Well before she had any degree of fame to her name, young Lena Waithe met a fresh-faced R&B singer-songwriter named Andy Allo. Some years and an Emmy Award later, Waithe caught Allo performing “this amazing song about falling in love with somebody you may not expect to fall in love with” at a small club. “I was like, ‘that’s a dope song, we should do a music video for it,'” Waithe said while introducing Allo onstage at 2019’s LOVELOUD Festival in June in Park City, Utah.
The backstory is not what you’d expect. Waithe actually approached AT&T looking to collaborate on a shared passion for elevating artists. Through their partnership and Waithe’s mentorship in the AT&T Hello Lab Mentorship program, Waithe has a legacy of partnering with the brand on initiatives that discover, support, and amplify artists from underrepresented communities.
So Waithe proposed a different kind of program, wherein Waithe and AT&T join forces to support Allo and three other promising artists — Chika, Durand Bernarr and Gavin Turek – by providing creative resources, performance opportunities, and executive counsel to amplify their careers and expand their audience.
Lena Waithe’s Artists You Should Know Presented by AT&T paired these four musicians with directors from diverse backgrounds to create a series of ambitious, thought-provoking music videos. As with the musicians, the directors all have promising futures ahead of them.
“Mentorship is essential for underrepresented creatives,” Waithe says of partnering with AT&T to help these artists reach new audiences. “Their stories are necessary for our culture and our collective growth.” Check them out below.
Andy Allo’s “Angels Make Love,” Directed by Sean Frank
“I met her a very long time ago, we were both pups,” Waithe remembers of her first encounter with Andy Allo. “She got discovered by Prince, I kept being somebody’s assistant, but life brought us back together.” The “Angels Make Love” video – featuring lithe dancers moving about in deliberate, sensual movements – comes courtesy director Sean Frank, an alumnus of the AT&T Hello Lab Mentorship Program who directed “Further Away” under Waithe’s mentorship last year. Frank’s visual expertly matches the song’s sultry, slow-burning vibe — a style Allo learned from the best of the best when she joined Prince’s New Power Generation band in 2011. The Purple One even helped with her sophomore album Superconductor, which hit No. 4 on Billboard’s Heatseekers chart.
Chika’s “High Rises,” Directed by Cierra Glaude
Recent Warner Records signee Chika may have turned down the Berklee College of Music, but she’s proven she doesn’t need a formal music education to deliver note-perfect songs that speak to her deepest desires and highest aspirations. The soulful, moving clip for “High Rises” depicts a young Black girl facing her insecurities at school — and conquering them. Guided by Cierra Glaude, the video is as inspirational as the song itself. Glaude has dedicated her career to building a cinematic world where people of color, women and the LGBTQ community are represented.
Durand Bernarr’s “Around,” Directed by Jingyi Shao
After singing backup for Erykah Badu for a decade, Durand Bernarr is bringing his silky pipes to the forefront. Part of BET’s The Next Big Thing, Bernarr’s alluring voice pulls you in, and the meditative “Around” video features home movie footage mixed with gorgeous, moody shots of Bernarr on a therapist’s couch, in an old-timey car and inside a telephone booth.
Gavin Turek’s “2am,” Directed by Tiffany Johnson
A favorite of KCRW’s taste-making radio show Morning Becomes Eclectic, Gavin Turek is a relentlessly funky singer-songwriter with a flashy sense of style and a luscious voice that comes to life on her track “2am.” The video shows Turek sporting a seashell bra, taking command of the late night and deserted streets of downtown Los Angeles, and busting out some confident choreography.