Who and Where: Charlamagne Tha God, iHeartRadio Studios, Tribeca NY
Photo Credit: Charlamagne at iHeartRadio Theater on May 8, 2017 in Burbank, California.
Charlamagne Tha God is as wide awake as most others won’t be for another two to three hours as he power walks into the lower Manhattan towers where Power 105.1 studios reside. “Peace, King,” he says in his greeting to me. “Good morning,” he says to my melanin-deficient associate. He guides us both, along with his assistant Paige, to the elevators and up several levels to the iHeartRadio floors. Before either of us realizes it, he’s already provided salutations to the planet of listeners who religiously tune in to “The Breakfast Club” morning show.
It would be a long morning, much longer than I’d planned for, but I came with a self-imposed mission to get as clear a sense of who Charlamagne really is — as best as I could in the span of a sunrise. I planned to explore the ideas and philosophies of the businessman who resides behind the prickly character and to understand the weight of responsibility it must be to represent Black culture on one of the world’s largest stages.
About an hour into our wait as we sat on the other side of the glass watching Charlamagne Tha God and Angela Yee wake up the world (DJ Envy was vacationing in Paris), R&B artist Tank walks in, flanked by his handlers. We dap up, and his manager introduces himself; he was much more polite than a lot of other artist managers I’ve met. Thirty minutes later, comedian T.K. Kirkland joins the foray and gets the way-too-early-for-this party started, cracking jokes and reminiscing with Tank about mutual old friends who are no longer with us. Former Ohio State Sen. Nina Turner walks in shortly after T.K., on fire and ready to stomp the airways for Bernie Sanders.
Star branding strategist Marvet Britto, who I’ve known for more years than either of us would like to count, comes in and helps set the stage for me to have a successful talk with CThaGod.
Nothing goes as planned.
“The Breakfast Club” producers add additional interviews to the morning show recording schedule, which crunches the time we’ll have with Charlamagne, and he then has to head out to a college in New Jersey to do a talk. He invites us to join him on that trip, but my video team would miss their flights. So, we’re in make it work mode. Marvet, however, is a pro and has seen these situations many times over. She switches up the plays to ensure we get what we need.
I sit down with Charlamagne in the office of one of the show producers, and while my videographer is setting up, he and I chat about whatever. I pass along a “hello” from Natina Nimene, an executive at Def Jam Records and a mutual friend of both Charlamagne and myself. Nimene and I went to high school together, and Charlamagne says there’s no way I went to high school with her, “you look too young,” he says, to which I internally accredit to adolescent oily skin and regular exfoliation.
Shortly after, we begin rolling. It’s important to note that I have zero questions prepared about his “celebrity“ or on-air demeanor. I was interested in what we didn’t already know about Charlamagne. I wanted his perspective on how he uses his platform to represent the spectrum of our culture, and how he might use it to inspire the next Black tech billionaire.
Black people are the most creative people on the planet, but we display our creativity on platforms we don’t own and can’t adequately monetize. I wanted to know his thoughts on how we could change that.
We know Charlamagne as a radio and YouTube personality. We also know he’s a best-selling author. What we don’t know is that outside of his public persona, he’s an active investor and businessman. Only recently did he start talking about it more publicly.
As we concluded our conversation, I noticed the chain Charlamagne was wearing. It was a thin gold rope with a pendant depicting the face of, Elijah Muhammed who once said, “No nation will ever respect us as long as we beg for that which we can do for ourselves. There has never been a leader of our people who went all-out to set up an economic plan for our people.”
I left Charlamagne encouraged that not only did he understand that his purpose is to successfully entertain millions through his radio show, but also prop open the back door so that he and others can also take ownership of the Black creative genius.
This is the first installment in the ”Who and Where” series by Will Lucas, Brand Manager at AfroTech.