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Charlamagne Talks to Radio Facts about Growth, Past Shows and the Future

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Interview from the Radio Facts year-end Power Play List Magazine

It’s been really interesting to see how Charlamagne Tha God has evolved over the years. He has always been very talented and completely driven to succeed, starting his career at a time in the industry when broadcasters were not allowed to have personalities or their own branding ideas outside of the station. Great thinkers and creatives, for the most part, think outside of the box then take action on those thoughts. Charlamagne went against the grain and it not only cost him a job or two, but it also cost those who supported him their jobs — namely George Cook, the current Brand Manager for KKDA in Dallas. To find out the details buy Charlamagne‘s best selling first book “Black Privilege.”

Charlamagne will tell you everything about himself you want to know, and some things you could do without — like holding in a fart while taking a picture with Anita Baker in order to maintain her respect. You have to laugh nonetheless because you don’t expect it and he has a way of bringing out the kid in all off us.

Just releasing a second book — “Shook One: Anxiety Playing Tricks on Me” — Charlamagne continues to grow each year with his business ventures and using his platform to spotlight an array of people and subjects that make The Breakfast Club incredibly interesting.  

CHARLAMAGNE THA GOD:  Yo. What’s up, Kev?

KEVIN ROSS: Let’s talk about the book. How’s that going for you?

Charlamagne:  Book’s going great,…you know, my second book, “Shook One: Anxiety Playing Tricks On Me,”…it’s just really…My first book was transparent. This book is more, I guess, you know, vulnerable ‘cause I think being in therapy, in general, makes you more vulnerable, and, you know, I didn’t even set out to write a second book, or even sit back and say to myself, “I’m going to write a book about mental health.” I was really just keeping a journal, a journal of like, my experiences in therapy, you know, things that have historically given me anxiety, things that give me anxiety now, and once I started going to therapy, I just started peeling back layers of other stuff, like PTSD, trauma, trauma from past experiences, you know, things that happened to me when I was younger.

So, yeah, it just turned out to be, like, this really good body of work, man! And it’s… elevating the conversation of mental health in our community, and you know, helping to eradicate the stigma of mental health in African-American communities, so I’m very proud of it.

Don’t you think that what you just described, you know, just the PTSD, the mental health challenges, all those kinds of things, you know, the way we grow up — don’t you think it’s sort of indicative of a lot of black men?

Oh, yeah.  It’s like we don’t even realize that a lot of the things that we grew up in weren’t normal. Like, we’ve normalized so much BS in our communities, you know what I’m saying? From the violence, to selling drugs, to even stepping on other people to get ahead — you know, none of that is good, We can act like we doing something noble, or we can act like there’s an honorable way to sell crack…or there’s an honorable way to rob people, but it’s not noble or honorable. And you know, a lot of that stuff weighs heavily on you when you get older.

You start thinking about the things that you did wrong growing up, and, you know, have you truly paid for the karma of those things? And you start thinking about the things that have happened to you, whether there have been guns pulled on you, or getting beat up, or anything. You know?  Like, a lot, a lot of times, man, being black in America just brings on a whole different level of anxiety that a lot of people don’t have to deal with.  And especially if you grow up in the hood and you were kind of like, you know, thrust into doing wrong.

So, as far as interviews this past year, what have been some of your most memorable?  

Um, my favorites interviews from this year, were definitely DC Young Fly, Chico Bean and Karlous Miller, the 85 South Show, when they came. The comedian Ms. Pat was really good, too.  Um, Jess Hilarious was really amazing to me and Jenifer Lewis was really good. Kevin Hart and Tiffany Haddish, when they came, that was really good. You know, we’ve had some good ones. Michael Blackson I can honestly say comedians really showed up this year. You know, ‘cause if you noticed, the majority of those people that I named were comedians. Like, the comedians either were really funny, or they had some insightful stuff to say.

Are there types of content that you’re shying away from at this point?

