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It’s bigger than love & hip hop
Mona Scott-Young is best known for producing the Love & Hip Hop reality TV series on VH1. The franchise debuted in 2011 and has remained a TV fixture today through industry-wide changes with TV and around 30 different seasons aired. It’s Young’s ability to permeate hip-hop culture into the mainstream that’s been the true calling card.
Before Love & Hip Hop, Mona managed talent in music. She was a co-founder for Violator with the late Chris Lighty and was behind memorable brand partnerships such as Busta Rhymes and Courvoisier, Missy Elliott with Reebok and Adidas, and the landmark 50 Cent-Vitamin Water deal, among many others back then, such deals were harder to cut than they are now.
This was when Mona was introduced to the fascinating lives of hip-hop wives, which led to Love & Hip-Hop’s creation. But Mona, who also founded and runs Monami Productions, has more stories to tell about the hip-hop industry. She’s teaming up with another well-known hip-hop TV producer, 50 Cent, on “Hip-Hop Homicides,” which debuts later this year.
Mona’s influence on the world of hip-hop reaches further than most realize. Here are a few highlights from our conversation.
Adapting in different eras
The enduring success of Love & Hip Hop is impressive. It’s been on air for over a decade. It’s been spun off into multiple different iterations. And it still commands an audience on a cable channel, at a time when streaming and social media diverted attention away from cable.
Mona attributes the show’s longevity to the series’ overarching concept and its talent:
“What’s great about the way the show’s concept was built is that it was a world. It gave us an opportunity to cycle in new talent who have fresh stories to tell and I think that has a lot to do with the staying power of the franchise.”
The show has evolved too. The shooting style has become more free-flowing and less soap opera-y says Mona. That’s a direct response to social media, which can play out the stories of the show’s talent months before an episode is released. That’s a challenge facing the entire reality genre, whether on cable or a streamer.
“The biggest hurdle for reality TV is the fact that everyone has access to their audience and can broadcast their lives on a minute-to-minute basis.”
Opening the doors for other creators
Success stories among former Love & Hip Hop cast members are not hard to find. Cardi B is the easiest example, but the show is ripe with talent, like Karlie Redd, K Michelle, Rasheeda, and more. They used the show’s platform to build successful careers in music and entrepreneurship. Mona said this business success byproduct was by design.
“I always framed it as an opportunity. You’re getting these stories — all the heartbreak, the joys, the highs, the lows — but in exchange, these women are also getting this platform where they can build their brands and businesses.”
Love & Hip Hop didn’t just provide a platform to its cast members, but to the world of hip-hop as a whole. Mona believes her docu-follow series style, which was the first of its kind for hip-hop when it debuted, influenced TV hits such Empire, Power, and Rap Sh!t.
“We’re now giving space to scripted shows that are set in this world and shining a light on the culture. That is a direct descendant of what Love & Hip Hop paved the way for.”
Brand deals then and now
Violator was ahead of the curve on brand partnerships with its roster of talents. But what’s most impressive about Mona’s run at Violator is the timing of those deals.
In the late 90s and early 00s, hip-hop and corporate culture were far apart. Mona mentioned that brands didn’t always want to use artists front and center in their campaigns. They only wanted their music and clothing style. It was on Mona and her team to educate brands on hip-hop culture.
“We had to get them (corporations) to understand that there was an authenticity with culture that you couldn’t fake. If you were going to do a deal, it had to be mutually beneficial because we couldn’t risk our client’s viability to their core audience.”
Hip-hop brand deals have done a complete 180 since then in part to the foundation Violator helped create. In a full-circle moment, many of Mona’s Love & Hip Hop cast members are now coveted by major brands. So much that Mona and VH1 have to be careful about over-integrating these brands into the show.
Listen to our full conversation on the Trapital Podcast:
0:15 How does Love & Hip Hop stay fresh?
2:04 Biggest challenge for reality TV in social-media age
5:20 Love & Hip Hop success stories
8:50 Influencing other hip-hop-related series
10:30 Increased programming around hip-hop
13:30 How reality shows fit into today’s streaming landscape
17:07 Mona’s career in music and artist-brand deals
23:20 Brand deals for Love & Hip Hop talent
26:55 Network pressures to expand the Love & Hip Hop brand
28:37 Scrutiny on the show’s content
32:30 Future of Love & Hip Hop
[00:00:00] Mona Scott-Young: These were women who were living in the shadows of the men in their lives who had achieved all the fame and the success, and how were these women leveraging the relationships that they were in and the things that they were doing to get to where they wanted to be in life. So I always framed it as an opportunity, so you’re getting these stories, right? All of the heartbreak and all of the joy, the highs, the lows. But in exchange, these women are also getting this platform where they can build their brands, build their businesses.
