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Charlamagne Talks Media Business Ventures

What can be said about the one and only Charlamagne Tha God?

His growth over the last 15 years from a sidekick for Wendy Williams to where he is now is nothing less than stellar. He wants to become (and already is) a major media mogul and we wanted to spotlight his successes for this issue as we did 5 years ago, except this time, he has a lot more on his plate.


Kevin: First thing I want to ask you about is the new project with Comedy Central. Tell me about it.

Charlamagne: It’s the most fun I’ve had creatively in a long time with something personal. I have fun doing a lot of things like The Black Effect Podcast Network and helping to get these podcasts launched. Even with the book imprint, seeing these people’s vision come through but personally, on a personal note, this is the most fun I’ve had creatively in a long time. Tha God’s Honest Truth, it’s so different from everything else that I’m doing.

If you listen to the Brilliant Idiots podcast, I’m on there with my man, Andrew Schultz. If you listen to The Breakfast Club, I’m on there with Envy and Angela Yee. It’s a collective effort so honestly, some things that they want to talk about, I might not have any interest in. But everything I speak about on Tha God’s Honest Truth are things I actually want to speak on, things I actually want to address. I treat it like a letter to America every week and if I had the opportunity to tell America something every single week, I do it on this platform.

Kevin: Five years ago we did the cover and you said you wanted to do comedy or like a late-night talk show and now it is coming to fruition. Was that like everything else? Was the podcast network something you wanted to do?

Charlamagne: 100 percent! I used to be part-owner of the Loud Speakers Network along with (the late) Reggie Osse and my man, Chis Morrow. Seeing what we were able to build with the Loud Speakers Network, I just knew that was missing. Black podcasters didn’t really have a platform like Barstool Sports or Gimlet It was all these networks popping up but none of them catered to the Black podcast creator. That was always my vision and my goal to build that network for the Black podcast creator. I was going to work with whoever let me do it or whoever saw my vision.

Kevin: There is still room for more. I get more and more people talking about it. I’ve been talked to about doing one.

Charlamagne: That is the beauty of the game. When you build something and you show that it is successful then other people want to do it. I don’t knock anybody for trying to accomplish something new even if they are first because they will open up the door for other people. I love it!

Kevin: Right! How does that model work? You bring people on and then you run advertising on everybody’s network, and then they get paid a percentage or can you reveal that?

Charlamagne: With The Black Effect Podcast Network, what we do is partner with other podcasts that are already in existence or we launch a lot of new podcasts. To your point, there will be podcasts out there that are doing well, but you can come over here and get a much bigger bag. We pay them, and they get a percentage of the ad revenue. It’s a great situation for everybody, I think. Then we have the megaphone on iHeart.

Being able to promote your podcast on all these different radio stations across the country, being able to promote your podcast on the largest podcast platform. iHeart is the biggest podcast platform out here. Let’s talk about some of the existing ones like Earn Your Leisure, 85 South, or All The Smoke; their numbers have grown significantly being with iHeart because of the way iHeart can promote and market them. It makes it easier for us to launch new podcasts like Ebony K. Williams, Jess Hilarious, Tezlyn Figaro, or whoever it is.

Kevin: Some of the radio corporations are trying to bring podcasters in as announcers, and we talked about this 5 years ago. Once again, iHeart seems to be ahead of the curve, understanding that their platform isn’t radio, it’s actually doing podcasts. . What do you think about that?

Charlamagne: Yeah, they are ahead of the curve, but there is still another part of that curve that everyone needs to go a little further down. That is transitioning some of these personalities to radio. Still allow them to do their podcasts but you have to take some of these shows and give them a couple of hours a week on the radio because it will increase the brand equity of the station. The next generation of radio personalities will absolutely come from the podcasts; why? Because radio over the last 12 to 13 years, they took all the personality out of radio.

PPM scared the hell out of radio companies so much so that they turned radio stations into a jukebox. They took away all the personality from radio, turned it into a jukebox and in the last decade you saw the rise of streaming services and radio doesn’t lead in music anymore. Now that you have taken away all the personality, what you see is the rise of podcasts. Radio don’t even lead in personalities no more. Now that we are not in a leadership position, we gotta go with the flow and we gotta take some of these podcast personalities and give them a few hours a week on the radio just for brand equity. Literally, just for brand equity!

Kevin: Do you think the podcasters would be interested?

Charlamagne: That’s a great question. I think some would be interested just for the sport. I know a couple that have hollered at me and said they would like to be on the radio just because they know it would make their overall brand bigger but some of these people are like, ‘What the hell I need to be on the radio for?’ And guess what? They are right! I tell program directors all the time, if you are still arrogant about radio or egotistical about radio and its place in the game right now, how about you do a perceptual for radio personalities in your market versus the podcasters. I bet that will humble you real quick.

