For years, Mona Scott-Young has been behind the scenes effortlessly crafting the careers of Busta Rhymes, Missy Elliott and 50 Cent, to name a few.
While filming a reality television show documenting the life of Harlem rapper and her client Jim Jones, Scott got a unique perspective about the complex relationship between his longtime girlfriend and mother.
Through her Momami Entertainment company, she teamed with VH1 for 'Love and Hip Hop,' the natural transition from 'Basketball Wives' and 'Football Wives,' which uncovers the lives of the women behind some of the most famous rap stars out.
BlackVoices.com got the scoop from Mrs. Scott-Young on if these women should throw in the towel with their relationships, the future of hip hop music and why her show is different from the rest.
Here's 20 Questions With Mona Scott-Young
BlackVoices.com: So, you used to be a background dancer back in the day and wore catsuits?
Mona Scott-Young: You want to go back to the catsuits? To be honest with you, the dancing and choreography and artist development was something that came to me because it was something that I enjoyed. I walked into a dance studio one day and saw this class Stage Moves, and they worked with artists on their stage presence and how to hold the mic. I thought, "That looks really interesting. I can do that." I really enjoyed it, and it led to me doing artist development and choreography and eventually a couple of the acts I was working with asked me to appear in their videos. I did it because it was part of getting their show together.
BV: For people who don't know your history, can you tell us who some of the artists are that did background dancer for?
MSY: You should make that a trivia question. Make that a trivia question.
BV: How did you transition into becoming a manager?
MSY: It's not a natural progression for most people, but for me, what I did in management wasn't something I studied or sought but once I started working with Trackmasters, who came to me and said, "We want you to manage us as producers," I didn't want to have them subject to my trial and error. But they believed in me, and that was the start of my management company.
BV: And when did you start working with Violator Management?
MSY: I met Chris Lightly who, at the time, was still at Rush Management, and I worked with Black Sheep and that's how he and I connected. He was one of the doors I knocked on. When I hooked up with Chris, he was on the verge of a big change himself because he was going onto Def Jam with Lyor Cohen and being A&R with Def Jam and said, "We haven't figured out what we are going to do with these guys." So what started out as a request [to assist with finding out what to do with these artists] turned into a 20-year business relationship.
BV: Were you the only female manager back then in hip hop?
MSY: I don't know if there were others. I know there were other women that were around and doing it, but, for the most, part I think that I probably was one of the few females at a management company and especially in the hip hop game.
BV: Was that difficult for you running the careers of big-name people and calling the shots as one of the few women around?
MSY: The thing for me -- and the one thing I've had to rely on not having degrees or experience of working at a company and having to figure it out on my own -- I always had confidence in my skill set and went through it with blinders on. I'd be on the bus with a bunch of dudes and I gained a certain amount of control and respect, but also [I demanded] basic things like everybody is sharing rooms, I'm not. My clients respected the grind, and I always had their support. When I took on Missy as a client, I had both a client and an ally in terms of a woman battling her way in a male-dominated industry and not looking like a female pop star or a female rap star of that time. But, there is a camaraderie that exists amongst the men in terms of how they look out for and take care of each other.
BV: How did you not fall for a guy in the business?
MSY: It's a double-edged sword with not getting involved with clients, but I actually met my husband on the road. He was doing personal protection for Busta, so I broke my own cardinal rule.
BV: Some people will remember you from Missy's reality television show. Was that the first time you envisioned 'Love & Hip Hop' on television?
MSY: I conceptualized and produced that series for UPN. This started out as a show about Jim Jones, and when we did the pilot for that, it was centered around Jim. But, from the time that we shot the pilot, the VH1 audience had changed and we found out that Chrissy, his girlfriend, and his mom were incredibly strong characters. We reshaped what started out as a show about Jim Jones and expanded the cast to make it an ensemble series. That's how the concept for 'Love and Hip Hop' came about.
BV: Initially, knowing the type of reality shows that the network has, how did you keep this series different from 'Basketball Wives' or 'Football Wives'?
MSY: They cut the trailers so that they are salacious and so that people tune in, but the feedback that I've been getting is "Wow, you really coupled these girls in an honest way, and we feel like we're in a conversation and we get it." Even if you see them arguing, it isn't an argument for the sake of good television. I kept telling the girls, "We are committed to this and to make a good show, and in order to do that, you girls have to show up for the party and can't have any walls up or preconceived notions of what you want to share. You are going to spread the truth about how you are really feeling." I think that is the challenge with reality television. People say they are going to be real, but they automatically want to project a certain image of how they want people to see them.
BV: A lot of viewers think that with Emily and Chrissy, people assume that those women know what they are getting into. Do you think that there are any monogamous rappers out there?
MSY: It was very important for me that I didn't judge them. In order to get them to be honest, they couldn't be judged. My opinion wasn't important. I was just trying to capture where they were and what were they feeling. As far as anybody's ability to be monogamous, I think that's a function of that person and not that person's industry.
BV: Seriously, Mona, you've been in the business forever and have seen these famous people's careers rise and also the behind-the-scenes happenings. Do you really think they will be monogamous?