[00:00:39] Dan Runcie: Hey, welcome to The Trapital podcast. I’m your host and the founder of Trapital, Dan Runcie. This podcast is your place to gain insights from executives in music, media, entertainment, and more, who are taking hip hop culture to the next level.
[00:00:59] Dan Runcie: Today’s guest is the producer and entrepreneur, Mona Scott-Young. She is the mind behind Hop. She also was a music executive for a number of years, worked with Violator and put together some of the more memorable hip hop branding deals of the time, such as Busta Rhymes in Courvoisier and Mountain Dew. She worked with 50 Cent, Vitaminwater as well, and a bunch of other deals, and she’s been someone I’ve wanted to have on this podcast for a while. We talked a lot about the business of TV and how things have changed specifically for a docu-follow show like Love & Hip Hop. This is a show that has been going on for more than 10 seasons now and has had different franchises, different spinoffs, and has had plenty of copycats as well. So we talked about the business of the show, what it’s been like producing it, the platform that a lot of the talent have had that have come up from it, one of the most famous examples is Cardi B and what she’d been able to do after the show, but we also talked about some of the other talents that’s come from the show as well. We also talked about how Love & Hip Hop is positioned and some of the perception that it’s had, whether or not that perception is more so chatter and criticism, or has that actually made a material impact on the business of what Mona’s doing. She also talked a little bit about some of the other projects coming up from Monami Entertainment such as Hip Hop Homicides and a whole lot more. It was great to talk to her, get her perspective on streaming, the industry, where things are, and overall the brand deals that are happening in hip hop. Great conversation. Glad we finally had her on. I hope you enjoy it as much as I did. Here’s my chat with Mona Scott-Young
[00:02:38] Dan Runcie: All right. Today we are joined by the one and only Mona Scott-Young, producer and one of the great folks in media and entertainment today. And I feel like for you, you’ve been more than a decade in with Love & Hip Hop, you have several spinoffs. How do you keep things fresh? How do you keep everything coming year after year?
[00:02:59] Mona Scott-Young: You know, I always say it’s about reinvention. It’s about evolution, making sure that you are constantly growing, whether it’s me as a producer and applying that to the franchise. You know, what’s great about the way that that concept was built is it’s that it was a world, right? So we could always populate different folks in and out of that world. So it gave us an opportunity to, you know, cycle in new talent who had fresh stories to tell. And I think that has a lot to do with the staying power and the longevity of the franchise.
[00:03:31] Dan Runcie: I think the other thing that’s impressive is just how the show’s been able to stay consistent with all of the changes that are happening with media and streaming and anything else. Have there been any big shifts that you’ve made from that perspective as things that have continued to move, whether it’s from cable to streaming networks to where things are now?
[00:03:50] Mona Scott-Young: You know, not necessarily in terms of the concept, right? ‘Cause like I said, the stories are what keeps it fresh and different, but we definitely loosened up our shooting style a lot and we became, you know, more free-flowing, I think to be in line with the fact that folks were able to tune into social media and see things happening in real-time. You know, when we first started the franchise, a big part of it was this very soap opera-like feeling that it had. And over the course of the years, we loosened that up a little bit just so that the stories were able to, you know, track a little more closely to what was happening in real-time in their lives.
[00:04:30] Dan Runcie: That makes sense. Do you feel as if social media changed the overall feel and the flow of the show itself? I know that’s something that, I’ve talked to a lot of people on TV and they felt like they’ve noticed that. How are some of the ways you feel like social media either impacted things for Love & Hip Hop?
[00:04:45] Mona Scott-Young: Absolutely. You know, because there’s such a lead time with production and editing. It’s really hard to stay up with the fact that these folks are out here living their lives on social media, and so the audience gets a chance to just tune into their IG lives and get a blow-by-blow of everything that’s happening in their lives so that by the time our show is edited, it’s hard for it to feel fresh, right, because they’re like, oh, I saw that happen months ago. And so it’s finding those other stories, getting the cast to keep things exclusively for the show so that there’s this sense of discovery for the audience. ‘Cause I think that’s the biggest hurdle for reality TV is the fact that, you know, everyone has access to their audience and can broadcast their lives, you know, on a minute-by-minute basis. And so how do we offer something that’s different, something that’s entertaining, something that feels fresh and current and relevant? I think that’s the biggest challenge.