Kevin: We talked about this five years ago, once again. A lot of radio people are one-trick ponies so they don’t see past being on the mic. They would rather wait for a job. I’ve written articles about Youtube channels and all kinds of things where we can financially prosper but we would rather have a mic and wait for a $20 an hour job in the next city. I had to get away from as much radio reporting because of that. We are stuck and I don’t know how much longer they can sit.

Charlamagne: Very, very stuck. That’s the point I keep trying to make! Five years from now I could easily see, especially Hip-Hop and R&B stations because we’re gonna be the first to go. I could easily see hip-hop and R&B stations being regulated to just an app; something you stream. Not even existing in the terrestrial form; maybe one or two that maintain but think about it, you have two of the biggest of Hip-Hop and R&B stations in the country and they are like independent mom and pops now. Hot 97 and Power 106 used to be juggernauts of Hip-Hop and R&B and now they are just like mom and pops.

Kevin: They had a grasp on the culture and they lost that. Like you said, they were not really taking advantage of the talent out there. I think a lot of that, unfortunately, with some of the older syndicators that wouldn’t move from the morning shows and wouldn’t make more room for people like you to compete with in different markets. In a way, it worked to your advantage but it worked against a lot of other people who were moving up in single markets.

Charlamagne: Guess what? I’m not going to stand in the way of the next generation either. I’m going to help usher in the next generation. You know what I mean? I want to see Hip-Hop and R&B radio continue to push the culture forward. I just don’t know Kevin, if a lot of these Program Directors, Operations Managers, and people in charge of these radio stations, if they don’t change their mindset and change it quick; put their egos down and stop thinking radio is the juggernaut it once was, and stop acting like we are the leaders of anything, it is going to be real humbling.

It’s going to be a real humbling! That’s why I always gotta give iHeart props because iHeart is in the podcast space but there is one thing that concerns me. When I hear people say, The Breakfast Club is the only multiplatform radio show, meaning you can catch The Breakfast Club on Youtube, you can catch Breakfast Club on social media, you can listen to Breakfast Club on a podcast, and terrestrial radio. That’s a problem; we shouldn’t be the only ones. You have to ask yourself, are you allowing your talent to express themselves on all these platforms, or are you siphoning the talent you do have?

Kevin: You know what? I hear the exact same thing about the trades. ‘You’re the last one around, nobody else is doing it.’ It shouldn’t be that way. There should be a younger version of what I do but radio guys don’t promote themselves. We talked about that five years ago, Urban Radio people don’t promote themselves. What are your thoughts on that, five years later?

Charlamagne: It’s wild, especially when you have all these different outlets to promote yourself. I have said it a million times; yes, you can start at the radio but once you take that content from the radio, you have to feed it to social media, you have to feed it to Youtube. You can’t wait for people to come to you. You have to go where the people are. If you are not going to meet people where they are, you will be left behind every single time. You have to meet people where they are.

Kevin: You think the programmers have something to do with that too?

Charlamagne: Yeah, because they are not allowing talent to be talent. What I mean by that is, if I’m a talent and I get on the radio and you are not letting me do my thing, why would I want to put this content anywhere else. If you are just regulating me to be a person that does the time and temperature and announce the next song while letting the music be the star, then what do you have me here for. That’s why you see so many of these personalities are starting podcasts and they promote their podcasts more than they promote their radio shows.

Kevin: Who do you see as the next you coming up? Have you run across anybody?

Charlamagne: No, and there shouldn’t be. It shouldn’t be another me. I should be the first. DJ Hed, out of LA. I love what he and my man Chuck Dizzle are doing with Home Grown Radio. There should be a Letty Martinez out of LA. She is a phenomenal radio personality; she has been in the Power 106, the iHeart system, and she is phenomenal. I listen to her podcast all the time, The Brown Bag Podcast. I listen to her and how she has grown. She is a wife now and a mother. When she gets another shot at radio and in the right position, she is gonna be lights out.

Nyla Symone at Power 105 in New York is not on every day but just the things she does outside of radio; she’s my DJ every week on Tha God’s Honest Truth. She has a podcast she does on The Black Effect Podcast Network with my man Miles Jones called The One. She is always putting out playlists and producing her own music and discovering new artists while throwing parties. She is just really into the culture. Somebody like DJ Steph Cakes from Power 105 in New York; I’m watching them and not for what they are doing on the radio. It’s the things that I see them doing outside of radio. If radio allowed them to really be the talent and the personalities they are on the air, sky’s the limit.

Kevin: If you come across any jocks that ask you to put them on, what is the one thing that turns you on or turns you off about that? What is the one thing they shouldn’t do?

