Television and media personality Charlamagne Tha God is one of the few individuals to succeed in creating a brand for themselves in print, radio, and on the screen. The South Carolina native has persistently applied his dogged determination to help carve out a prime piece of the entertainment industry. Unapologetically Black, his on-screen persona has matured over time, allowing him to build a name as one of the most prominent interviewers of this era.
Hailing from Moncks Corner, the media mogul has battled self-defying odds to form an illustrious career. Starting off at Z93 Jamz in Charleston, his radio career kicked off when he branched off to form “The Breakfast Club” on iHeart radio. Touted as ‘The World’s Most Dangerous Morning Show,’ it has hosted countless celebrities and megastars like Justin Bieber, Nicki Minaj, and Arnold Schwarzenegger and rap icons such as Rick Ross, Waka Flocka, and Gucci Mane. “The Breakfast Club” was also recently inducted into the Radio Hall of Fame, setting Charlamagne and co-hosts Angela Yee and DJ Envy up for new horizons.
While pursuing different avenues to showcase his talents as a Black entertainer, Charlamagne has also concerned himself with creating content for a Black audience. In 2020, the Breakfast Club host announced the formation of the Black Effect Podcast Network, a joint venture with iHeartMedia. Black Effect looks to, “amplify, elevate and empower emerging and established talent.” Their goal is to bring together influential Black voices to create a space for conversations on topics such as pop culture, comedy, news, mental health, sports, and justice.
According to iHeartMedia, the audio platform is in a unique position to become the world’s largest podcast devoted to Black voices and a Black audience. The podcast publisher has been quite successful in engaging with its target audience, having grown 400% a year after its launch, with nearly 147 million downloads.
The Black Effect Podcast Network President of Production and Creative Development, Dollie S. Bishop, told Forbes in an interview, “We’ve done 29 shows within the past 12 months. We’ve reached people from all parts of entertainment, from sports to comedy, from people who are not in entertainment, from newbies to podcasters. It’s been great. I think we’re just here to keep amplifying Black voices and letting everyone know that we’re here.”
Charlamagne has kept a close eye on content production, partnering with former associates or creators whose content he genuinely respects and enjoys. He told Forbes, “ A lot of the shows that we partnered with already existed. I was already listening to them anyway. The new podcasts we launched like Jess Hilarious’s and Eboni K. Williams,’ were people who I followed on whatever it is that they were doing anyway. I just like authentic people. Authentic people who aren’t afraid to speak their truth to power.”
Not being afraid to speak the truth is a motto Charlamagne lives by. His latest venture on Comedy Central, “Tha God’s Honest Truth with Lenard ‘Charlamagne’ McKelvey” is a fitting example of presenting hard-hitting truths wrapped in the cover of comedy. The show has introduced its audience to topics such as America’s conservative backlash against critical race theory, the impact of generational trauma within the Black community, and has also explored the issue of gun rights. Many significant Black personalities have been brought to the platform, from mental health advocate Nedra Glover Tawwab and Dr. Claud Anderson, to actor and comedian Kevin Hart and Karlous Miller.
The year 2020 was an important milestone for Charlamagne on his journey to create content for a Black audience, due to the announcement of Black Privilege Publishing. The collaboration with Atria Books at Simon and Schuster will “focus on opening new doors in the publishing marketplace by amplifying Black and brown narratives, rethinking traditional approaches to the industry, and engaging with the audiences Charlamagne knows best: cutting-edge, connected, and culturally aware. Charlamagne explained, “Now, thanks to Black Privilege Publishing, we don’t just read and write–we read, we write, and we publish our own narratives”.
The publishing platform was kickstarted with the premiere of Tamika D.Mallory’s brilliant book State of Emergency: How We Win in the Country We Built, which received a Kirkus Star. Charlamagne has himself authored two books under the publishing line. His book Black Privilege: Opportunity Comes to Those Who Create It, went on to become Audible.com’s best-selling book of the year. Shook One: Anxiety Playing Tricks on Me, his second book was an important development for Charlamagne, as it outlined his life-long struggle with anxiety and his efforts to improve his mental health.
Charlamagne also recently signed a global multiyear, multi-project development partnership with actor and comedian Kevin Hart. The partnership called Short Black Handsome Productions is a joint venture with Audible Inc. and is aimed at producing scripted audio projects that highlight Black creators and their stories.
Alongside creating content for a Black audience, Charlamagne is also improving conversations surrounding mental health within the Black community. His relationship with anxiety has led him to believe that success and fame alone cannot provide a meaningful life. Good mental health is an important need and the Black community has been deprived of institutions that cater to their mental welfare. In 2019, he launched a platform called Mental Wealth Alliance (“MWA”) – a forward-thinking foundation that has been created to destigmatize, accelerate and center state-of-the-art mental health outreach and care across the U.S. The initiative aims to raise at least $100 million over the next five years and is looking to associate with other Black-led institutes to help create awareness regarding mental health.