[00:05:44] Dan Runcie: Have you noticed that shift with social media at all changed based on what platform has been popular at the time? Of course, the show is popular as ever in Black Twitter, but how about with TikTok now with things picking up there? Have there been any unique things you’ve seen with the reception there?
[00:05:58] Mona Scott-Young: Not necessarily. You know what, I’m not a big TikToker. I don’t know if I should say that. I probably just aged myself a thousand years, but, you know, I haven’t really noticed a big shift based on TikTok viewership. I know that, you know, or usership, ’cause I know that that’s mainly what music, dance, or are they doing skits on there as well?
[00:06:21] Dan Runcie: I mean, they’re doing skits. I feel like with the show like yours though, it’s unique because I think that you’re reaching a bit of an older demographic than the folks that are really in TikTok. But like with all these social media platforms, they do tend to scale up at some point, right? So the younger community…
[00:06:37] Mona Scott-Young: We’ll see what happens, yeah. One of the biggest things that we saw happen on social media were the reenactments, right, the recreations where you had all of these social influencers and social comedians doing their takes on the scenes from the show, and that gave it a whole another life. And I think, you know, what people enjoy about the show is the cast’s ability to be self-deprecating. They make fun of themselves, so sometimes you’d see them participating in those skits. You know, social media has always played a huge role in the success of the franchise, even dating back to the very early days where we gave bloggers and the video influencers, the social media influencers, the sneak peek at the show so that they kind of had first dibs. And the immediacy of, you know, them talking about the show and having that engagement was a big part of the success of the show. So I love it when I continuously see the show showing up in different ways on social media.
[00:07:34] Dan Runcie: Can we also talk about how social media has been a big piece for how a lot of the folks on the show can use Love & Hip Hop as a platform to do other things? I think Cardi B, of course, has been one of the hallmark examples of this. But what are some of the other folks that stick out for you in terms of, yes, what they were able to do at this show, and then social media took them to another level?
[00:07:55] Mona Scott-Young: I mean, if you think about everyone who’s like started a business, right? Most of their products, they’re hawking them online and via social media. So, you know, whether it’s the waist trainers, the hair clips, makeup, all of that stuff kind of came from seeing it on the show and then watching them blow it up. And then you have some of it that was reverse engineered like Cardi was huge on social media already as kind of a, you know, influencer, comic, and having an opportunity to be on the show expanded her audience. But I just think seeing those two things come together, that was probably the biggest example of how, you know, social media and linear TV worked really well to really expand her brand.
[00:08:40] Dan Runcie: Yeah, especially with her specifically. I mean, she’s giving you the shoutouts in the songs, too, but just seeing what she’s able to do creatively with the brand, and I think that’s something that’s been unique that we’ve seen with reality TV overall. But I feel like with your type of show specifically because you do get some of those characters that come back, you have some that go off and do their own thing, you see a bit more of that variety than some of these other shows where it’s like one season that you may never see that person in the season.
[00:09:07] Mona Scott-Young: That’s very, very true. I mean, one of the big mandates for me, ’cause a lot of these shows were just about chronicling lives, right? This is about your life. For me, it was always, this is an opportunity, right? If you think about at its core, these were women, or the core of the original concept, these were women who were living in the shadows, right, of the men in their lives who had achieved all the fame and the success, and how were these women leveraging the relationships that they were in and the things that they were doing to get to where they wanted to be in life. So I always framed it as an opportunity, and what I love to see is how, you know, they go out and they take advantage of that opportunity. So you’re getting these stories, right? All of the heartbreak and all of the, you know, the joy, the highs, the lows. But in exchange, these women are also getting this platform where they can build their brands, build their businesses. Everyone from Yandy, right, who went from being behind the scenes to having her Yelle Skin Care and all of her other numerous businesses that she has. Cardi with her music, who, you know, was doing her music, didn’t have that massive success, had a huge following on social media, but was able to kind of connect the dots in a way that allowed for her music to take off. Oh, God, Rasheeda, Karlie Redd, and K. Michelle, and when I think about all of the success stories with their businesses and their brands, that for me is the big differentiator for Love & Hip Hop ’cause I think these ladies understood the assignment, understood that this was an opportunity, and took advantage of it to, you know, level up in their lives and what they were doing with their business.
