays over the film’s closing credits.

You’d think he would want all of his fans to see the film, and to hear the track, right?

Well, not exactly.  Having seen the film, Questlove says, “I wrestle [with], would I recommend [the film] to someone of color to sit through this film and watch? There’s a psychological trauma that happens when you subject yourself to something of this level of pain and you don’t deal with it. You don’t get rid of it. It’s crippling, you know.”

Questlove adds, “My point is that when I saw it, it triggers PTSD.”

Police brutality and the minority experience are such divisive issues these days, and it’s hard to discuss the subject without emotions running high.  However, Questlove’s comments should be understood as protective of people of color, rather than derogatory towards the film or the police.

Nevertheless, he should be congratulated for taking a stand and making the kind of music he feels he should be making.  Whether you decide to view Detroit, or will shy away because of Questlove’s concerns, I think we can all agree that The Roots are doing their part to make this world a better place for us all.


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