Historically renowned for its vibrant and diverse music scene, Houston is currently ushering in the next generation of talent to carry the legacy forward. One rising star captivating listeners with a unique sound that defies categorization is LaNell Grant.

She is a trailblazing independent artist and award-winning music producer making waves with the release of her solo debut album “I Ain’t Gone Hold You.”

Grant has emerged as a force to be reckoned with, redefining the local music landscape thought-provoking lyrics, unapologetic artistry, raw talent and her unwavering commitment to pushing creative boundaries.

The two-time NAACP Image Awards winning producer/performer has appeared on NPR’s Tiny Desk, the BET Music Awards, Jimmie Kimmel Live!, President Joe Biden’s inauguration and two nationwide tours. Songs she’s produced for Grammy Award-nominated rapper Tobe Nwigwe have been featured on two NBA national campaigns, Apple Music and Beats, and as theme songs for the Madden NFL 22, NBA2K20 and MLB 19: The Show video games.

And no matter how extensive her portfolio is, she continues to be a well-rounded and grounded producer in every sense of the word, growing her family along with her organization “Women Produce,” championing women’s creativity in music.

The Defender sat one-on-one with Grant offering a glimpse into her musical journey and unfiltered truths that shaped her essence.

Defender: How does it feel to finally drop this solo album?

Grant: I’m very excited. Ecstatic. Proud. I’m independent. My small but mighty team and I still have a lot to do. Right now, the deal is to ensure we enjoy it, but still get the work done.

Defender: Why did you feel this was the time to share a project?

Grant: I don’t have a choice. I knew that I couldn’t stop moving. I understood that the further you walk, the world really wants you to be thinking about you all the time. Is this a good time for me? How does this match up with the things I got going on? The places where I want to be? The person I want to become? But it doesn’t have a lot to do with me. I want to be obedient. And in that obedience, I can’t consistently keep telling God, “No, I’m not going to do it right now,” or “I’m too scared,” or whatever. So, more than I thought that this was some divine time, I was trying to move and do exactly what God wanted me to do.

Defender: Who is the person behind the music? Who are you?

Grant: I’m somebody’s mama. I’m somebody’s wife, somebody’s friend, somebody’s sister. Those are the most important things to me. I’m a part of a body. I’m an edifier in this season of my life. I’m taking joy in being okay that I’m an encourager. I’m a teacher. It doesn’t matter what place you put me in, what position you put me in, or what title you give me. That’s what is going to come out of it. In this season, I’m happy about being able to walk fully in that. I don’t view myself as an artist because it’s not a job that I chose. It was something that I felt that I couldn’t not do it. Does that make sense? I’m much more than a couple of bars, beats and whatever else I produce.

You were raised in Alief. How was your upbringing like? How did it shape you as the person we see today?

Defender: What does it mean for you to take up space in a male-dominated industry?

Grant: It’s such a good question, and I want to handle it with care because only some are afforded the opportunity and the safety that I’m afforded. First and foremost, I am under the supervision of my husband. I don’t think of myself as someone in the music industry. That is where I operate, but I’m not engulfed and submerged in the music industry. There is always somebody, a man, who I can trust to help me read a situation. What’s really going on here? Is this really safe? The other luxury is I went from my father to my husband.

There are things that I’ve always understood, regardless of how much I love music and how amazing it is; I can’t sit up in a studio until 2:30a.m. with dudes that I don’t know. Regardless of who dominates it [music industry], I’ve decided what my boundaries are, and whether that means a deficit right now or an opportunity I can’t have, that’s okay. I don’t want to compromise who I am. I’m everything “Women Produce.” I champion women with my entire heart.

As a woman, my body is fashioned to incubate, make and produce. I didn’t make that up. That’s the rules of engagement. I know that young girls are trying to figure out who they are. Everything else is you having the experience and figuring out what kind of woman you will be. Most of the time, you’re just trying to figure out how to get what’s inside of you out. What I really found is to have peace. It’s less about who is who and what is what. I had to decide what was okay for me.

  • You were raised in Alief. How was your upbringing like? How did it shape you as the person we see today?
  • You were raised in Alief. How was your upbringing like? How did it shape you as the person we see today?
  • You were raised in Alief. How was your upbringing like? How did it shape you as the person we see today?
  • You were raised in Alief. How was your upbringing like? How did it shape you as the person we see today?
  • You were raised in Alief. How was your upbringing like? How did it shape you as the person we see today?
  • You were raised in Alief. How was your upbringing like? How did it shape you as the person we see today?

Defender: One thing that stuck out to me was when you said, “You are more than a producer”—but what does it take to be one?

Grant: What that means for me is being okay [with] being challenged because often in this world, you don’t want your ideas to be challenged; you don’t want your character to be challenged. You don’t want to have to be molded into something else. As a woman, I keep a woman around me who can challenge me. I keep wise counsel around me who can challenge the type of woman I’m becoming. That means embracing this journey of womanhood.

I’m trying to let God mold me into what he wants me to be. I’ve turned myself into what I wanted to be, and I didn’t like it. You take pride in whatever you do as a woman because you are producing. It looks different in every season. When I started producing, I could sit in front of a computer for 40-80 hours a week. I got babies and a husband now. I can’t do that now. What it means to be a woman and a producer means to have the agility and fluidity to be what you are supposed to be when you are supposed to be it.

Defender: You said that you are walking BIG on this album. You said it took you time to say this with your chest! Talk about the importance of faith.

Grant: I really believed I was shrinking. I still need to nail down the why. And most of us women we’re always shrinking in one way or another, then we overcompensate. Then we come out swinging, and the swings are full of bitterness and aggression. Glory to God, I’ve been able to maintain not shrinking but also not turning bitter. So much life was spoken into me as a child, as a teenager, and it was one of the reasons I realized I was shrinking. I can’t tell you why other than the plan of the enemy [told me] I shouldn’t be a lyricist or that I shouldn’t speak boldly. The enemy has real plans to steal, kill, and destroy, and if you’re not careful, you will buy into the plans and own them. Challenge the things in your mind that you are set on not doing. Why won’t you do it? Who told you that you couldn’t?

Defender: Talk about your brand “Women Produce.”

Grant: When I was trying to figure out my branding, it was almost like a tattoo. If you get the wrong tattoo at 18 years old, you’re looking at that thing on your 80-year-old body, and you’re like, “Yo, why did I do that?” I was really trying to figure out something that I wouldn’t outgrow. At that time, I was head over heels for music production, and I understood the dynamics of the terrain, and “Women Produce” made sense. This was on the cusp of having my first son. As soon as he got here, this whole thing shifted for me. It became all of the women doing everything we were trying to do. Whether you’re a woman at home and your main goal right now is to produce for your household and to show up big for your house, or you’re the woman in the in-between space showing up for your home and showing up at work, you are producing. I’m in love with women knowing that there is a community of us aspiring to the same things, wanting the joy and peace of life, while having healthy ambitions while making sure you leave space to cultivate the relationships that inevitably, when you are old, are what you’re going to want. “Women Produce” as a company is to champion women with a desire to produce. It looks like a group of women doing the things they do together and [building] a network to call on each other in a vetted and safe environment.

Website: https://www.producedbynell.com/

Instagram: @Lanellgrant

Twitter: @producedbynell

Youtube: LaNell Grant

Facebook: LaNell Grant

I cover Houston's education system as it relates to the Black community for the Defender as a Report for America corps member. I'm a multimedia journalist and have reported on social, cultural, lifestyle,...