[00:10:50] Dan Runcie: And I feel like I’ve seen your own career and your own opportunities take a similar evolution as the show has continued to have its own success, and you had started your production company years ago, but I think right now we’ve just seen more and more opportunity for creators like yourself that have been able to establish their franchises and just have the success and have different networks have interest in them year over year. What has that process been like?
[00:11:15] Mona Scott-Young: Yeah. You know, it’s the most gratifying thing because I think, you know, the first to market with anything always is a double-edged sword, right? So Love & Hip Hop was the first docu-follow of its kind that focused on the genre of hip hop and the way that we did, and really gave a different look and feel to what we’re used to seeing on reality television. And what we’ve seen since then, I think, are a lot of shows that I would say Love & Hip Hop paved the way for. You know, shoutout to shows like Power and, you know, Empire and even Rap Sh!t that Issa Rae has on right now. I look at that and I go, yeah, the fact that, you know, we’re now giving space to scripted shows that are set in this world and shining a light on the culture and, you know, the women in the culture specifically, if you look at Rap Sh!t, I feel like that is a direct descendant of what Love & Hip Hop was able to pave the way for.
[00:12:13] Dan Runcie: Yeah, those are good examples. I feel like that moment in the end of the 2010s, you started to see more shows, I feel like that whole Empire run and a bunch of shows around that, we’re able to see a lot of success there. I also feel like around this time too, especially in the most recent years, we’ve also seen a lot more studios and a lot more folks get different opportunities, whether it’s folks getting these overall deals from the streaming services or some others getting big interest from private equity firms that are trying to invest in these studios. As someone that runs a studio, runs a reduction company yourself, how do you view that landscape, and how do those opportunities come up for different folks?
[00:12:55] Mona Scott-Young: I mean, I think it’s fantastic. I think it’s a wonderful thing. I still don’t think there’s enough of it happening. I always say that during, you know, Black Lives Matter, when we were at the height of that movement, there were so many overtures, right? So many calls were made and people wanting to be in business. And I do believe you’re seeing an increased number of programming that caters to our audience and opportunities for those content creators. But I also, you know, hope that this trend continues, and I hope this isn’t kind of a performative gesture in order to check a box or to satisfy, you know, their contribution. But, I think it’s great. I think the more that audiences understand that their viewership matters, that their support matters, and that’s really what is going to dictate it at the end of the day, because we can, you know, get those dollars in and we can get those opportunities. But if those eyeballs don’t tune in, then you know, we’re not going to continue to see the programming and have those opportunities. So I think it’s, you know, nice to see it happen. I’m very interested in seeing what the staying power is for this and how those opportunities increase and not, you know, level out.
[00:14:10] Dan Runcie: Do you think that there is any sort of fear or thought that folks should have about the staying power of those eyeballs? Like, does some of these things seem a bit more fleeting in nature?
[00:14:21] Mona Scott-Young: I don’t think we get the same commitment to staying with something and giving it an opportunity to grow, right? It’s like if we don’t have instant success, if we don’t get those eyeballs instantly, the idea is, oh, this audience is in here moving on to the next, right? I just think that sometimes it takes a minute for a show to catch on. I don’t ever think the same marketing dollars are put towards the programming so that folks even have the awareness level that’s usually left to us to figure out what are the ways that we’re going to bring visibility to, you know, our shows and make sure that, you know, folks know that we exist. Again, I just hope that the commitment extends beyond just the initial overture and that there is promotions and marketing and commitment to seeing these shows grow and find their audience like every other programming has an opportunity to do.
[00:15:18] Dan Runcie: That makes sense. It also makes me think about whether or not there are specific differences as well for folks who are making shows, whether it’s something for streaming versus something for cable TV or for a network specifically, because I know that with your shows and some of the others that are doing reality things, most of your audience still is, at least from my understanding, still tuning in through cable and watching it through those areas, but. Even though we started to see some reality TV that’s been exclusive to these streaming services, it still hasn’t been to the same extent that we see, like whether it’s with Love & Hip Hop on VH1 or some of the other services. Why do you think that is? And do you think that’ll change at all?
