The Come Up is a collaborative editorial series between Femme It Forward and Splice, focused on highlighting non-male industry executives and innovators.
For our eighth entry, we had the opportunity to speak with Monique Blake, who serves as a business partner to GRAMMY-award winning producer Swizz Beatz (Jay-Z, Alicia Keys, Ruff Ryders) and the general manager for Swizz Beatz Productions. She also spearheads her own boutique management and consulting firm, MEA Creative Management. In everything she does, Blake is passionate about facilitating the creation of great music. Read on to get a firsthand look into her journey, advice to other female professionals, and more.
Tell us about your ‘come up’ – how did you start your career in the music industry?
My start in music was at a recording studio. I would always read album credits to see where people recorded, and I knew I wanted to work in music. I just reached out to a bunch of different studios to see who was hiring, got hired as a receptionist, and the rest is history.
What inspired you to pursue a career in the music industry?
Music was always around me, from my mom playing music while cleaning on Saturday mornings to my dad playing it in his car. It wasn’t until I was able to buy my own music that I realized that I wanted to work in the music business.
What was the first big career risk you took?
I remember when I was working at the studio as a receptionist, I wanted to learn more about the creative side of the studio and how to be an engineer. I asked the manager at the time if I could intern on the overnight shift (outside of my receptionist hours) and he told me “No.” So, I quit! [laughs]
What’s one music industry anecdote that you love to share?
I remember my “bat line” in the office rang once, and no one had that number aside from Swizz (and people who I had personally given it to). When I answered, a very deep voice responded, saying it was Idris Elba. In my head I’m like, “Why is Idris Elba calling me on this line?” I didn’t believe it, thinking it was Swizz having someone play a joke on me. Fast forward a few years later, and we ran into him at a basketball game and he said it was definitely him calling! [laughs] So, treat every call seriously, until you know it isn’t!
Tell us about one of the biggest challenges you’ve faced in your career. How did you overcome it?
I think one of the challenges would be the “optics” that drive a lot of decisions and how people choose to include you. We hear the conversations around women being left out of decisions, but no one talks about the women who are left out due to them not “appealing” to the eyes of those making decisions. I’ve been overlooked for other women who could be labeled as “more attractive” (not just by men either; women do it too), and it took me some time to not take that personally and trust that what’s meant for me is for me, no matter what!
Is there a mentor who supported you in your career? If not, how did you navigate the industry?
There isn’t necessarily one particular person; I’ve been fortunate to have shared spaces or crossed paths with so many amazing people who I admire for different reasons. I’m someone who really observes people and soaks up what I like about them; I take from those experiences and apply what can make me better.
Have you had to manage being the only female professional in a business meeting? How do you command the room?
It happens regularly. Depending on the meeting, I often do more listening than talking, just so that when I do speak, it adds value or a perspective that’s worth being shared.
What would be your advice to female professionals looking to make it in a male-dominated industry?
Don’t talk yourself out of the rooms you worked hard to be in!
What do you think the future of music looks like?
Music is going to outlive each and every one of us – I’m just excited to see it continue to evolve.
What do you want your legacy to be?
I want to be remembered as someone who worked hard, respected others, and no matter what, remained true to myself.
If there were one job in the industry you’d love to have, other than your current job, what would it be?
That’s a good one! Honestly, I get to do so much in my current role that it’s tough to pick just one thing. Directing could be fun! Also, location scouting seems like it could be interesting in other parts of the world. Being a music supervisor for films could be great too. I’m always interested in the music that ends up in films and TV shows.
Keep an eye out for more exclusive The Come Up interviews in the coming weeks.
March 4, 2021