Charlamagne Tha God has made a name for himself as one of the most prominent, controversial journalists in the entertainment industry thanks to his candor, witty remarks, and ability to push the envelope to get the best story possible in each of his interviews.
Gaining his start with Wendy Williams, the Charleston native worked his way up to become a part of the cultural staple “The Breakfast Club.” He boasts a countless number of interviews under the successful radio show’s belt alongside co-hosts DJ Envy and Angela Yee.
The 44-year-old has branched out to find solo success with “The Brilliant Idiots” podcast with Andrew Schulz, hosting The Hollywood Reporter’s YouTube show “Emerging Hollywood,” and with his book, “Black Privilege: Opportunity Comes to Those Who Create It.”
From the most “dangerous” morning show to primetime television, he is now entering a new lane as a late-night talk show host on Comedy Central with his own variety series called “Hell of A Week with Charlamagne Tha God.” Executive produced by the entrepreneur and Stephen Colbert, “Hell of A Week” features a panel of today’s biggest media figures as they discuss trending topics in an open forum.
In a conversation with REVOLT, Charlamagne chats about expanding his brand, his favorite moment on “The Breakfast Club,” a documentary that is in the works about the morning show, Travis Scott and the Astroworld tragedy, and more. Read up below!
“Hell Of A Week” is back for season two. What kind of space are you hoping your platform provides for guests?
My mindset is always: “What cultural institution can we build?” Between AJ, Free, Terrence, and Rocsi, “106 & Park” was a cultural moment. As for “The Breakfast Club,” we’ve been around for 13 years and it’s a cultural institution. Whenever you’re Black and you have the opportunity to host one of those type of platforms or lead, that’s how you should be thinking — how to continue to create those spaces for us to talk about the issues we want to talk about in the way we want to talk about them, so we can amplify the issues that aren’t getting amplified. I just want to create a cultural institution like a “Hell of A Week with Charlamagne Tha God” as opposed to any of my traditional outlets.
How does this show differ from your other shows?
“The Breakfast Club” has its own energy — the common denominator for all the podcasts and shows are me, but the energies differ depending on who you’re talking to. My formula for the panel for my new show is always a comedian, a political bandit, and a personality. When you take those three types of people and put them together, along with me and the right topics, it makes for a great conversation. The only thing that changes on a weekly basis is the people I speak to and who we’re talking about.
“Hell Of A Week” reminds me of “Chelsea Lately” from back in the day.
That’s the vibe and the energy we’re going for. Whenever I talk about shows I loved growing up, “Chelsea Lately” is one of them. Her formula was incredible. I’m glad you said that.
This is the most we’ve seen you share your political views on a platform, pivoting from entertainment topics into the worldly news sphere. What motivated you to enter this realm?
Honestly, I would say age. Growing up, my mother used to tell me to read things that don’t pertain to [me], so I always found myself into things that didn’t necessarily pertain to me. When you grow [up] listening to Hip Hop, you had Goodie Mob and Public Enemy — these rappers were rapping about things that were happening in government. I paid attention to politics like CNN, MSNBC, Fox. “The O’Reilly Factor” used to be on religiously because I like to hear what the other side has to say. I’ve always, from the beginning of my radio career, had local politicians and spiritual leaders on my platform. For me, [“The Breakfast Club”] took a pivot in 2014. My good brother Bakari Sellers was running for lieutenant governor of South Carolina and decided to be smart, to meet people where they are, and came on the show to talk to our audience. From there, everyone from Hillary Clinton to Bernie Sanders wanted to come on.
Is there pressure when it comes to having those kind of prominent figures on your show?
No pressure because I’m a tax paying citizen, so a lot of these issues I care about are issues [the] majority [of] people are caring about — especially Black people. I’m in tune with a lot of different conversations Black people are having — we are not monolithic. There was an actual study done after Vice President Kamala Harris came on [“The Breakfast Club”] when she was running for this position and we discussed reparations. That was the most times reparations was searched since Ta-Nehisi Coates wrote about reparations in the past.
You’re known for your controversial lines of questioning during interviews. How would you describe your overall interview style?
I’ve never even thought about that to be honest with you, Ty. I’ve always been a person who has always been curious, and I’m a fan of the culture and the business we’re in. A lot of times when I’m sitting down talking to people, I get the opportunity to ask them things that everybody else gets to talk about on social media or in the barbershops. My pops always told me the fastest way between two points is a straight line, so I just ask them. I’m never purposely trying to make someone uncomfortable and my intention is never malicious, which is why when someone tells me they don’t want to talk about something, I don’t push it.
