When you think of music industry heavy hitters, the name Shanti Das automatically comes to mind. Having pioneered the careers of OutKast, Usher, and Jagged Edge, Shanti was determined to make her mark in the industry early on. “I always knew I wanted to be involved with music,” she says. “I hustled in college to go to every event and be seen. I remember going up to Russell Simmons and introducing myself. I told him at an event, you don’t know me, but you will by the end of the evening.”
Fresh out of college, Das landed her first record label position at LaFace Records, which later promoted her to various executive titles and becoming VP of Marketing for Columbia and Motown Records. There she managed marketing campaigns for SoSo Def, Akon, Erykah Badu and Ashanti.
Applying her wealth of industry knowledge and experience, the former Exec recently published, The Hip Hop Professional, to not only chronicle her 20-year career in the music industry but to serve as a woman’s guide to climbing the ladder of success. We sat down with the author to chat about the obstacles of being a leading woman in the industry, building an empire, working with top artists and advice to young women aiming to succeed.
VIBE Vixen: Where did you develop this drive to become a huge success in the hip hop industry?
Shanti Das: On a personal note, my dad committed suicide when I was a baby and it was a tough life for us growing up. I kind of just developed a drive as a kid to want a better life, to want a better life for my mom and my siblings. And so when I was old enough to start working, which was like 14, and I just never looked back. I believed I could achieve anything I wanted to.
So what do you feel is the most powerful and influential chapter in the book?
Working in the music industry, I had to do things that most people, that normal people would never get to experience in a lifetime; extravagant trips and being able to make a wonderful salary, and not ever having to worry about bills. But I learned over the last 4 years since I’ve been in transition, that that’s not what life is about. It’s about having a relationship with God, and really treating others the way God wants you to treat them. And so I’ve began a lot of service in our community when I moved back to Atlanta in 2009 and it’s been more rewarding than any awards show, any Chanel bag, any Prada bag and anything I’ve ever done from a monetary perspective. I can’t tell you the joy, even when I feed the homeless. It’s been an extremely humbling experience for me, finding a new purpose in my life.
Your book is giving a woman perspective to making it in the industry. It’s so rare to find women helping other women, particularly in the entertainment industry. Why is that?
I think sometimes we as women, we get a little territorial or there’s a bit of an intimidation factor. Sometimes we’re jealous of one another and we won’t even necessarily speak about it but you can sense the jealousy. You know, everybody wants to be successful. Everybody wants the ability to do what they want to do, so sometimes there is jealous undertones, but it comes out in other ways. Like that we may not support each other on a project, or in a workplace, or with getting a promotion. My pastor said at church one time, “we spend so much attention guarding our position, then playing our position.” Don’t be afraid of someone taking your spot.