The Inspiration Behind The Music of ‘Shots Fired’

Music has the power to take you on a journey. And it’s the journey that producers and music supervisors Jabari Ali and John Houlihan were thinking about when crafting the music of Shots Fired, the FOX series centered around the current conversation on police brutality, white privilege and race in America. While it’s not new for a series to come out with a soundtrack, what’s unique about Shots Fired is the development of a musical narrative that takes place through ten episodes, centered around the social justice issues that the series is tackling. More than a soundtrack, the music of Shots Fired is a conversation, spanning genres, including hip-hop, gospel, and R&B, and including influential voices in music, from Anthony Hamilton to Swizz Beatz. It’s the music that is working to define the current questions facing a generation.

What brought you two together to create this unique soundtrack for Shots Fired?

JH: I first worked with Jabari on the original Training Day film and since then I always looked for opportunities to collaborate with him. We think alike in many ways  but we also expand each other’s perspective. We both want our work to really make a difference in the world and Shots Fired was the perfect project to put the team back together for, especially if it meant joining forces with the Bythewoods who created this event series. Our role was to help Gina and Reggie tell the story and we also wanted to make a positive social impact.

There are many shows that have musical aspects to them now. What makes this soundtrack new and different? 

JA: While talent will always be key, we sought musicians who felt passionately about the plight of humanity. It was important to assemble a team that understood that, while fictional, this show represents a dark reality for a large population living in our country. Purposeful and conscious musicianship was our goal.

You have top caliber artists from a number of different genres, spanning hip-hop to R&B. What was the vision for this diverse soundtrack?

JH: We let the characters and the story tell us what was needed. We knew if we stayed true to each song moment in the series it would all make sense as a whole. Lyrics and storytelling in a song are really important elements to Gina and Reggie, who are writers themselves, so nothing was put into a scene that didn’t say the right thing to support the story. We’re very proud of the main title song, Where Do We Go From Here, performed by BJ The Chicago Kid and Shire, and written by the Shots Fired songwriting team. It is socially conscious and poetic – to me it is a song that Marvin Gaye might have written about the state of police brutality and race relations if he was alive today.

What was the process like in working with the artists?

JA: Many of the artists penned original songs in connection with the show’s narrative. We shared portions of the script with the song writing team and hammered home the importance of creating music that serves as the third dimension of Shots Fired. This was truly a labor of love and a journey that John and I began almost two years ago. 

This show represents a moment in time, a very poignant moment in America right now. How does this curated sound speak to this moment?

JH: Reggie and Gina had a great idea to use Aloe Blacc’s song, Ticking Bomb, which was released in 2013, but is probably more powerful now as social commentary when you put it into a 2017 scene. Even though it is not brand new, it is a timeless song and makes perfect creative sense being part of the Shots Fired playlist. Alongside the more recent releases like Sad News by Swizz Beatz featuring Scarface, the poignant lyrics gave us a way to get specific about the problems in American cities today. Throw in the original gospel song Called Home created by the Shots Fired songwriting team and our poetic main title song Where Do We Go From Here and together the songs from Shots Fired tell a powerful story about social injustice in America.

Images courtesy of FOX