[00:15:59] Mona Scott-Young: I think the formats have to evolve in order for us to find the right formula to live on the streamers. You know, those shows are about repeatability and about, you know, the binge-watching and, you know, for reality, there’s something about that appointment television that tuning in week in and week out that I think plays into the idea that what is happening is happening to some extent in real-time, even though we know it isn’t, and the ability to, you know, watch it all. I think it’s just a different, it’s a shift. It’s a paradigm shift, and we have to figure out what the right formula is, what the right content play is to work in that arena. So there’s a lot of conversations around that and everybody’s trying to find like, kind of what is it right now what you’re seeing on streamers are. Formatted docu-series, like real estate shows and, you know, those kind of, I’m trying to think of what are some of the docu-follows that are living. Probably the Kardashian show in Hulu is an example, right? That’s kind of a beast of a different nature, right? There’s a rabid audience there for the Kardashian clan that I think will watch no matter where it exists. So, you know, I’d love to see more conventional docu-follow find its way to the streamers. I think there’s going to have to be a little bit of a fine-tuning in what that format looks like for it to really work there.
[00:17:29] Dan Runcie: Right. Because it isn’t necessarily a binge release. I don’t feel like that necessarily makes sense if you’re trying to follow things. I think back to, it was Rhythm + Flow. This is almost three years ago at this point, but the show, you know, the competition show Cardi B and Chance and T.I., I think they did every week or every other week for three block episode of release, and I felt like that was okay. It wasn’t too long that felt like it didn’t make sense for Netflix, but it was just enough to capture some momentum. And I think back about that, I was like, Okay.
[00:17:58] Mona Scott-Young: They’re doing that as a format, right? It’s a competition show. So those work. The competition shows work. The format shows, the real estate, the cooking, the anything, it’s just that finding that right rhythm, that right lane for docu-follow is going to be the challenge.
[00:18:14] Dan Runcie: Right. Yeah. That’s your point. And then, of course, the Kardashians may be a bit of an outlier just given the size of them, but you are, in a lot of ways, bringing either new stars or people who haven’t necessarily had their headlines everywhere in quite some time to the stage, and that’s a little bit of a different…
[00:18:31] Mona Scott-Young: That’s a little bit of a different, yeah, a little bit of a different proposition, if you will.
[00:18:36] Dan Runcie: Yeah, definitely. The other reason why I wanted to chat with you is because even before Love & Hip Hop and everything else, you had spent years in music, and you were one of the early ones that were looking at the opportunities for artists, working specifically with brands and looking back at whether it was 50’s Vitamin water deal or Courvoisier with Busta.
[00:19:00] Mona Scott-Young: For Mountain Dew or Missy with Adidas, or I should say Adidas, and Reebok, and you know, A Tribe Called Quest and Sprite, right? It goes all the way back to that.
[00:19:12] Dan Runcie: What do you think it was? ‘Cause I felt like Violator was here when everyone else was here in terms of just pushing those things. There were a few others I know that were doing their thing, but it felt like you all were at least five years ahead of where everyone else was pushing them, pushing those things.
[00:19:26] Mona Scott-Young: Well, and I appreciate that. For us, it was really always about how do we maximize for our clients, right? We were managers first. And then when we realized that there were all these other areas that we needed to educate ourselves in and get involved in in order to really manage our clients to the best of our ability, and help them expand their brands, and fully monetize, you know, their talents and their contributions to a culture that we saw was taking over every area of advertising and pop culture. We realized that, you know, the opportunities were way beyond just their music, way beyond understanding how to conduct the business of their music. It was about their branding, their cross, you know, marketing value, their ability to bridge the gap with brands and sponsors. So that was just a function of us really wanting to represent our clients not just the best of our ability to help them maximize to the fullest what they, you know, they were bringing to the table with their music and with their cultural relevance. So we understood that it was bigger than just the music.
[00:20:41] Dan Runcie: And do you feel like a lot of the brand partners that you were pitching and talking to with about these opportunities at the time saw that it was bigger than just the music and wanted in because I look at the way things are now and the amount of deals and partnerships we see now. It was nothing compared to what it was like when you were doing these deals back then.