Charlamagne: Asking me to put you on. If you really out here hustling or you really out here moving and shaking, we gonna see. I’m going to pay attention. Nine times out of ten, I’m already paying attention. All those people I mentioned by name, I already have been paying attention to what they’ve been doing because I can’t help but see it. Now, I want to see if I can help them get to that next level in whatever way possible, whether it is opening up my phone to them… There’s a woman in Charleston, SC, and her name is KrisKaylin on Z93 Jamz.

That’s home; I’m home three or four years ago just listening to the radio because I” m a radio junkie. I’m hearing this person and she got mad talent. I’m like who is KrisKaylin? I started asking around, then I go online and saw interviews that she has done for Youtube. I see her putting out playlists talking about who are the next new artists coming from the Carolinas. She has put me on to a lot of things just by following her. Of course, I’m going to extend my hand to her. She is a Black woman from the home team. My point with that is, I heard her on the air, I heard she was dope, I do a bit more digging, I see she is doing a lot of things social media-wise, podcast-wise, and in the streets. I gotta extend my hand to somebody like that.

Kevin: What are your thoughts on Kevin Samuels?

Charlamagne: I honestly don’t really have any. From what I see, he is on social media and he is doing his thing. He clearly has a following.

Kevin: Don’t you think that it is interesting that somebody like that can not be from the industry yet figure everything out that quick?

Charlamagne: No. Social media is not for the industry. Most of these industry folks are late on social media because they are too busy with their heads up their ass thinking that what they are doing is the end all be all. `I’m on the radio; I don’t need to be on Twitter, I don’t need to be on Instagram, I don’t need to be on Youtube.” By the way, I thought that eight years ago. Eight years ago, my man Chris Morrow came to me and said I need to start a podcast. I’m like why do I need to do a podcast, I’m on the radio every morning. Guess what? I’m glad I listened. I’m glad I’m the type of person that even if I say, “For what?” If I trust you, and I trust your judgment and you are very persistent about something, I’m like what does it hurt to try.

Me and my dude Andrew Schultz, and Duval go back to Guy Code. Me and Duval go back longer than that. We started doing the podcast based on the conversations we were already having. I knew these were conversations we were not having on The Breakfast Club. I feel the same way about TV now with Tha God’s Honest Truth. I know these are not the conversations I’m having on The Breakfast Club or Brilliant Idiots so this is what I want to do at this stage in my life. I’m glad I wasn’t arrogant and stuck in my ways that I dismissed podcasts all together. I’ve been doing the Brilliant Idiots podcast for eight years and it is a seven-figure business. Andrew Shultz is a star in his own right. He is out here doing Netflix specials and selling out theaters all across the country. He is a beast!

Kevin: What’s next?

Charlamagne: What’s next is me focusing on TheGod’s Honest Truth. Man, I love it! It feels like launching something like The Breakfast Club all over again. It’s something new, although this is my third talk show. I did Charlamagne and Friends, I did that on MTV2, which evolved into Uncommon Sense that I did for three years. There have been other opportunities for me to do other talk shows over the years but I’ve learned it’s not about what you say yes to; it’s about what you say no to. It’s also about what says no to you.

There’s been plenty of other opportunities for me to do talk shows and I thought it would be on this network; it didn’t happen. I thought it would be on that network; it didn’t happen. God said no, now is the time for you to be in this space. 43 years old, happily married, four beautiful daughters, six years of therapy; I’m a different person; I’m a different human. Now I really got something to say and I know how to say it. It’s very interesting this new space and doing it with people I love. My showrunner Rachel Edwards, who has been with me since I started my TV journey nine or ten years ago at MTV2. She used to be my homegirl Candida’s Executive Assistant over at MTV2, and now she is running the whole thing as my showrunner. I’ve watched her grow over the years.

She’s watched me grow over the years. Being able to do dope things with your friends and just figuring it out is a beautiful thing. So when you ask me what’s next, Emmy Awards for television, building a platform that is really for us, by us, that we can get a lot of information from. I know that I’m going to have a lot of success in this TV world just like I had in radio.

Kevin: Any guests you’ve had on the morning show you would never have on the show again?

Charlamagne: No. I don’t see that. You would have to give me some examples. I’m not even that type of person.

Kevin: Who do you get the most negative responses from or positive responses from? Give me like three people.

Charlamagne: Everybody. There is not one single person that gets an overwhelmingly positive response. Even if they do, give it a minute and later people will hate them. I remember we had Tiffany Haddish on; Tiffany Haddish is a dear friend. I’ve known Tiffany Haddish for a long time. We had her on before Girl’s Trip and everybody was loving her. “I love her story, her story is so amazing, blah, blah, blah, I love Tiffany Haddish.”

