In one of the funniest scenes from Insecure's fourth season, Issa Dee’s (Issa Rae) post-coital bliss is cut short when TSA Bae (Reggie Conquest) informs her that their condom slid off inside her (a clever nod to the backlash the hit HBO series received over its lack of visible condom use). Issa runs to the bathroom to remedy the situation, propping one foot on the toilet while using a handheld mirror to search for the missing prophylactic. She finds it, thankfully, and her moment of clarity quickly turns to humor as you register the song playing faintly in the background: “Looking in the mirror like, Yo, what’s the meaning? / God damn, I’m a thot for no reason,” Sonny 747 raps, echoing Issa’s thoughts.
The first time I watched the scene, I queued up Siri to ask for the song’s details and got a single Youtube result: a one-minute, 25-second track with very few views, on an account with just three subscribers. It may seem surprising that a song with no buzz is featured on the soundtrack of such a popular show, especially since past seasons include material from lauded musicians like City Girls, Saweetie, SZA, and Cardi B. But Insecure ismore than a weekly 30-minute respite from the drudgery of our everyday lives. The show has long served as a vehicle for artist discovery, championing up-and-coming musicians from the Los Angeles area especially—many of whom Insecure music supervisor Kier Lehman and creator and star Rae cull from their personal music libraries.
Insecure's soundtrack always serves as an extension of the script. When words fail the characters, the score swoops in to enhance their emotions with cleverly-placed lyrics that further the narrative. “With Insecure, we wanted to curate a specific vibe: chilled R&B, West Coast but modern, or songs that have a good bounce to it,” Lehman, who has worked as music supervisor on films like Queen & Slim and Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse, tells ELLE.com. “Most of the time there’s an emotional depth to the songs.” You might not notice, since Insecure’s appeal lies in its humorous exploration of Black millennial adulthood, soundtracked with rhythmic, upbeat melodies that prompt a bedroom twerk-off (or mirror raps), and slow-burning nocturnal R&B that might result in an unsolicited text. But adulting comes with its gut punches, like Issa and Molly’s friendship breakup that fuels Insecure’s fourth season—its most emotional yet. This year, the characters’ vulnerability, fragility, and pain are exposed through the music like never before.
“This season has more sounds with lyrics that are more emotional or reflective, to help tell those different sides of the story,” Lehman says. For instance, in episode 4, when Issa finds out Molly refused to ask Andrew to help secure talent for the Block Party, the lyric, “Made cuz I'm shining you wanna throw shade,” from Sonyae’s “Shade,” closes out the episode. In the following episode, Issa wakes up the next morning, sighing as she sulks to the kitchen to look for food. Steve Lacy sings, “If I could travel through time / I would tell myself from the past, 'You'll be fine.'” The song, "If Only," foreshadows how Issa will overcome the sadness that follows the demise of her friendship with Molly. “We realized pretty early on that there was going to be more emotional moments this season,” Lehman explains. “There's not a lot of music about friendship struggles or friend breakup songs.” So Lehman and Rae hosted writing workshops with artists to ensure the music fit the tone of the show alongside the songs they sourced organically.
Even though the script and score veer on the heavier side in season 4, Insecure never really abandons its signature bright tones. “We've always worked on having music that supports the comedy of the show,” Lehman adds. “The music isn't funny, but it helps you feel like it's okay to laugh at these situations. It's finding that balance and understanding what we want to leave you with heading into the next episode.” As we head into tonight's finale, Lehman and Rae break down the meanings behind some of season 4's most memorable music moments.
Episode 1: "Lowkey Feeling Myself"
The Song: “A Boy Is a Gun” by Tyler the Creator
The Scene: The camera pans over Issa's Block Party in the opening scene of the premiere.
The Lyric: "No, don't shoot me down / You so motherfucking dangerous"
Rae: I absolutely love the IGOR album and knew I wanted to feature some of the songs in our season. Given the looming, eerie tension we were setting up between Molly and Issa, this felt perfect to open the season. Plus, Tyler is from L.A. and I love to rep L.A. artists.
Lehman: Before we even got into editing, we were on set for the Block Party and [Issa] told me, 'I already have the song that's going to open the show. I think it's this Tyler song.' I think it reflects her growth and realizing what's important in her life and with her friends. The song is talking about being real—let's take away the facades we put up for each other. Let's confront the issues. We see this theme reflected in a few relationships throughout the season.