MSY: I've been married to my husband for 15 years. He was in the business. So, I'm telling you as honestly as I can. I am a walking and living example. I am married to a dude that came from hip hop. I'm not feeding you any bulls**t. If a dude is going to do what he is going to do, he's going to do it whether he's a rapper or an accountant. That's who he is. It has nothing to do with the industry he's in. I'm not pessimistic to the extent that I'm going to loop every rapper in one bowl. It's not something that I believe honestly. When you look at their lives, here's another side to the story, with Fabolous, in his mind, he rationalizes it by saying what I do publicly is my public life and you are my personal life. That's the way it is, and Emily chooses to do this show because she felt like she wanted to be out there.
BV: Do you think they have a good relationship or that he will say he cheats on her?
MSY: If he wants to come on the show and say he's doing some s**t, by all means, do that on season two but that's definitely not what I got out of it. I thought, "Wow this is a woman who has been in a relationship for a very long time. They have a child together and he has a certain way he wants to live his life." But, she wants a more public life.
BV: We also saw Swizz Beats' ex-wife, Mashonda, in the first episode. Is she a main character or will she just pop up every now and then?
MSY: Mashonda came out because her and Emily are good friends. She appears in the episode mainly as a friend. We talk a little bit about her story. She puts herself out there as a cautionary tale to Emily saying, "You've got to figure out what makes you happy, baby girl, and how you want to live your life. You've seen what I've just gone through. You need to make the decision that's right for you." It grew a little bit beyond that because she was great about opening up herself.
BV: Does Mashonda have a gag order, like the one that Dwight Howard put on Royce [from 'Basketball Wives'] that says she cannot mention Swizz Beats' name on the show?
MSY: I can't speak for what the legal arrangement is. I do know they have a working relationship and are raising a son together, but I'm not sure about what the legalities are on what she can and cannot say. She talks about being married to the rapper but maybe it was her comfort level for not saying [his name]. We don't pressure them to do anything they aren't comfortable with. We wanted to get them at their best.
BV: How do you feel about Chrissy proposing to Jim Jones? Do you think she should have waited until he proposed?
MSY: I definitely do not sit around and wait for anything to happen in life. If there's a situation where a woman is in love with a man and, for whatever reason, she feels confident that the love is reciprocated and she wants to take it to the next step, why shouldn't she reciprocate it? I have liberated views on relationships based on my own life. I have reverse roles in my own life, and I have the company that I'm running and he's running our family and our household. Chrissy is the same kind of woman. When she felt that the time was there, she didn't see any issues.
BV: Do you think Chrissy and Jim can stand the test of time if she isn't getting along with his mom?
MSY: My personal thoughts on that are, you're not just marrying the man, you're marrying the man and his family. That can be difficult. I think that it does present a challenge and it's something that Chrissy is going to have to navigate her way through because she and Nancy are two strong, really vocal and opinionated women. It makes for some good television.
BV: Some critics have made jokes that there's a lack of love on 'Love and Hip Hop'; what do you say to them?
MSY: I think that's absurd. A lot of the other shows that are out there, you don't even see the guys. You hear about them, but you don't see the guys. You don't see love. I think the scene with Chrissy and Jim and you see them together and they are talking about their lives. I don't know how much more love you can see besides that. We choose the title because I thought it was important to show love in this genre because hip-hop songs usually talk about sex and hitting that, but rarely do you hear people talk about being in love. Even Emily has love for her man and I don't know what says love more than that. When she says, "I don't want to give up on my family," I think that this show depicts love and relationships in a way that no other reality show does.
BV: In terms of Olivia and Somaya, do you think they can make a career without flaunting their asses in this day and age?
MSY: I don't want to make any statements about what their viability is, but as far as their ability, desire and determination, and their commitment to wanting to make this, I think, they have as good of a shot as any other female trying to make it in the game. I supported Missy who defied convention. I think with Olivia, I wanted her to break down the visage and give people a different opportunity to get to know her. I think Somaya has determination and is admirable in a way that anybody would respect. I think their music should speak for itself, and I hope this show gives them a platform to leverage that and give people an opportunity to get to know them, so that they give them a shot.
BV: Is there some type of woman who works in hip hop who you think should be added to a second season?
MSY: I think a manager who is young and coming up in the game would be good because when we talk about 'Love and Hip Hop' it's almost like a love for hip hop. Some women are in love with the game and with their careers in the game. I think that applies to a manager or a publicist or anyone trying to break into this male-dominated business. For me, I really wanted the focus to be that these are women with goals and aspirations and not riding off of someone else's coattails.
BV: Why do you think people should tune into 'Love and Hip Hop'?
MSY: I'm doing what I'm excited and passionate about. I think that the show has so much to offer in terms of really being honest, entertaining and sometimes heartbreaking, sometimes funny. It's about these women navigating their lives. Loving men, loving a career and loving a genre of music. I think these girls are really entertaining. They are fun and are really relatable. I know that we have an uphill battle because people are programmed in terms of what they think these shows should be about, but the feedback that I've gotten has been that we were really able to capture something more.
VH1's 'Love and Hip Hop' airs on Mondays at 10:30 pm EST.