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The LA-centric music of Issa Rae's 'Insecure'

Issa Rae performs
Issa Rae performs "Broken Pussy," an original song created for the HBO show she writes and stars in, "Insecure."

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The music on "Insecure," the new HBO series helmed by Issa Rae, is both prominent and meticulously curated.

The music on "Insecure" grabs audiences immediately, from the first episode with Kendrick Lamar’s “Alright,” an iconic song from Lamar’s 2015 album "To Pimp a Butterfly."

The show is set in Los Angeles, and features music by many Southern California artists, from the obscure to the A-list, including Vince Staples and Thundercat. After the first season ended, 16 tracks from the show were released as an album.  

The man behind the music is music supervisor Kier Lehman, who worked alongside Solange Knowles as a musical consultant earlier in the show’s development. While Knowles brought her cultural caché, taste and connections to the table, Lehman took charge of the more practical aspects of obtaining music for the series.

Lehman spoke to The Frame about what it was like working as a supervisor on such a musically rich project.

Interview Highlights

On working with Solange:

She's obviously incredibly talented and has incredible taste, but she hadn't had experience as a music supervisor. I'd worked on shows with HBO in the past so I was brought in to make sure that all the music was handled correctly and within the budget, kind of handling the nuts and bolts.

On how independent artists helped the musical texture of Insecure:

Definitely working with independent artists gave an authentic feeling of the characters in the show because these are the artists that they are listening to, and that we all are listening to, the people who make the show. And it also can be more affordable to license.

Kari Faux was one of the artists that the producers brought in early and she did an original song for us that we used in the finale episode called “Top Down” which is just kind of like a fun track for cruising, feeling good, hanging with your friends.

On securing Kendrick Lamar’s “Alright” for the opening of the show:

We kind of begged and pleaded for a price that we could afford because that would be normally a very expensive song. We were really lucky that Kendrick and his team worked with us on the budget. We definitely wanted to use a lot of music from artists from LA to represent the sound of where the show was shot and set, and right now Kendrick is kind of that quintessential LA artist that represents that culture.

On working with the show's creator Issa Rae:

Music is really important to Issa to help tell the story. And a lot of the lyrics will be either like a character's internal dialogue or helping to move the story forward.

It makes it way more fun to work with producers that have great taste in music. You know for me it's fun to get to make those connections between music and picture in such a strong way. That's what I would like to do on every project. Getting to do it in so many ways on this project was really rewarding.

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