She blows up and she gets success, she comes back, as the same person she always was, then they are like, “she is so annoying, she gets on my nerves, blah, blah.” My father always tells me, “You’re never as good as they say you are. You’re never as bad as they say you are, period.” As long as you keep that mindset, you will be fine. There is no person they overwhelmingly hate; there is no person they overwhelmingly love.

Kevin: How important are the comments to you? I know we talked about it before and I believe you said you don’t really pay a lot of attention to it. A lot of the time people are just venting through the comments. Do you ever use it for any part of your research?

Charlamagne: I think when you realize most people are projecting, you stop letting it phase you. People use social media to project, and people are always going to project on public figures. You’ve seen it with everybody. You see it with Jay Z, Beyonce, Oprah, Obama. Any of these people you think are beloved, they all get it. When you see that, why would I take things personally? I’m not going to sit here and say that when you see some of those comments, them shits don’t sting, but it is what it is. Guess what? Someone can tell me my TV show sucks and then somebody can say it’s the best TV show they have ever seen.

Who am I supposed to believe? The only person I gotta believe is me. People have been saying The Breakfast Club sucks for 11 years. They say they hate it and it’s problematic and then others say it’s a great show and we put so many Black voices on, it’s the show for our community. Who am I supposed to listen to Kev? T.D Jakes gave a sermon yesterday and he said, “are you living for people’s validation or God’s confirmation? He was basically saying if you are walking your divine assignment from God, then you don’t have time to listen to the opinions of other people. I feel like I’m on God’s divine assignment so I don’t have time to listen to those opinions of other people.

Kevin: Have you brought along a lot of people you have done a lot of your other projects with? I know you just mentioned you brought some of the people along for the TV show. Is that something you try to do intentionally or is everybody ready to move from radio to TV?

Charlamagne: Hell yeah, it’s intentional! You come to Tha God’s Honest Truth, we are like a 90 to 95% Black and Brown staff. Every leadership position except head writer is led by a woman. All of the dope interns that I’ve come across at The Breakfast Club that radio didn’t have room, they all at my TV show.

All of them, my homegirl Jazz, Jilian, and Nyla is my house DJ every week. My homegirl Camie, who I met 6 to 7 years ago when she was at Syracuse. Yeah, that is what I’m all about. I’m all about rewarding loyalty and good work. I was that person. I was that intern that somebody saw something in and gave me an opportunity, so why wouldn’t I do the same. The Black Effect Podcast Network, the President of that network, is my friend, my family, Dolly Bishop, who I’ve worked with in the TV space over the last ten years.

That is a great family friend that my wife loves, and my mom loves. I know she has what it takes to be a boss in any capacity and she is great with talent so her running the Podcast Network made the utmost sense. Nicole Spence, who I used to work with at Wendy Williams, she is at The Black Effect Podcast Network. So, hell yeah, that is what I’m all about. I’m all about doing dope shit with my friends and family!

Kevin: Five years from now, I want to interview you again, God willing, so you said you want to have an Emmy type show and tell me the other stuff you want to do.

Charlamagne: Five years from now; right now, I’m at the beginning stages of my multimedia moguldom. Five years from now you will see a lot of those seeds that were planted three years ago will have bared a lot of fruit. The Black Effect Podcast Network will be a 100 million dollar business. The company I have with Kevin Hart, SVH at Audible, will be worth hundreds of millions of dollars. Dope creators will come from both of those platforms. My book imprint, Black Privilege Publishing, put out two books this year, Tamika Mallory, “State of Emergency” and Anita Kopacz, “Shallow Waters.” Those books will spawn TV, films, etc.

There will be New York Best Sellers and a lot of stories that get to be told because of the book imprint. Same thing with SVH it will produce a lot of dope IP. I just pray Tha God’s Honest Truth, hopefully, will be like Jon Stewart’s The Daily Show. Look at all the people that came from that show.

Trevor Noah, Stephen Colbert, Samantha B, Don Olliver, Steve Carell, all those people came from that show and I just want the same for my show but for Black people. My idols and inspirations are people like Clarence Avant, Jay Z, Petey Greene for radio and Arsenio Hall for TV. The one thing all those four people shared is that they empowered other people.

Kevin: The question I always get is how much of the Black Podcast Effect Network do you own?

Charlamagne: 51 percent. I’m a 51 percent majority owner. Just know that Dolly has a significant stake in The Black Effect Podcast Network as well. She is not just the President, she is an owner, and we are the majority owner of The Black Effect Podcast Network.

Kevin: Good! Thank you, Charlamagne. You’ve always been supportive, and I want to interview you again in five years. You are an inspiration. I’m very proud of you, Envy and Yee.

Charlamagne: Thanks, Kev. I appreciate you.


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