Um, I’m not shying away from anything, but I’d be lying if I told you, you know, there are not certain things I sat back and heard myself saying, and then felt uncomfortable, like, “What the F was I thinking?” But, you know, like I always say, sometimes you can get caught up in a shtick, and you get caught up in a shtick because when you are a person who has grown up, and you’re looking at what people are saying about you, I think that’s one of the weirdest things for anybody.  When you start seeing what people are saying about you, you know, whether it’s in magazines, or in articles, or on comments online. You start seeing what people like about you, and you start doing more of that instead of doing what’s really in your heart, what you really feel is real.

So now you say you go to therapy. I think I heard you say you go to cognitive therapy?

Well, I’m just going to regular therapy now to, like, deal with my anxiety and stuff like that.

Okay.  So, what was the deal with cognitive therapy? That didn’t work out for you?

Um, I mean, it’s still something that I dabble in. But you know, like, more so when I started to go, I thought that’s what I needed ‘cause I was, like, flirting with the idea of therapy, and talking to other people who were telling me that they go to CBT and stuff like that. But my therapist was just was having me doing stuff to help me deal with my anxiety.

Did you actually see results?

A hundred percent.

That’s really good.

It’s literally like my brain has been organized. It’s like going into a closet, right?  And it’s full of junk. It’s got all kinds of like, you know, clothes and stuff, overflowing everywhere. And it’s like, now, all boxed up. All the stuff I don’t need and, you know, give that away to Goodwill and organize all the stuff I want to keep, and now I can bring in new stuff.

Have you ever noticed that sometimes when your living space is like that, that your mind is like that too?

Oh, a hundred percent. Like, that’s why everything has to have organization.

What are the characteristics that you should look for in a therapist? Do you think that you should go to somebody who has experienced what you’ve experienced, somebody who’s black, or somebody totally opposite?

I went and got a therapist that was like, well, I wanted an Asian woman because I wanted somebody that was going to be like, completely neutral; somebody that didn’t have my preconceived notions or biases or pre-judgments of the world.  And, you know, if you think it’s hard to find a black therapist, then go try to find an Asian woman therapist. And so I ended up going to this white woman. And the reason I liked her is because, like, she would actually be listening with the intent to understand, not the intent to reply.  Like, you know, there was one time where I unloaded on her and she just let out this big sigh afterward. You know what I mean? Like, I was like, “Damn, that’s a lot, right?” And she was like, “Yeah, that’s a lot.”  And she just kind of sat there for a second before she started, like, answering me. And it’s not like she’s trying to tell me what to do. You know what I’m saying?  She was just figuring out my personality traits and my characteristics and telling me, you know, how to move properly, basically, based off who I am.

And then a lot of people don’t realize, they actually have to go the therapy, too. Like when you said, “She sighed,” it’s like, part of the requirement of, you know, of being a therapist, is that they actually have to go and get therapy themselves to unload all the stuff that you put on them.

Yeah, I always wondered, like, “Who does my therapist talk to?” And, I wanted to say, too, like, you know, you asked me where I’m gonna see myself in a few years, like, I‘ve got a vision, you know what I’m saying? Like I’m already in the process of being a multi-media mogul where we just have podcasts, we have books, we have television shows that I am executive producing, and my ultimate goal is to do late-night television.  Like I want to do a late-night show on a major network. You know, I feel like, there hasn’t been a black late-night host since Arsenio. And you know, respect to, Jimmy Fallon, respect to Jimmy Kimmel, respect to Stephen Colbert, who I love, who has me on his show often, You know, I love all of those guys but I just feel like a lot of times, man I see them using our culture, and so I’m like, “Yo, why continue to have people using our culture when we can have somebody who is actually of our culture?”

Well, the only thing that I can suggest is to make sure that you own whatever you do.  That’s the key.

That’s, I’m doing that, I’m doing that now. Any of these shows you see I’m executive producing, or any of these podcasts you see me launching, or any of these, you know, books, that’s all ownership.  Like my next thing after this book is going to be my own book publishing company and I’m going to be putting other people’s books out.

Kudos for not doing the interview with Kanye West.  I don’t understand why he gets a platform, and then everybody gets mad at him for what he says or does. It’s almost like they look right through the fact that he has mental challenges.