You sat down with Travis Scott after the Astroworld incident, and it was one of your most notable interviews to date. Are you looking to do more one on one-styled interviews in the future?
I enjoyed the interview with Travis, and I’m glad you brought it up because we live in this era where everybody has to pick a side, and everyone has to have a stance on who’s guilty or innocent. That’s not how life works (laughs). Things aren’t black or white — there’s a shade of gray. There were so many lives loss. For me personally, do I think it was a tragic incident? Yes. Do I think someone should get the brunt of the blame? No. A lot of different things have to fail in order for something like that to happen, so I wanted to have a conversation with him instead of sitting down and firing off on him. I hate to say it, but that’s not the first time something like that happened, and it probably won’t be the last because you have the most unpredictable human element in the world, which is human nature. When you have 5,000-10,000 people in one space, you just pray to God for the best. If everyone leaves and nothing happens, thank God. I’m definitely looking forward to doing more.
As musicians start their own podcasts and talk shows, many artists are becoming interviewers. Do you think this will hurt journalists’ ability to receive on-air opportunities?
Oh, this is a phenomenal question. Great question, Ty. For on-air opportunities, yes, because radio doesn’t have a lot of real estate. Radio allows podcasts to take the greatest element of radio, which is the personality, and magnify it times 100. There’s a rating system called PPM that came out like 20 years ago and because of that rating system, they took all the personality out of radio and made it into a jukebox. For the past 15-20 years, podcasts started to rise. So now, radio will never lead in personality again because of podcasts. They will never lead in music because of streaming services, they will never lead in news again because of social media, and they will never lead in concerts again because of festivals. As far as on-air, there’s limited space until we make space. A lot of personalities are coming from the podcast world — like athletes can start their own podcasts. Musicians and the journalists that aren’t waiting to get on-air are beginning their own podcasts. To get on-air, it’s going to be difficult until radio tears up that playbook that they use.
What do you think about podcast culture now?
It’s awful [that] we pay attention to certain things because certain things we shouldn’t give our energy to. Everybody is trying to cut through and be heard. People are literally saying anything. I’m not mad at people saying how they feel — like the girl who felt Beyoncé was overrated. If anything, Beyoncé might be underrated because there’s nothing overrated about her.
“The Breakfast Club” is getting a shake-up with Angela Yee leaving the show to begin her own. If you could add a new host, who would it be?
While I haven’t thought about that honestly, I’m looking forward to rotating guests next year. I’m looking for someone to bring in that new energy. I want someone to come in with real-world experience and not afraid to express [their point of view]. Whatever your lived experience is, message that to our audience in a real way — whether it’s funny, relatable, smart or engaging.
While we love you on “The Breakfast Club,” we understand you’d like to expand and tap into other ventures. Is your time on the show slowly coming to an end?
My contract with the show is up around 2025 and I’m in real business with iHeart with The Black Effect, which is my podcast network. I’m a majority owner and [part of] a joint venture with Dolly Bishop, who is the president. We’re partnering with “Drink Champs,” Jess Hilarious, “85 South,” and “WHOREible Decisions.” I don’t see me walking away from iHeart anytime soon, and I don’t see myself walking away from radio anytime soon — just because I really do love doing morning radio.
What’s the fondest moment you’ve experienced on “The Breakfast Club,” and who would you say was your best interview and why?
Ah man, these are hard because you have 13 years of great moments. I did say in the studio the funniest moment to me on “The Breakfast Club” was when I asked Webbie about Obamacare and he replied, “Nobody cares.” It was hilarious but also profound, and I think about it as well as laugh at it. He was one of my favorite guests but I don’t know if I have a favorite per se. We’ve sat down and talked to way too many people for me to narrow down one moment. I would say the fondest moment would be when we got inducted to the Radio Hall Of Fame. When we found out and announced it on air. Honestly, when they told us we were being considered, I thought to myself, “They not gonna really induct this ratchet show,” and we got nominated and got inducted unanimously first ballot. I would have to narrow it down to a top 10 because eventually we’re going to do “The Breakfast Club” documentary.
Oh, an exclusive? Is that in the works right now?
Yeah, we’ve been working on it for a few years, but then COVID hit and people didn’t know if I was resigning back in 2020, so it was put on hold. You can possibly expect it to drop in a year maybe, but don’t get me to lying. We definitely are working on a documentary.
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