Lena Waithe Joins Def Jam for Creative Partnership


Lena Waithe is entering into an exclusive joint venture partnership with Def Jam Recordings and Emmy Award-winning writer, creator, producer, and actor Lena Waithe to launch Hillman Grad Records,

… it was announced recently by Waithe and Jeff Harles­ton, Interim CEO, Def Jam Recordings.

Hillman Grad Records is committed to identifying and developing artists in hopes of priming them for long-term success. By leveraging opportunities across music, TV & film, our goal is to capitalize on the cultural significance generated when these worlds meaningfully intersect.

Joining Hillman Grad Records to sign and develop talent will be experienced music executives Tebs Maqubela and Albert Cooke. Head of A&R Tebs Maqubela joins Hillman Grad Records from Columbia Records, whereas an A&R executive he signed and developed talent.

Prior to that, Maqubela worked in artist management affiliated with the Brockhampton camp. Hillman Grad Records General Manager Albert Cooke finds himself returning home, so to speak; Cooke spent years at Island Def Jam as an Artist Development executive before heading to Soundcloud, where he was instrumental in Artist Relations department. Maqubela and Cooke will report to Lena Waithe (CEO) and Rishi Rajani (President of Film & TV) of 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,” said Lena Waithe. “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.

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.”

Lena Waithe News

“Lena Waithe has established herself as one of the most artistically and commercially successful creators and storytellers at work today,” said Jeff Harles­ton.  “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.”

Waithe was named the Hollywood Reporter’s 2020 “TV Producer of the Year,” the youngest ever to receive the honor.  It acknowledged her work on the series “Twenties,” “Boomerang” and “The Chi,” which received a prestigious Peabody Award nomina­tion.  Waithe also received two 2019 NAACP Image Award nominations on behalf of “The Chi” for the “Pilot” and “The Whistle” episodes.


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