The Song: "Tuesday Feeling" by Blood Orange
The Scene: Following an awkward exchange where Molly calls Issa's life "messy," the pair take out the trash in silence.
The Lyric: "Choose to ignore blues / Something to get in your way / You choose to stay"
Lehman: It feels sort of directed at Issa, right? With this particular song, we're talking about the flags that are going up or the bumps in the road that [Molly and Issa] are coming into. Are they going to ignore it and proceed as if everything is fine, which is how they've been going for a little while? Or are those things going to become so big that they can't ignore them and it blows up?
Episode 2: "Lowkey Distant"
The Song: "Thot 4 No Reason" by Sonny747
The Scene: Issa's in her bathroom, using a handheld mirror to remove a condom from inside herself.
The Lyric: "Looking in the mirror like, Yo, what's the reason? / God damn, I'm a thot for no reason"
Rae: This was a song found by our amazing music supervisor, Kier Lehman, placed perfectly by our editor for this episode, Nena Erb. The lyrics definitely encompassed how Issa was feeling in the moment. In fact, we actually cut a scene where we had an embarrassed Issa going to the pharmacy to purchase a Plan B pill. This is one of those moments where the music does the extra work for us.
Lehman: That song was a demo submitted to me from the writers. That's how we come across [a lot of] music in the show. Everybody is sending us music: artists, managers, group songwriters, publishers, record labels. I mine through everything submitted and pick out the nuggets worth actually putting in the show. The tone of that song is a really great example of how the song is not necessarily funny, but when put into that context, it makes you want to laugh at the scene.
Episode 3: "Lowkey Thankful"
The Song: "Case of the Ex" by Mya
The Scene: After Lawrence and Condola call it quits, Lawrence sends Issa an Instagram DM.
The Lyric: "It's after midnight and she's on your phone"
Rae: Every season—except maybe season 3—I like to have a light throwback song moment to honor artists I love. Of course, the music has to fit the scene. When Solange was our music consultant for the first season, she started this trend with a Kelis and D'Angelo placement. Then for season 2, I continued it with Jazmine Sullivan and Teedra Moses. For season 4, I knew I wanted it to be Mya. This was the perfect song to foreshadow what was to come between Issa and Lawrence.
Lehman: Before filming, we spoke a lot about wanting to look at some of those classic songs people are going to have nostalgia for and be excited to hear again in this new context. We don't use a lot of classic songs, but in a moment like that it feels worthwhile because of the impact that song has.
Episode 4: "Lowkey Losin' It"
The Song: "Shade" by Sonyae
The Scene: When Molly calls Issa to tell her Andrew won't be helping out with the Block Party, Issa hangs up, disappointed in Molly.
The Lyric: "Mad 'cause I’m shining they wanna throw shade"
Rae: I initially placed Musiq [Soulchild]'s "Just Friends" to stay on a roll with throwbacks and because I loved the irony of featuring a song about a relationship's demise due to crossing the friendship boundary. But it felt too sad and I knew we had more sad endings to come. I opted for something a little bit more upbeat and angry, and Kier delivered this wonderful gem.
Lehman: We wanted to set a tone of, where did we end up at this episode, and where are we going on the next one? We went through a few songs in that spot, and ["Shade"] ended up really capturing the moment of [Issa] getting off the phone and being in this super frustrated place. Then the water is off in the shower and everything is going wrong for her. That scene alludes to what's going on with Molly, but is also about her being annoyed and frustrated.
Episode 5: "Lowkey Movin’ On"
The Song: “You Can’t Save Me” by SiR
The Scene: Following Molly and Issa’s big argument at the Block Party, rain starts to pour down.
Rae: We couldn't have an episode about an Inglewood block party and not feature SiR. I always loved this song and knew I wanted to place it, and given Issa's mood after her big fight with Molly and her pattern of actions, this song felt like the perfect complement. It's also such a good song for the rain.
Episode 6: "Lowkey Done"
The Song: "Hood Rat Shit” by Megan Thee Stallion
The Scene: In a dream sequence, Issa runs down the group of girls who dined and dashed on her.