Well, the thing about being a celebrity, man, and you know, I’ve even noticed that with the little bit of celebrity that I’ve got, nobody thinks anything you do is genuine. They think everything you do is disingenuous. And so, it’s like even when you are somebody like Kanye West, and you can scream that you’re bipolar, you know, you can scream that you’re off your medication, and everybody will look past that.  And the reason they’ll look past that is because that’s not the story.  You know what I’m saying?  The story is the BS that you did. And that’s what they really want to focus on; they want to focus on the BS you‘ve got going on.

A lot of jocks in the industry don’t see that that profession is drastically changing? Why are they not taking advantage of the audiobooks, the podcasting, all of the other things they could be doing?  What are your thoughts on that?

I mean, I think that a lot of people really, simply just don’t know how.  And, I mean, it’s interesting to me that, you know, people can watch The Breakfast Club for the past eight years and, like, not follow a lot of our moves. I mean, the least you can do is record your content and put it online and send your content to various websites that are available that may run some of your content that doesn’t even have to always be celebrity interviews. It could be, you know, great phone bits, it could be great, you know, prank calls, it could be great conversations with different listeners.

It’s all kinds of ways to, you know, open up discussions and get people to talk about certain things.  But I think a lot of people really just don’t know how, and I think a lot of them are just waiting.  They’re saying things to themselves like, “Oh, I’ll wait ‘til I get this big interview.” Or “I’ll wait until I get in this big market.” You can’t do that.  When I was in South Carolina,  I was doing the same thing I’m doing now. I was taking my content and posting it online and taking my content and sending it different websites, whether it was allhiphop.com, or SOHH at the time, like, I was pushing my content out there. I wasn’t waiting on anybody.  And I think that’s what a lot of people need to start doing now. I’m like, stop waiting.

Do you think that it’s important to just hire somebody to just handle your social media?

No. I like handling my social media myself. Ain’t nobody that busy, bro. You know what I’m saying?  All it is is some pictures and some tweets. I don’t tweet as much as I used to, only because I feel like I’m a person that’s been blessed with various platforms, so, I have radio, I have my podcast, I have books, like I have a lot of different ways that I can get my message out there, and I’ve realized that a lot of tweets that I’ve posted before have gotten completely taken out of context. So being that I have ways to put things in context, it’s like, why tweet? You know what I’m saying?

What people say — do you read those comments?  

Yeah, I used to a lot.  I try not to as much.

Right.  ‘Cause they can be pretty brutal. Sometimes people are just p**sed off.

I just don’t like the negative energy, like, you know what I’m saying?  Like for me, it’s just negative energy, like, that’s all it really is…People are really just negative, and, like, sometimes you gotta remember, man, that energy is never lost or destroyed, it’s just transferred from one party to the next. So, it’s like, miserable people love to pass on that misery.

Right.  And yet, and then, it’s the only chance they get to do it.

A hundred percent.

What’s coming up for Charlamagne?  What’s next?

Man, I got a lot of different things, man. I‘ve got this show that I am about to do. It’ll probably be announced tomorrow, if I’m not mistaken, it’ll be announced tomorrow.  And it’s a show that I’m doing, man, which kind of just happened organically (in Session Live – a live therapy session). Um, you know, ‘cause like I said, I’m really trying to elevate the conversation about mental health and I feel like God kind of wiped my slate clean to really make me focus on this book, and really make me focus on this conversation.  And, like, this TV show that I’m gonna be doing, it’s going to be like a special, but hopefully, it’ll turn into a regular series. It actually has an air date and everything, but I can’t say anything until the press release comes out, but that’s about to be announced.  Um, I have this documentary that I’m doing with Bakari Sellers called “While I Breathe I Hope.” It premiered at the New Orleans Film Festival and we won “Best Audience” award at the New Orleans Film Festival. And, you know, so it’s like, I’m just working, man!  You know?  Like, that’s all. Like, I got a lot of, you know, different show ideas that I’ve been working on, a lot of things are coming to fruition. And I’m just gonna keep pushing. You don’t become that next media mogul by just hoping and wishing. You know?

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