[00:20:59] Mona Scott-Young: I mean, you know, it’s interesting ’cause there was that period where they didn’t quite understand what was happening with this, you know, music and the culture because it was always just across the board, Black, White, Asian, and understanding what that kind of point of connection was, right, with all of these kids. Was it the music? Was it the clothing? Was it the lifestyle? What exactly are they buying into? And I think we serve the very important role in helping them bridge that gap, right, giving them that understanding of what hip hop was culturally and all of its different touch points. And then it became about, well, can’t we just tap this thing without having to necessarily put this talent front and center? We can just use the music. We can dress, you know, our folks in the clothing and getting them to understand that there was an authenticity, right, that came with the culture that you couldn’t fake, and that if you were going to do it, it had to be done in a way that was mutually beneficial because we also couldn’t afford to risk our clients’ viability with their core audience. Because if they, you know, sold out, then they were done with the music. And that exchange, that dialogue, that conversation I think is what allowed us to position ourselves in a way that benefited our clients, that allowed us to become a gateway to the culture and to the music for a lot of these brands. And that allowed companies like Steve Stoute’s Translation literally to exist based on being that, you know, cultural bridge. So it was a step up process of getting them, one, to understand what this thing called hip hop was, and then how it was influencing their consumers, and then how best to tap it in a way that, you know, didn’t hurt the artists that they were exploiting. And I’ll use the word exploit ’cause I think, you know, exploiting is simply taking full advantage of a situation or, you know, a space. And that’s what it was at the end of the day.
[00:23:12] Dan Runcie: And we definitely saw a lot of the success at the time with the number of deals that we were seeing. Were there any that you look back on that you were like, oh, you may have pitched that client, or you may have tried to push this one, they just weren’t ready, but if this was now, it would’ve been, No question, this would’ve already happened?
[00:23:27] Mona Scott-Young: You know, I always look back at that time fondly because I realized that we were at the forefront of, you know, an industry that nobody knew exactly what it was. Now when I hear, you know, branding, brand partnerships, you know, I’m like, okay, I guess that’s what we were doing way back then. But I think I look back more fondly at the way we were able to leverage our talent into those deals, right? Busta with Mountain Dew started out as a print campaign, and by the time we were done, it had grown into this multimillion-dollar, you know, 360 television spots, everything. It started out as a radio campaign, actually, not even, it was just going to be his voice, right? And then it blew up into something more. It’s just now it’s par for the course. Now, you know, if you don’t have a brand endorsement deal, if you’re not, you know, aligned, people think you haven’t made it right. But back then, I think it was a lot more challenging, a lot more difficult, and, you know, I think we broke a lot of barriers with the kinds of deals that we did.
[00:24:31] Dan Runcie: Yeah, definitely. And I could imagine now that with the stars that are on Love & Hip Hop and the talent that you’re working with now, some of them are probably trying to see, okay, can they reach out to you to get advice on these types of deals that they’re getting? Do you get involved with any of that ever?
[00:24:52] Mona Scott-Young: Yeah, you know, every once in a while. But the interesting thing is now they’re sought after, right, because of their following. And all of these brands want them, you know, creating these organic posts so that folks can really believe they’re drinking this slim tummy tea or whatever it is that they’re hawking. But I think the value, understanding the value of their engagement with their fans is the most important thing for these guys, and I think they’re all doing a fantastic job. I mean, I’m always surprised when it’s like, oh, okay, well that’s, you know, I don’t really believe that they’re eating or drinking or engaging in this activity, but more power to you. Go ahead.
[00:25:33] Dan Runcie: Does any of this ever find a way to get itself into the show itself where folks are like, Okay, I have this partnership now, they’ll give me extra money if I wear this Fashion Nova t-shirt in this season of Love & Hip Hop?
[00:25:47] Mona Scott-Young: It’s funny that you mentioned Fashion Nova because they are extremely aggressive, and they have, you know, they were very smart about the way they built their business, right? They just went out and got a bunch of brand ambassadors, and I think in the beginning it was for a box of free clothes. They had all of these people hawking their product, but the networks and the buyers, they’re pretty savvy now. And, you know, they’ve got their ad sales departments, they still rely probably more than ever on their ad sales dollars. And so they’re very, very leery of any kind of integrations, and there are opportunities to kind of go through the front door, do deals with them, buy ad time, and get real, you know, integrated placements. And sometimes, you know, they’re also good about if it’s an organic, you know, partnership with the talent and it’s something potentially that factors into their story, they’ll let it slide and let it make its way into the story. But they’re a little bit savvy to the fact that, you know, sometimes the talent is getting paid for this and is promising the placement on the show as part of their deal in leveraging that. And yeah, they put the smack down on that.
