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Lisa Cortés lives up to her self-description as a “hip-hop Zelig.” She began her career in 1986 as one of the first employees of a then-tiny record label called Def Jam. From there, she went on to manage legendary producers; discover hit rap, reggae, and r&b acts; and even run a label herself.

After her time in the music industry came to an end, Lisa re-invented herself as a successful film producer, starting at the bottom and working her way up to playing a key role in the Oscar-winning movie Precious: Based on the Novel “Push” by Sapphire. She is currently producing, writing, and directing a number of fascinating film projects, which we discuss here.

Tracks featured in this episode:

  1. The Sequence, “Simon Says”
  2. Meet Hip Hop Pioneer Sherri-Sher of Mercedes Ladies, Davey D TV
  3. M.C. Boob [a.k.a. Steady B], “Do the Fila and the PeeWee Dance”
  4. Bel Biv DeVoe, “B.B.D. (I Thought It Was Me)?”
  5. Ice Cube, “The Nigga Ya Love to Hate”
  6. Paul Shaffer f/Ecstasy and The Fresh Prince, “When The Radio Is On”
  7. Yo! MTV Raps (Europe) - Best With Sophie Bramly (via YouTube)
  8. The Bangles, “Hazy Shade of Winter”
  9. Roy Orbison, “Life Fades Away”
  10. Glenn Danzig & the Power and Fury Orchestra, “You and Me (Less than Zero)”
  11. LL Cool J, “Going Back to Cali”
  12. Eric B & Rakim, “Paid In Full (Seven Minutes of Madness - the Coldcut Remix)”
  13. Jelly’s Last Jam Original Broadway Cast, “The Jam”
  14. Threat, “Let the Dogs Loose”
  15. “Run-DMC Raising Hell Tour Riot” (via YouTube user InGodWeFunk)
  16. “Bill Adler Talks Raising Hell Riots in Long Beach (1986)” (
  17. Black Sheep, “The Choice Is Yours (Revisited)”
  18. Bass is Base, “Westside Funk”
  19. Paula Perry, “Paula’s Jam”
  20. 82nd Academy Awards, Best Adapted Screenplay
  21. 82nd Academy Awards, Best Supporting Actress
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