Hip-Hop Business Maven Mona Scott-Young Talks Running the Show

The media exec details why she branched out and why women need to network like men

Mona Scott-Young is the business executive behind the success of artists such as Missy Elliott, Busta Rhymes and 50 Cent (Image: Press)

If you’ve heard of Missy Elliott, Busta Rhymes, Maxwell or 50 Cent, then you’ve likely heard of Mona Scott-Young (or are at least familiar with her stellar career management skills). The former president and co-founder of Violator Management spent nearly two decades in partnership with longtime co-founder, Chris Lighty, but set sail on her own, establishing Monami Entertainment LLC in 2008. “I’d been with Violator for a very long time taking the company, I think, to great heights, but found that there were so many other areas I wanted to explore and dive into,” says Scott-Young. Starting a boutique entertainment company that spans beyond artist management to television and film production was just the beginning. Her hard work and start-up investment of just less than $1 million is paying off with Monami Entertainment producing VH1′s latest reality TV hit Love & Hip Hop, a show shadowing the lives of Chrissy Lampkin, fiancée of rapper Jim Jones; former G-Unit rapper Olivia; ex-wife of Swizz Beats, Mashonda; rapper Fabolous’ girlfriend, Emily Bustamante, and up-and-coming recording artist, Somaya Reece.

BlackEnterprise.com spoke with the mother of two about how women should join forces to make it in a male-dominated entertainment business, the challenges of transitioning from a long-term business partnership to a solo venture and how Love & Hip Hop ultimately fits into her brand.

BlackEnterprise.com: Hip-hop is a very male-dominated genre and business, as can be said about the music business as a whole. How tough is it for women to make a name for themselves in this industry?

Mona Scott-Young: It’s also getting a lot tougher to make a dent. There are so many artists popping up, so many different areas that people are trying to break through. There are a lot of men who are running those areas, so it’s really hard for women to not only get into those areas, have an opportunity to do their thing and excel. I’d like to see an opportunity created where women network in a way that creates more opportunities for them to give other women a lead in.

What are some networking tips that would lead to greater opportunities and greater connections for women?

It’s important that we stop looking at each other as competitors and see each other as allies and resources.You see males being a lot more successful at that because they have a tendency to recognize how being in business with someone can help further their agenda as opposed to hoarding that business and not allowing someone else an opportunity to come in and actually help them broaden that opportunity or that situation. What we need to do is kind of wrap our heads around the concept: the more we surround ourselves with other strong hard-working dynamic women, the bigger and better we make the opportunities that we’re involved in. There’s enough for everyone to go around, as long as we think of it more as expanding our resources.

You co-founded Violator Management, but later decided to part ways with your longtime business partner, Chris Lighty. What prompted you two to separate?

I ran [Violator] for 18 years and we did a lot of great work in the urban music space, having expanded in some other areas and dabbled in television, but there were a lot of other things that I wanted to explore. The decision was more one of growth and one of having spent a lot of time in one genre of music and in one space feeling that I wanted to spread my wings a bit and explore other opportunities for business growth but also for self-growth.

Coming from a longtime partnership,such as the one you had at Violator, what was your strategy in starting something on your own?

I just really wanted an opportunity to dig deeper into my own skill set and to explore what my personal limitations were, the things I’d always wanted to do. I set about really going after things that I had been interested in for a very long time, but really not having a chance to explore fully like television [and] production.

What were some of the challenges you faced initially with starting Monami Entertainment? How did you overcome those challenges?

One of the biggest challenges was just stepping out on faith and believing in myself and knowing I could do this all over again. And not having the safety net of an established business to rely on, but, with that said, being able to rely on the relationships built over the years, the skills [and] having the clients that were willing to go along for the ride and take that leap of faith.

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