The Lyrics: "Bitch, keep talking that shit from your Honda / Hoes love to act, but they ain't wit' the drama"
Rae: This was another pristine temp placement by our editor, Nena, that I saw in the cut and loved. It fit the callous, immature vibe of these girls so perfectly and I also love the eerie intro to the song as Issa slowly discovers she's been played. I typically like to go for songs that wouldn't necessarily be placed in other shows, but this was too good to resist.
Lehman: Megan is hot right now. I had just worked with her a bit on Queen & Slim so I definitely was keeping her music close for Insecure. When the editor was cutting stuff together and told me they needed something really be aggressive for Issa chasing these girls, I started putting together some things and sent a batch of songs to them. Before I was able to send the folder I had built, the editor shot me a note back and said, "I was looking through the stuff you sent me and 'Hood Rat Shit' is perfect for this scene." Issa saw it, she loved it, and of course it just worked so well.
The Song: “Pressure” by Baby Rose
The Scene: Issa sees Molly at the Ethiopian restaurant.
The Lyric: "Don't need anyone / To remind me / Rather chase the sun / Than hide behind the tree"
Lehman: Baby Rose is an artist we have become huge fans of and really wanted to work with on the show this season. It was extra special to get to feature a song from her in such a prominent moment where you get to really hear the whole song and hear her voice and get a good feel for her as an artist. It's a heavy moment for fans to see these two that far apart. Baby Rose's voice is incredible and has so much soul, weight, and depth. It really can score that moment in a really emotional way. Also, the lyrics of the song, talking about running away from somebody, trying to get away from a relationship that's holding you back, spoke to that specific moment at the restaurant.
Episode 7: "Lowkey Trippin'"
The Song: "Rompe Rodillas” by Guaynaa
The Scene: Molly and Andrew get in a quickie on the balcony at their resort in Mexico.
The Lyric: "¿Qué es lo que tú quieres, mami?"
Rae: With our Mexican-set episode, I knew I wanted to feature Mexican and Latino artists throughout. Kier pulled so many amazing artists and songs that fit the episode. Guaynaa is actually Puerto Rican, but this song bumps! I need to Google Translate the lyrics though.
Lehman: I had a lot of fun searching for music for that episode because it's a little bit different than what we normally do and it's such a rich genre right now. I'm a fan of Latin music and I've been learning about the new artists coming out, so I had a place to start. There's so many great artists that fit in with the sound of the show. Because it's got a little more Latin flavor and they're Spanish lyrics, it really makes you feel like you're with Molly and Andrew."
Episode 8: "Lowkey Happy"
The Song: "Show You" by Baby Rose ft. Q
The Scene: Lawrence and Issa confess that they still have feelings for each other before spending the night together.
The Lyric: "Tell me, baby, how you like me now? / God, I'm hurting for you, there's no easy way out"
Issa: This was one of those songs I immediately fell in love with. Kier introduced me to Baby Rose's music and I absolutely love the album, but this song?! The lyrics?! This felt like the perfect emotional catalyst for Issa and Lawrence's new dynamic.
The Song: "Out of Your League" by Blood Orange
The Scene: The morning after a steamy night with Lawrence, Issa decides to walk back to her apartment, contentment written all over her face.
The Lyric: "Definitely a trap, she'll get ya body and you're starting to feel weak / Maybe a thing that you wanted is all that you need"
Rae: Before we shot the final scene, Ava [Berkofsky, the director of this episode and Insecure DP] asked if I knew which song I wanted to walk to. She wanted to add some texture to how she'd shoot it. I started scrolling through my phone and knew this had to be the song. Blood Orange is definitely a show favorite. This episode is a series favorite for me and I wanted to make sure I absolutely loved Every. Single. Song.
Episode 9: "Lowkey Trying"
The Song: "Velvet" by Kirby ft. Lucky Daye
The Scene: The episode opens with a montage of Issa and Lawrence's intimate moments since getting back together.
The Lyric: "My man ain't used to bein' catered / He say, that for me / All that and it's free"
Issa: Kirby is another artist introduced to me by Kier. As soon as I heard "Velvet," I fell in love immediately. I love her voice and the production is so beautiful. Typically when I listen to new songs Kier sends me, I write down descriptive words to remember where I might want to place them. For this song I wrote down the words, "beautiful, thinking, working, focused…possible sex song with Lawrence and Issa?" It's the perfect montage song!
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