Emmy award-winning multi-hyphenate Lena Waithe is partnering with Def Jam Recordings to launch Hillman Grad Records, an exclusive joint venture set to develop the next generation of underrated artists for long-term success.

“Music and storytelling have always gone hand in hand. And I think that’s because musicians are the storytellers we love the most,” said Waithe in an official statement. “They can take complex emotions and simplify it 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. 

Waith continues, “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.” 

Co-founded by the Queen & Slim writer, Hillman Grad Productions focuses on amplifying the voices of marginalized communities across all mediums. The production company recently collaborated with the job listings company Indeed to launch the ‘Rising Voices’ initiative that selected 10 BIPOC filmmakers to receive a total production budget of $1 million for their short films. 

Hillman Grad’s latest joint venture is set to move in the same path of priming creatives with resources and industry access to launch their careers.  Experienced music executives Tebs Maqubela and Albert Cooke will be joining Hillman Grad Records to sign and develop talent.

“Lena Waithe has established herself as one of the most artistically and commercially successful creators and storytellers at work today,” said Jeff Harles­ton, interim CEO of Def Jam Recordings.  “Lena has a profound understanding of and appreciation for music. After making her mark on television as an actor and writer, then smoothly shifting gears into her role as a film producer and CEO, it follows that she would now spread her wings at the helm of this exciting new record label.  Def Jam is the perfect partner for Lena Waithe’s new Hillman Grad venture, and we look forward to bringing her musical vision to life.”

Just last week, we reported on the inaugural class of Waithe’s Hillman Grad Mentorship Lab. The 10-month, tuition-free fellowship includes one-on-one instruction from industry experts, workshops set to enhance ingenuity in generating narratives, and professional development to polish and broaden the 25 participants’ creative skills.