Issa Rae's audio-everywhere company Raedio has been making a splash in the music and entertainment industry since it rose to prominence back in 2019. Now just two years later, the company has successfully cultivated a space where artists and creators alike can feel empowered in their creative pursuits. Between music supervision, podcasting and more, Raedio has become a revolutionary launching pad that's taking the industry by storm.
"It's been a journey," Raedio President and Rae's longtime business partner Benoni Tagoe shared in an exclusive interview with Shadow and Act. "We started Raedio early 2019 and [as you know] Issa has a huge affinity for music so she's provided platforms for a lot of artists and talent in general – whether it be new screenwriters, directors, producers, etc. And with the success of Insecure, we were like we might as well do a label just because we're already giving opportunities to artists [so] we should do it in a more official capacity."
Since launching, Raedio has established relationships that has prompted it to provide music supervision for some of the biggest and most popular TV shows in Black culture – including Insecure, P-Valley, Godfather of Harlem, Power Book III: Raising Kanan, Betty and Love and Hip Hop Atlanta. According to Stephanie Diaz-Matos – Head of Music Supervision & Library – the innovative nature embedded in Raedio is creating something special with each and every show that it works with.
"I think one of the more genius and exciting aspects of this audio-everywhere company that Benoni and Issa kind of created is that we are poised to music supervise a show, create original music for a show, plays music from our artists and writers in a show and also have access to a library of tracks for the show," Diaz-Matos tells us. "So we can tackle all the music per show soup to nuts, or you can work with us using just a piece [of what we do]. [With] all of us having a real understanding of what's needed in music for film and [how it can be] super collaborative, it has to work with the picture and tell a story."
"I just think we're really lucky that between the work that Issa does and the shows that she puts into the world and what we're bringing to the table, there's just a lot of great culture-making moments that people see and feel," she adds. "That's the best scenario for what we do in music."
As far as putting on for the culture goes, this mission has been on-brand for Rae's entire career so it's only natural that her audio company follows suit. Music is at Raedio's core but as it continues to grow and expand in the audio space, it's creating other opportunities to benefit creators outside of that industry.
"The way to think about [Raedio] is that [while] we're not necessarily bringing music to the forefront of culture, because there's a lot of artists already doing that, we're providing different opportunities [to people] and putting a different spin on it," Tagoe says. "Whether it be music supervision, podcasting or having a label, it's really just about creating synergy between all the different places that audio exists. When we started the company, we looked at the landscape of audio and music in general and said, 'okay, what are the different ways that we can plug in?' What we've found is there's a lot of companies that do certain things very well [with music supervision, publishing, etc.], but for us we wanted to bring all of that in-house and essentially just be a platform for artists."
One of the ways Raedio is championing that mission statement is through "The Sync Up" – a contest aimed at getting emerging musicians' music featured on the Insecure's final season. The campaign was developed on par with what the HBO series has always been known for outside of its relatable, Black millennial storylines.
"It really became a story about our DMs," Tagoe reveals. "Every time we post something we have artists and producers that are hitting us up and saying, 'Hey, how can I be a part of that?' So after a while, we decided we should do something for our audience and so we created The Sync Up to provide them [with] the same opportunities that we would provide for A-list artists or songwriters." According to Tagoe, the contest was a fun, interactive way for people to get involved in the show's music process as well as "a [chance] to work with a bunch of new artists and see what the next crop of talent was."
The next phase of the company's expansion plans is to fully venture off into the podcasting space with its very own podcast network. To kick it off, Raedio signed a historic deal with popular podcast, The Read, to develop and release a first-of-its-kind original comedy album –which is slated to arrive this fall. Raedio's relationship with podcasting began years ago, according to Tagoe, with Issa Rae leading a show called "FRUIT" that explored a Black football star's journey with his sexuality.
"That show was supposed to be a web series and then eventually a TV [series] but we turned it into a podcast and it was one of the first new-form scripted podcasts that existed," Tagoe shares. "A lot of podcasts experts, if you will, told us that it was one of the best podcasts that they had ever heard. So from there we decided that there's something there, but the business was growing in different areas so we never really got a chance to really lean into it."
"Fast forward a couple years [later], we did a show called Issa's Raedio Show on Apple Music where Issa was able to tell stories of her childhood or just random concepts," he adds. "Then recently we did a deal with The Read where we're coming out with an original comedy album. Obviously as you know, The Read is a very popular podcast so we decided to take the two things that we're good at – music and podcasting – combine the two. In terms of opening doors for creators, I think this will be a great project to showcase what you can do when you combine [these two entities]. As the industry grows and as platforms like Apple, Spotify and Tidal continue to grow, the sky's the limit to be able to fuse the two worlds together."
As a part of its future plan to take over the podcast space, Raedio intends to "start working with new up-and-coming podcasters and really build out a network from there." This includes producing a new season of Looking For LaToya: The Podcast with HBO.
Looking ahead, Raedio's other expansion plans also include working with forthcoming shows like The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air Reboot, ABC's new series Queens, HBO Max series Rap Sh*t and Sweet Life. Fans of Insecure can expect the final season of the show that's reportedly "coming soon."