[00:27:01] Dan Runcie: Yeah, I could imagine because it’s one of these things where, of course, it’s more money into the show and I think everyone generally could benefit from it. But from the other perspective, you don’t just want to turn the whole thing into sponsored content, right?
[00:27:12] Mona Scott-Young: Yeah. I’m constantly saying to the talent, this is not going to be one big message commercial, you know? But listen, a lot of times the network isn’t even participating in that income. They’re just letting the talent, yeah, whatever deals that they have in place with these brand partners, they just let the talent hang onto it. So it doesn’t really bring money to the show’s bottom line. And depending on who the partner is, like somebody like Fashion Nova, the network definitely, you know, their antennas go up. But some of you know the smaller brands and especially. If it’s the talent’s brand, and they know that it’s their business, like you’ll always see Yandy washing her face with Yelle Skincare. You’ll see Rasheeda doing a scene at the Pressed, you know, store or at the Frost Bistro. So if it’s their businesses, the network is always happy to, you know, give them the opportunity to promote their brands and their businesses.
[00:28:05] Dan Runcie: Is there ever any pressure from the network to try to capture all of the value that the show is creating? ‘Cause I know I’m hearing that from so many other areas in media and entertainment, where they’re seeing what’s being captured in their area, or they’re seeing what’s happening and what they’re creating. They want to be able to capture more of that. How have those conversations been like with the network if they come up at all?
[00:28:27] Mona Scott-Young: When you say capture more of it, you mean with the content or trying to find ways to exploit the brand?
[00:28:32] Dan Runcie: The latter, trying to find ways to exploit the brand.
[00:28:34] Mona Scott-Young: I mean, yeah, absolutely. It’s a little bit of a tightrope, right, because they want to preserve the integrity of the brand. They want to protect the brand and not overexpose it or not hurt it by doing the wrong thing with the brand. But they certainly want to, you know, see the brand continue to evolve, which has been a big part of the staying power. And I think Viacom does a really good, you know, job at that when you think about Love & Hip Hop and the way that it’s branched into, you know, all of the specials that we do and they have, you know, spinoffs that they do with the talent. And now they’re beginning to do smaller capsule shows that are going to be coming out, you know, whether it’s like watch party- type shows or, you know, getaway trip- type shows. So they’re very careful about not diluting and over-exposing the brand, but they’re very good about continuing to build on the brand so that it evolves and, you know, continues to have a long life.
[00:29:34] Dan Runcie: Yeah. And I feel like the longevity you’ve already had speaks a lot to this. I’m curious though, ’cause I know in other interviews, people have often asked you about how your show is positioned relative to some of the other reality shows and whether or not you are portraying certain people in the best light. And I’m always curious, one of the things I was wondering is that more so chatter where people are talking about these things? Or have any of those conversations actually impacted anything you’ve either done with the show or the show’s success in any way?
[00:30:06] Mona Scott-Young: I mean, a lot of it is chatter because you know, in all fairness, when I watched the other shows, there really isn’t anything much different happening on those shows in terms of the way the cast members are expressing themselves in any given moment. I think the increased scrutiny on our show has one to do, and I say it very honestly, with the word hip hop and the title, right? I think that there’s this preconceived, you know, stigma attached to this huge genre that is literally pop culture right now. So it’s almost ridiculously laughable that people still want to treat hip hop as some kind of a subculture, you know, of any kind. But I think the fact that the word hip hop is in the title makes people put us under a microscope, under a magnifying glass in a much different way than they do with, you know, shows with the word Housewives or Beverly Hills in the title. But if you look at the reactions and you look at some of the situations, they’re not different at all. So for me, it is chatter, right, because I think the strength is in the numbers and the viewership. I think that’s where you know honestly that there is something very relatable about this show, no matter what people want to say or think, because of the sheer volume of, you know, folks who tune in week in, week out to see the show, the staying power that the show has had, the influence that the show has had, whether it’s music or, you know, the number of shoutouts that the show gets, the number of mentions that it gets, what happens on social media whenever the show is on air. There’s a stronghold there that I think is undeniable. And so there’s that whole saying about, you know, we build things up just to bring them down, and we’ve seen that happen with so many different cultural and iconic, you know, things, and I just think that it’s par for the course with this franchise.
