When we connect via Zoom, Charlamagne Tha God is preparing to move into his new house. “I always say I’m blessed, Black, and highly favored. I always feel somewhere between O and K. It has nothing to do with anything that’s personally going on with me.”
Charlamagne and his iconic voice can always be found on The Breakfast Club with DJ Envy and Angela Yee. The Radio Hall of Fame inductee has made a notorious brand for himself in the radio world, and has since branched out into the podcasting space by founding the Black Effect Podcast Network and has amplified the importance of mental health in the Black community by launching the Mental Wealth Alliance. Moreover, the South Carolina native is the author of Black Privilege: Opportunity Comes to Those Who Create It and Shook One: Anxiety Playing Tricks on Me, which transparently chronicles his mental health journey and give readers a guide to navigating their own fears and anxieties.
Ahead of the official announcement of the Mental Wealth Alliance, the New York Times bestselling author tells Highsnobiety about a variety of topics, from social media’s effects on the youth to the ups and downs of being an empath.
On the voice of Generation Z
Every generation is important, because you’re hoping in life that you’re passing the baton to people that are gonna take it farther than you did. What’s scary about this generation is we really do live in the misinformation age. A lot of things that people are learning and taking in on a daily basis, I don’t know if it’s moving us forwards or backwards. We have all of this technology that should be moving us forward, but a lot of the information that’s dispensed on this technology is really having people stuck on stupid. I’ve been doing “Donkey of the Day” everyday for 10 years, and I never run out of stories. Literally today, I’m giving “Donkey of the Day” to a guy who was trying to prove Tessica [Brown] wrong, the young lady who put the gorilla glue in her hair, and this guy didn’t believe that her hair got stuck.
He didn’t believe that Gorilla Glue could actually do that, so he put it on a red solo cup, put it to his mouth, and had to go to the hospital to get part of his top lip removed. It’s like the blind leading the blind on this technology. I’m afraid for the next generation when it comes to misinformation, plus the fact that nobody cares about the truth nowadays when the lie is more entertaining. It’s not even really about getting the right knowledge or factual information; it’s just about who can come up with the most salacious story. Who can keep everybody engaged on social media and have everyone sitting around discussing a whole bunch of nothing?
On imposter syndrome
A good friend of mine, Pastor Steven Furtick, always says that we get caught up in comparing our real life to everyone's highlight reel because of social media. On social media, no one's showing you the progress, the mistakes they make, the setbacks. And everything is so carefully curated and perfect. I would hate to be a young man or woman growing up in this era, trying to figure life out when I just simply can’t keep up with this so-called standard of perfection. There’s this unattainable vision of perfection that’s impossible for anybody to reach that exists because of social media and we really act like people aren’t supposed to make mistakes. I don’t know about you, but my whole life is a series of mistakes, and me figuring things out in order to get to where I am.
We have to go through that process and that process is not pretty. There’s nobody on this planet whose process was pretty, and we’re doing ourselves a big disservice by acting like we’re not supposed to go through the good, bad, and ugly. That’s gonna be the biggest detriment, because if you’re a kid, everybody’s looking like they’re so perfect and they make no mistakes — as soon as you make one, you’re probably gonna beat yourself up about it. God forbid you’re dealing with some type of anxiety, depression, or natural insecurities that come with growing and evolving — you’re making a permanent decision based off of temporary feelings. That’s scary.
On Black ownership in the tech space
If you look around at all of the future billionaires and multi-millionaires, the wealth is being created in the tech space. That’s something that brothers like Robert [Frederick] Smith have been trying to get more of us actively involved in, because they know that’s where the wealth is. There has to be a point in time where we stop being the consumers. Everybody’s always having these conversations about being a content creator or how creatives have to control their own content. All of that is good, and if there’s one thing Black people know how to do, we know how to create content. How about we create these platforms that the content is on? That’s not for everybody, but those of us that have those visions, let’s do it so we won’t have to complain about the images that are out there about us or our narratives. We’ll control that more.
