by Zon’ D’ Amour
LA Sentinel Contributing Writer
On Being A Husband, Father & Executive Producer
Charlamagne Tha God has never been one to be politically correct. As one third of the popular morning show,“The Breakfast Club,” the radio personality doesn’t hesitate to ask any and everything that’s on his mind, which has admittedly gotten him into some trouble over the years. But despite having made more enemies than friends, he’s always honest and true to his brand–and it’s definitely paid off. Off the strength of his name alone he’s snagged roles in television (“Empire”) and film (“Ride Along”), not to mention a shout out from Drake in the Grammy nominated diss record “Back to Back.”
But what most people don’t know is that off the mic, Charlamagne is a family man. The South Carolina native is a husband and father of two little girls, and he’s adamant about keeping his personal life off social media.
Before the 35-year-old graced the airwaves–hosting the “Brilliant Idiots” podcast in the afternoons and the MTV series, “Uncommon Sense” at night–he was running the streets, landing him a few jail stints before an internship at a radio station showed him that he could make a career using his mouthpiece. So he cleaned up his act, took the necessary steps to change his life, and began to make a name for himself as a tell-it-like-it-is radio host.
But the road to redemption wasn’t easy. In the process of becoming who he is today, he had to be humbled. Four times, to be exact. Being fired from various radio positions allowed him to see the bigger picture in what seemed like constant setbacks. After his initial layoff he asked himself, “Was I doing everything that I was supposed to do?” He admits to initially “abusing” the fame and celebrity of being a radio personality, but has since decided to only use his platform to empower others.
In a new interview, Charlamagne gives insight series that he’s executive producing and the importance of showing his daughters what love is by marrying his high school sweetheart. And let’s just say that we’ve definitely discovered a different side of the radio personality, off the air.
LAS: What will you tell your daughters (who are seven and four-months-old) about love, relationships, and knowing their worth?
Charlamagne Tha God: “Love” is something that you have to witness. That’s one of the reasons why I wanted to get married. Me and the mother of my kids have been together since high school. When you have your seven-year-old daughter asking why you and mommy don’t have the same last name, that affects you as a man. It made me think, ‘Well, why don’t we? What’s stopping me from taking that next step?’
It’s good to see two parents living in the house, embracing each other, laughing and talking; you have to lead by example. I spoil my daughter, not only is she growing up in a loving household, I spoil her so no man is going to be able to provide for her because she’s got me. She also understands the value of a dollar, and how hard her parents work to provide the life she has.
At seven-years-old, she’s sassy. She already has plans and goals and things that she wants to accomplish, and I’m not going to let anyone take that from her. I’m going to let her be as strong as she wants; I’m not going to let her be submissive to anyone. You have to really empower your children and teach them that they’re bosses, kings, queens and goddesses.
LAS: You have several radio and TV projects in production. You seem to be in your prime right now, so do you take every opportunity that’s presented to you? How do you make sure you’re not burning yourself out?
CTG: I never do things for money. Everything I do is because I love it. I do things for purpose. When it comes to the “Brilliant Idiots” podcast, it’s a way for me to express myself more and go into detail about things that I’m feeling. I started doing it because I like creating content with my friend, Andrew Schulz, now we’re selling out shows in London doing the podcast live. Radio is my love and my passion. I wake up everyday enjoying it and we’ve (The Breakfast Club) had tremendous success. iHeart Radio recently signed me to another 5 year contract, that’s effortless.
As far as “Uncommon Sense” on MTV, I’ve always wanted to do a late night talk show. I used to watch Arsenio, Chris Rock, Bill Maher and Chelsea Handler, it was something I always wanted to do. I’m doing it because I love to do it and it’s an opportunity for me to give other voices a chance to be heard. It’s always meaning over money. I’m never doing things for a check.
I can’t burn myself out because everything that I’m doing is being fueled by love and that isn’t a resource that can get burned out. I came from South Carolina to New York and worked for Wendy Williams for free for a year. Wendy and her husband told me they couldn’t pay me but they gave me a place to stay. You tell me how many kids now a days would recognize opportunity if there wasn’t a paycheck attached to it? I recognized the opportunity to do something I loved to do on a larger scale and I took it.
