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Screenwriter, actress, and producer Lena Waithe announced her latest venture with Def Jam Recordings. Her production company, Hillman Grad Productions, will partner with Def Jam on the new music label, Hillman Grad Records, in an effort to identify and develop underrepresented artists with hopes of preparing them for long-term success. Def Jam welcomed Waithe to the family in this Instagram post today. 


Waithe will be joined by Tens Maqubela and Albert Cooke in new music label pursuits. Maquebela, previously helped develop Brockhampton, and Cooke worked in Artist Development at Island Def Jam and Artist Relations at Soundcloud.

The Emmy Award-winning writer launched Hillman Grad Records with storytelling in mind. Waithe’s new endeavors in music from television and film are a probable transition. She tells Uproxx in a statement, “Music and storytelling have always gone hand in hand. And I think that’s because musicians are the storytellers we love the most. They can take complex emotions and simplify them in four minutes, the same artist can sing about the revolution and falling in love. Music is a part of us. It’s so often connected to our fondest and sometimes our darkest memories. Musicians tell our story. At Hillman Grad Productions we believe in identifying and amplifying new talent, and we want to continue to do that in the music industry. Jeff Harleston and his phenomenal team at Def Jam have given us their trust and their resources to help develop artists that not only have potential but staying power. We look forward to the journey ahead.”

Waithe has been supporting artists weekly for ‘Music Mondays’ on social media. She recently shined a light on Durand Bernard on her Instagram profile sharing a performance of his song “Stuck” from his album Dur&.

She writes, “A Hillman Grad favorite, Durand has always blown me away with his original and versatile tone, so please enjoy this addicting clip with me and don’t be surprised if those runs get “stuck” in your head.”

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Waithe would not be the first film and television star to dive into the music business. Television and film creator, Issa Rae, created her record label, Raedio, with Atlantic Records in 2020. The label has since been responsible for a number of successful emerging artists from Pink Sweats, Teamarr, and Yung Baby Tate. Rae’s Insecure soundtrack has also been influential in the favorable outcome for many independent artists.

The intersection of television, film, and music is an ideal pairing. Both creative outlets intend on expressing and entertaining in similar ways. The idea of popularizing more film executives and creative talents exploring the music business adds up to us. We are looking forward to seeing how more Black women dominate in entertainment and continue to bring new voices and storytellers to the forefront.


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Lena Waithe Announces Music Label, Hillman Grad Records With Def Jam  was originally published on

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