Lena Waithe
Lena Waithe (Photo: Leon Bennett/Getty Images for BET)

Not one to rest on any of her vast accomplishments, the Emmy Award-winning actress, screenwriter, and producer Lena Waithe is now turning her attention to the music industry, with the help of Def Jam to develop a new generation of underrepresented artists with her new label, Hillman Grad Productions. 

“Music and storytelling have always gone hand in hand. And I think that’s because musicians are the storytellers we love the most,” Waithe said in a statement announcing the venture. “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.”

“At Hillman Grad Productions we believe in identifying and amplifying new talent, and we want to continue to do that in the music industry,” Waithe continued. “[Interim Def Jam Recordings CEO] 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.”

The name ‘Hillman Grad’ is a nod to A Different World, a spin-off of The Cosby’s following Lisa Bonet’s character Denise Huxtable (the second of five children of Cliff and Clair Huxtable on the series) to a historically Black college. Bonet left the show after the first season when she became pregnant with Zoë Kravitz but Debbie Allen, the show’s director and producer (and Phylicia Rashad, who portrayed Claire Huxtable’s actual sister) is credited with turning the show into a 90s cultural phenomenon.

“As a little girl, I’ve always dreamed of having a record label,” Waithe wrote on Instagram, captioning a post sharing her news. “Never give up on the desires that keep you up at night!”