Kier Lehman Talks Using Music to Compose the Vibe of Los Angeles in 'Insecure'

Kier Lehman
Rich Polk/Getty Images for Guild of Music Supervisors 

Kier Lehman attends the 8th Annual Guild of Music Supervisors Awards at The Theatre at Ace Hotel on Feb. 8, 2018 in Los Angeles.

HBO’s hit show Insecure is renown for its celebration of good local, contemporary music. Its huge emphasis on the sound of the show is what initially drew music supervisor, Kier Lehman to join the team.

“I love the way they feature music and the role it plays in the storytelling," he explains. "The style of music they use feels very West Coast, like Los Angeles -- very modern, not a throwback or a stereotype.”

Lehman collaborates on Insecure's music with show creator Issa Rae, director Melina Matsoukas, singer-songwriter Solange Knowles, and songwriter/musician Raphael Saadiq. The group works together to feature some of Los Angeles’ best up-and-coming artists that enhance the raw and unfiltered portrayal of Los Angeles within the show.

Lehman previously worked with HBO as a music supervisor for the series Entourage, establishing a relationship with one of the producers that eventually landed him a spot with Insecure. “I didn't work on the pilot, but once they picked up the show for series they brought me in and I actually first met with the producer and Melina,” he says. “At that point Solange and Raphael Saadiq were already a part of the team, but I think Solange didn't have much music supervision experience, so they needed somebody who could come in and really deliver on the nuts and bolts. as well as collaborate on the creative side with Solange.”

Once he saw the pilot, he immediately loved the concept. “It was full of a lot of artists that I was already a huge fan of, so I felt like I could bring a lot to that style to keep pushing it further. That was something that the team and I talked about early on. We wanted to have the sound of the show be really unique and be identified as the specific sound of the series.”

Once he was on board, it was time to further establish the role of music within the series. It was crucial that he and creator Issa Rae shared the same vision. “We talked about artists that she loved and wanted to reference as a sound but that also complemented the score that Raphael was creating,” he said, “The first few times were me, Solange, Issa and Raphael getting together and talking about those inspirational references and things that she [Issa] didn't like. There were some stereotypical West-Coast sounds that she didn't want to include. Everybody was throwing out artists that they were really into, or people that were connected with the Los Angeles scene at the time.”

The group decided to feature artists who “really defined the modern Los Angeles sound” to match the fresh and realistic tone of the show, doing their best to feature female, L.A.-based artists. Lehman shares that female artists such as Ravyn Lenae and the rapper duo City Girls gained massive attention after their tracks were featured in the new season, among many others.

The decisions behind the team’s music choices parallel the themes of the show. We follow Issa’s messy and real life in Season One, as she struggles to find her place in Los Angeles and she just can’t seem to catch a break. For the soundtrack, Lehman's team stresses the importance of featuring talented emerging artists who are trying to grab a spot in the music scene. “I think something that's really important for all of this and especially for Issa, is how she gives people opportunities," he explains. She really wants to be a place for shining a light on people who don't really have those opportunities, connections, or relationships to get in with Hollywood productions.”

The team gives talented Los Angeles musicians the chances they deserve, especially since they are truly the heart and sound of Los Angeles that the show needs. Who better to shape the modern music style of Los Angeles for the show than the L.A. creators defining their own sounds right now? “Of course the music that comes from the Los Angeles or Inglewood area is really important for setting that scene,” Lehman shares. “So that is definitely where that focus for L.A. up-and-coming artists is coming from. That all kind of came together with the style and the direction of the show.”


Check out the playlist below, featuring all of the songs used in Season 3 of Insecure -- and for those of you upset that Season 3 is already over, Issa Rae posted to her Twitter earlier this month that the show has been renewed for a fourth season.