It’s weird how everybody always has these conversations about where we shouldn’t be, like, “You shouldn’t be on this social media platform because it’s not owned by Black people. Black people are always making these social media sites hot.” Okay, you’re right, but now we’ve gotta start building our own platforms and social media sites. That’s where the wealth is gonna be generated. Malcolm X said, “The person who controls the media controls the minds of the masses.” I do media, that’s my wheelhouse, and I love to empower new voices, especially the people who really have something to say. If I can create a platform to empower these various voices, whether it’s the Tamika Mallorys of the world, Senator Nina Turner, Eboni K. Williams, Jess Hilarious, or Flame Monroe, why wouldn’t I? It’s just that simple. Those who can, do. Those who can’t, criticize. I’m busy doing.
On his growth since The Breakfast Club
I think of this quote by Muhammed Ali, who said, “The person who thinks the same way at 50 that they did at 30 has wasted 20 years of their life.” If I was on the radio still doing the same thing that I was doing five years ago, especially 10 years ago, I’m pretty sure god would’ve taken that platform away from me. When you misuse things and don’t appreciate them the way that you should, god does take them away. I attempt to be the perfect balance of ratchetness and righteousness, because that’s the yin and yang of life. It doesn’t get anymore human than that. That’s one of the reasons why people have a connection with us the way that they do, because we reflect the way people live.
On mental health, the hip-hop community, and the pandemic
If I gave you a list of the rappers who hit me up and the rappers I connected with different [mental health professionals], you’d be like, “whoa,” and that’s one of the things we’re fighting against. We’re trying to eradicate that stigma that exists around mental health. That’s one of the reasons why I fight so hard for it, especially when you are a Black man in this country and when you grow up in a certain era like I did. I’m 42 years old and I grew up in an era they would literally call the Hardcore Era. I had to be tough, put my chest out, have my screwface on, and it was all about giving off that gangster image. All of that is just a defense mechanism to protect you from the world, because you really don’t want the world to see you, your insecurities, your vulnerability, and the fact that you might have some low self-esteem. Everybody wears these masks, and back then, they were the masks of hardcore gangsters.
I think about people I went to school with, people I grew up with, and when I think back, these guys were dealing with a lot of hurt and trauma. Hurt people hurt people. We don’t even realize we created a generation of sociopaths because we told brothers that they weren’t allowed to feel or express their emotions unless it was anger, toughness, or aggression. Now, you have a lot of people in their late 30s, early 40s who got all of this generational trauma, and last year during the pandemic, it made a lot of brothers and sisters finally see themselves for the first time. People don’t realize that being busy is a trauma response. When you’re trying to constantly stay busy and constantly find something to do — you gotta be outside, or you just gotta be around people — that’s a trauma response to pain and hurt that you’re feeling. When everybody sat still and saw themselves for the first time, they didn’t like what they saw.
On leaving a legacy
“He helped.” That’s what I want the legacy to be. “He helped. He made the world a better place by helping.” I always say that if I was a basketball player, I’d be the player that would have more assists than scored points, and that’s genuinely what I want. I want people to sit back and say, “He helped in various ways. He helped when he employed a lot of Black people. He helped shift culture in TV and radio by opening up and creating some of these platforms. He helped by putting certain people in certain positions.” Whether it’s Dollie Bishop being the president of Black Effect Podcast Network or another Black woman who we haven’t announced yet as being part of the platform that Kevin Hart and I have at Audible. There’s a lot of things that I’m doing where I’m positioning people in places you don’t really see us, especially Black women in leadership roles. I’m here to help and that’s what I’d love for my legacy to be.
On being an empath
It’s a constant work in progress. That’s why I have my beads and my mantra. Thank god I picked up the practice of meditation. That’s why I go to therapy once a week; I have a sacred purpose coach and I have a lot of friends and family who allow me to pick up the phone and vent. I journal, read, exercise. Life is a constant woo-sa. There is no ”one fix and it’s all gone.” I was actually having this conversation a couple of weeks ago with my sacred purpose coach, because something had really triggered me, and it was something I thought I was over, but I wasn’t. She said that we think that when we forgive somebody, we’re over something, and it’s one-and-done, but that’s not true. Healing and forgiveness is a constant process. Yes, something might come up and it may trigger you, but when it does, you just have to go through the process all over again. Pray, do yoga, exercise — whatever you have to do to get that negative energy out of you, you gotta do it.