Culture

In Her Own Words: How Stephanie Diaz-Matos Curates the Soundtrack to ‘P-Valley’

We talked to Raedio’s head music supervisor Stephanie Diaz-Matos about working on P-Valley, The Get Down, and Issa Rae’s upcoming show Rap Shit.

Stephanie Diaz-Matos isn’t a household name but her work has been praised by thousands of fans. Diaz-Matos is a music supervisor who’s worked on P-Valley, Wu-Tang: An American Saga, and Netflix’s short-lived The Get Down. Her use of musical catalogs on shows serves as a bridge between the storylines and visual transitions, offering moments to further amplify the plot while showcasing newer talents and revered artists. With women only accounting for 30% of music supervisors in the United States, Diaz-Matos is already having an impact. She’s won the Guild of Music Supervisors Award three times — most recently in March — and she’s the first woman to be at the helm of Issa Rae’s Raedio Music Supervision arm of the company. Diaz-Matos is also focused on helping more women and minorities enter the music supervision space. 

In our conversation with Diaz-Matos, we talked about P-Valley, her experience with The Get Down, what we can anticipate with Issa Rae‘s Rap Shit on HBO, and what to expect with the upcoming Verzuz documentary. 

As told to Kia Turner

On what being a music supervisor is like.

It’s a lot of relationship management. I think of it as you being in the center of the film and music worlds. On one hand, you’re managing producers, directors, editors, music editors, and post-supervisors… film is unbelievably collaborative and you are the first point of contact for many people who have many needs and many opinions. Then on the other side, you have the music industry which moves in a completely different way than the film industry. Their timelines, budgets, and the way they create are different. You are trying to marry these two worlds and it’s a lot of personality management, workflow management, and communication skills there are days where I spend my whole day on the phone managing expectations, progress, composers and musicians and directors, and producers. The music is a part of the process that’s emotional and plays into the emotion of the story. People get emotional around the choices of the music because it is so personal. 

It’s different every day which is part of why I like it. Some days are paperwork days where I get the budget organized, get the paperwork squared away, and catch up on emails. And some days I’m deep in production, having conversations with directors, pulling music, listening through music, reading scripts, and doing breakdowns. Some days, pre-COVID, it would be going to the set and supervising an on-camera performance or going to a recording studio to supervise a session for the music we’re creating for a scene. Meeting with the editors and director and going through music. So each day can be any mix of that. 

On how she became attached to P-Valley.

P-Valley is a show that was in development for a very long time. Katori (Hall, P-Valley’s showrunner) had been trying to get with me for the show because at first, it was a stage show, and then it was years in development at Starz. One of the writers and one of the writer’s assistants at The Get Down were in the writer’s room for P-Valley. They brought my name up to Katori, we set up a meeting and I was just like… I have to do this show. Originally, I didn’t get the gig but one day I was out and got a call from my agent and they were like, “P-Valley wants you back in the mix.” They were either in the middle of filming the first episode or had just filmed the first episode and he was like, they want to make a change. I always feel like those projects, if it’s meant to be, it’ll be a match. It passed me by but it came back around. Katori is so passionate about music and so specific in her choices, that she’s a tour-de-force. She knows her story, she knows her characters, she knows her music so it’s an incredible experience.

On how J. Alphonse Nicholson’s “ Mississippi Pride” was created.

“Mississippi Pride” came out of a writer’s camp we did in Atlanta for the show. One of the writers left out for lunch and I remember chasing him down and saying, “You have to finish this! It’s so good.” But I’m really happy with how that song came out. There are shows that use current music but I think what we do really special here with P-Valley is it’s truly from the club to the old soul records. It’s one of the many things that’s unique to what we’re doing. I don’t think people realize, that those tattoos are makeup, their outfits are hand-made, and there’s so much attention and care to everything. It’s magic.

On why The Get Down was the “Olympics of Music Supervision.”

I worked on every piece of music you heard on the show except for the score. I was involved with the score in the sense that they were interpolating songs that we placed but for the soundtrack album, it’s all the pieces that were original to the show with artists, our label partner was RCA. I remember that we got into this concept where we were taking songs like The Jackson 5’s “Hum Along and Dance” or just taking records of the period and putting them with current artists so they either sampled it or added new lyrics. Or we picked a song that for the moment and would have Leon Bridges do a cover of [The Temptations’] “Ball of Confusion” that Terrance Martin produced. We had a producer named Malay who helped connect the dots and at the time he was working with Raury who is cool with Jaden Smith and that’s how we got “Losing Your Mind.” “Cadillac” was a song that [creator]  Baz [Luhrmann] loved that we gave to Miguel because he was on RCA. “Telepathy” was a SIA song that we cut with Christina Aguilera and Nile Rogers.

It was really special because when you work with Baz, he builds a world and you live in it. So for two years, it was consuming but now, I can say, it was incredible.

On the status of Issa Rae’s Rap Shit and Amazon’s Verzuz documentary Gifted and Black.

The Verzuz doc is going to be epic. They’re shooting it now but it’s really a discussion on the history of Black music and contextualizing the Verzuz phenomenon within this larger conversation about call and response, spirituals, and speakeasy gatherings. I haven’t seen much because they’re still shooting and gathering but it is an extensive review of how Verzuz lives in the larger conversation of Black music. It’s a really ambitious project.

Rap Shit is a very exciting project because it really speaks to the larger vision of what Hoorae is all about. There’s management Color Creative, there’s Hoorae which is film and TV production, Raedio, and then the digital team. Rap Shit harnesses the talent in every single part of the company. Syreeta Singleton is the showrunner who started on Insecure. It is a project that hopefully connects. I think it will. It’s a fun set in Miami and has a stylized way of storytelling. We did writing camps to get the music for our leads but also original pieces for the soundtrack. We brought in Danja who worked with the talent and helped with pre-records. I hope people are excited about it. 

Kia Turner

Kia Turner is a freelance journalist and music historian from Newark, New Jersey. Managing her album-based series Deconstructing or talking about Pussy Rap, you can find the Hoodaville princess at @ChasingKia on all platforms. 

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