[00:32:08] Dan Runcie: And I also think you’ve seen that in the range of folks that tune in as well because I think sometimes the type of content that you create, people will often say, oh, well that’s meant for a certain type of person. And it’s like, well, it’s not really the case ’cause there’s people of all ranges of income, however you want to measure success.
[00:32:26] Mona Scott-Young: Yeah, it’s actually pretty mind-boggling even to this day when, you know, for a long time I did the VOs at the top of the show, so the voice has become a little bit of, you know, its own personality, and, a lot of people don’t know what I look like, but the minute I opened my mouth, and it’ll be like middle-aged, you know, white people and young, very young kids. And I’m like, why, you know, are you even watching this show? You should be watching Nickelodeon. And so it’s interesting to me the broad range of audience that it’s found. And again, I always go back to the relatability, and I always go back to the connectivity with the stories, and I think that that’s what people gravitate towards.
[00:33:11] Dan Runcie: Yeah. And I think that’s always going to be there as long as the show continues to evolve as well. And I’m thinking you were probably already thinking about several seasons ahead of now, several years ahead and now, but I’m very curious to see what is this next generation of talent that is going to be into your show, the generation that grew up on TikTok, the generation that grew up with a lot of the things? I think a lot of the talent on your show, whether they’re Gen X or millennials, more so, okay, they had their run, but eventually, it’s going to be the Gen Z folks and more of them that are going to be on the show more regularly, how that’s going to shape not just the things they talk about and everything else, but also as streaming and other things evolve, how the show continues to move, and how the show continues to grow from that perspective. So I’d love to hear what you think the future is going to look like, let’s say five years down the road of how this show may continue to evolve.
[00:34:01] Mona Scott-Young: Oh, wow. I mean, you know, it’s always been about the cast, and they’ve shaped kind of the feel and the content within the show. So if you’re talking about, you know, five years from now, there’s going to be a cast there that is reflective of where we are with music, technology, the culture, and those are going to be the stories that we’re telling so hard to predict. But like I said, the key and the magic of the franchise has always been that the brand, you know, acted as kind of a bubble within which you cycled in the talent. And five years from now, there’s going to be the talent doing what they do, how they do it, and we’ll be right there with those cameras to capture it.
[00:34:46] Dan Runcie: Yes, it’d be exciting to see. So in the next couple of months though, what should people stay in tune for before we wrap things up here? What should people look out for?
[00:34:54] Mona Scott-Young: Oh, so many things that we’re doing. I mean, you know, we spent a lot of time talking about the Love & Hip Hop franchise, but as a company, we have so many other projects that we’re engaged in and that we’re doing. And one in particular coming October 27th and November 3rd actually is the actual premiere, but Hip Hop Homicides is a show that we’re doing on WEtv, 50 Cent and G-Unit, Monami and Lionsgate came together with WEtv, and that is a show we’re very excited about, very proud of. And it just, again, utilizing, you know, hip hop culture as kind of the foundation, but it’s looking at those staggering number of murders that have occurred within our culture that still remain unsolved and even some of them were folks are, you know, serving time for these murders. They’re still questions out there that have never been answered. And so Van Lathan is our host and he does a very active, you know, boots-on-the-ground kind of journey to a bunch of different cities where we take a close look at these murders and talk to family members and fans alike. And it’s really, to me, a very, very fresh look at these murders that have plagued our community.
[00:36:08] Dan Runcie: Oh, nice. That’ll be a good one. And I’ve always liked Van in everything that he’s done. I know he’s done a lot of stuff with The Ringer recently, but no, he’ll be good. I’m excited for this.
[00:36:16] Mona Scott-Young: No, he’s great at it. And Hip Hop Homicides on WEtv. Yep. November 3rd and we’re excited for that one. So that’s the next thing coming down the pike.
[00:36:27] Dan Runcie: Great stuff. Great stuff. Well, Mona, this is great. Excited for you. Excited for everything coming up from Monami Entertainment. And if people want to follow along with you or with everything that’s happening, where should they check in to follow you?
[00:36:38] Mona Scott-Young: They can check on Instagram, Twitter, all social platforms. Mona Scott-Young or Monami Productions, @monamiproductions.
[00:36:47] Dan Runcie: All right, great. Thanks again. This is great.
[00:36:50] Mona Scott-Young: Thank you so much. I appreciate it. Thank you so much.
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