LAS: What have you learned from the four times you’ve been fired? How did it help you to grow personally and professionally?
CTG: When I think about getting fired in radio, it never phased me because the extremes I come from before radio were much more harsh. [Over the holidays] I was literally back at home sitting on my mom’s porch looking back on the times where the police came here and arrested me. There was a time the police had my father and I sitting in the same cell for a weekend because they had this crazy idea that we were some kind of drug kingpins, which was so far from the truth.
Those experiences were harsh, so in order to bounce back from that, I had to change my lifestyle. I moved myself out the hood and went back to night school and got my diploma. I said I wasn’t going to sell drugs anymore and I wasn’t going to hang out with the same crew. I worked at Taco Bell, in the mall and I work in telemarketing; if I could bounce back from all of those situations, getting fired was light. Every time I got laid off, God humbled me, showed me the responsibility that comes with having the power of the microphone. Once I learned that, the sky was the limit. Everything else was a learning experience. In life I feel you either win or you learn. When I think about all of the times I’ve been fired, I wouldn’t change anything.
LAS: In the age of social media, people don’t necessarily have to have any talents or viable skills to land their own TV or radio show. What is your talent and how were you able to discern that this was your purpose?
CTG: Growing up I was always a radio junkie. As a kid I would turn on the local radio station’s “Top 9 at 9” I always knew who all of the radio jocks were and I would take my cassette tapes and record different songs on the radio. Initially, I wanted to rap because that’s every guy in the hood’s dream. You have to understand that a young black man just wants to be successful and when we see other people that look like us that are well off, they’re usually in entertainment or playing sports so I wanted to do that. If you ask me what my talent is, I would say the gift of gab.I didn’t have any formal training, but I wasn’t doing what everyone else did.
I used to sit back and wonder why radio personalities weren’t asking the most obvious questions or really giving their opinions on the music or the artists. I always wondered why they didn’t sound human. But I hate that people think this is so easy. I’ll go online and I’ll see someone say that such and such is “The next C. The God” and automatically I assume that they do radio, but I check them out and they’re just tweeting! That’s just words! Get on the mic and let’s see if you can speak well enough to make people gravitate towards you. Keeping someone entertained for four hours is difficult.
LAS: Since you’re in a coveted position to provide people with opportunities, how do you decipher who’s ready to be “put on”? What do you tell people who feel like they’re always overlooked for opportunities and no one wants to give them a foot into the door?
CTG: I believe the universe helps those who help themselves. Even the bible says “faith without works is dead.” A lot times people have dreams and aspirations but they aren’t putting in the work and creating the opportunity to be seen. If you’re dope, I should hear about it and not just from you. If you’re really putting in the work and putting your feet to the ground the way you need to be, other people will speak for you and you will get noticed. When people see you building your own fan base then they do your research and they’re like “this guy or this girl; there’s actually something there” of course they’re going to assist you and lend out a helping hand. When I was doing radio in Columbia, I started perfecting my craft, going to different websites All Hip-Hop or SOHH sending my interviews to them back in 2004, I started to get noticed and that’s when someone helped me because they saw me helping myself and that person was Wendy Williams, she gave me an opportunity to sink or swim. That’s the other thing about opportunity people don’t realize, I can give you the opportunity but that doesn’t mean that you’re going to prosper, all it means is that you get a chance and Wendy gave me a chance to prove myself and I think I did pretty okay.
LAS: What are you working on in the New Year?
CTG: I’m transitioning into executive producing shows because I know a lot of people that are talented and come to me with great ideas and I just happen to be in a position to make some of these ideas come to fruition. I’m the EP of two shows that have already been picked up. We just shot the pilot for one of the series with Rick Ross and Va$htie. I’m also doing another show with rapper Noreaga. He’s a foodie so we’re going to make him the black Anthony Bourdain and let him go to all these different places and eat.
I’m working and putting myself in a position to help others do the things that they want to do. I also have a book coming out in March 2017. I have to have it turned in Sept 2016 so I’m always working! I see Steve Harvey, Ryan Seacrest and Wendy Williams and I’m going to be that for my generation. In doing that, the biggest thing that I want to do is empower other people.