Issa Rae Previews HOORAE’s Next Big, Black-Ass Plans

Photo: Courtesy of Tasos Katopodis/Getty Images.
Issa Rae’s legacy hinges upon shining a light on Black talent, and she curated a weekend of very dope, very Black events in Washington, D.C. to prove it. Audio Everywhere label Raedio and media company HOORAE, both owned by Rae, were invited to the nation’s capital to takeover the prestigious Kennedy Center for the weekend as part of their 50th anniversary celebration — an honor that couldn’t have happened without the help of a Black woman, the media mogul shares in a round table interview. “The thing that’s most special about being here is that a Black person, a Black female, who works here reached out to us to bring us here,” she said as she earnestly looked around the room. “I feel like that is necessary. In some ways, the only way that we get to be in these spaces is because someone [in our community] is looking out.”
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That Rae chose to shout out the help of a Black woman as the “most special” part about such an iconic weekend was notable, not only because Black women rarely get the credit that we deserve, but because it’s Rae herself who so often serves as that avenue for Black people to find themselves in new spaces. The Hoorae x Kennedy Center Takeover was a perfect example. For an entire weekend, an itinerary boasting performances by Mereba and Flo Milli, short film screenings, a live show from “The Read” duo Kid Fury and Crissle, networking parties, and the latest installment of Rae’s fireside chat series (“A Sip with Issa Rae” featuring Keke Palmer) brought a community of Blackity-Black folks together in the official United States national cultural center — a space that has not historically been very Black, despite our endless contributions to the culture. 
Photo: Courtesy of Tasos Katopodis/Getty Images.
Seated comfortably in a jewel-toned purple knit Hanifa dress (“Okay, fashion!!” she exclaimed to my absolute delight when I recognized the designer), Issa started the interview by asking us all how far we’d traveled to be there. She displayed a genuine interest in our answers, asking follow-up questions and relating back to her own life, that set the tone for the rest of our time with her. Rae exudes a self-assuredness and affability that immediately put me at ease in the face of interviewing one of my idols. She knew she was That Girl™, but that confidence was less intimidating and more encouraging, as if you could also be That Girl™ if you simply adopted her confidence as your own. 
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From the previously unknown cast and crew of Insecure, to the artists, designers, and even restaurants that she has put on the map throughout her career, it’s clear that Rae has a natural inclination to shine her light onto others. It’s something that is crucial for her to continue to do, she tells us. “To always be able to have my eye on what others are doing that I know I appreciate, that I know culturally others would appreciate, is important to me and it just feels innate to me.”

In some ways, the only way that we get to be in these spaces is because someone [in our community] is looking out.

Issa rae
She’s not precious about it either — Rae is an equal opportunist when it comes to new talent, and she’ll use any and all avenues to find inspiration… even Twitter replies. “You know how you always see people post their music [under a tweet] like as a non sequitur, like, ‘We weren't even talking about that but you posted your link, why would you do that?’” she offers comically. “Sometimes I will click on that link and be like this person is so desperate or confident that they’re like, ‘This viral tweet? People are gon’ come straight to my music and love it.’ And so in some cases I’ve seen stuff where I'm like, ‘Oh, that kinda hits!’ And I have put some of those songs on Insecure or approached some of those artists.”
Photo: Courtesy of Tasos Katopodis/Getty Images.
It’s refreshing to hear that someone of Rae’s superstar status finds talent in seemingly mundane ways. It almost seems risky, but she maintains that she’s not at all afraid to use her platform to co-sign new voices. “I have NO issue taking chances on people. I would rather take a chance on someone than not.” she says emphatically. “Especially if they seem promising. And for the most part, 95% of the time, people deliver. People are waiting and ready for their opportunity.”
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Rae’s strategy of lifting while she climbs is precisely what makes her such an excellent producer. Rap Sh*t, her next scripted series, promises to showcase her production prowess, something she seems relieved to be able to focus on without having to be in front of the camera. “I love being behind the scenes, I love producing,” she says when asked if she’s conflicted about no longer being the talent. “I frequently say I never need to do something like Insecure again where I’m wearing all hats. I’ve experienced that, and I’m good!” Little is known about the new HBO series, but Rae offers some insight. Unlike Insecure, Rap Sh*t will not draw much from her own life. “It’s kind of like a combination of various female rapper stories. So you may see sprinkles of stuff from the City Girls, stuff from Meg, definitely Cardi, and just my general observations of being a female rap fan.”
Photo: Courtesy of Tasos Katopodis/Getty Images.
Rae has so much coming down the pipeline, and it was nice to take a moment to appreciate all she and her team are accomplishing. The HOORAE x Kennedy Center Takeover weekend was not only a blast, but attendees left with so much more than a weekend of fun. I boarded my plane having gained so many insights, new perspectives, “a-ha” moments, a handful of genuine new friends, and a sense of awe about just how much HOORAE is doing for the culture. For Rae, that’s what it was all about. 
“This is such a big deal for all of us to kind of have a reemergence party and a series of events to show you guys what HOORAE is doing,” said Rae.“That is one of the priorities for us this year is to just reintroduce what we do for the industry and be in a place that celebrates culture and have them celebrate Black culture means the world to me and us.”

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