He’s the provocative radio personality holding a mirror to Pop culture’s face with every headline-grabbing remark. It’s only fitting, then, that Charlamagne Tha God (along with his Breakfast Club co-hosts) leads radio station Power 105.1 to ratings glory.
That Grape Juice caught up with the star during a recent trip to London and discussed music industry politics, payola and his rise from Wendy Williams’ sidekick to the Svengali of his very own Hip Hop brand.
As ever, we ask the questions you really want answers to!
Interview by: Fanta Jarjuessey
Additional Contributions by: David Asante
That Grape Juice: Welcome to London and to That Grape Juice!
Charlamagne: Yes, thank you.
This is your first time here isn’t it?
Yes it is.
What do you make of it so far?
Man, I ain’t really do nothing yet, know what I’m saying? It’s funny seeing signs that say” tea, tea tea” because I thought that was just a stereotype of London people but I guess they really do drink tea. I haven’t gotten to do anything yet because I came, ate and went to sleep so I’m about to experience it.
So which UK artists are you fans off?
Umm, Ed Sheeran, Adele of course. Is Sam Smith from the UK?
I like Sam Smith, wasn’t sure where he’s from?
Speaking of Ed Sheeran… UK urban radio station BBC 1Xtra recently came under fire for putting him at number one on their power list. Similar outrage to Macklemore winning Best Hip-Hop album at the Grammys and Forbes’ recent claims that Iggy Azalea “ran Hip Hop”. Does (perceived) White Privilege still exist in Hip Hop?
No man, people need to get over that dumb sh*t. If something’s good, it’s good, know what I mean? Like I been telling people that the term “Urban” has to be redefined. Because Urban is not just a Black thing anymore. When you look at a station like Power 105.1, a “Hip-Hop and R&B station” we play Katy Perry, you know what I’m saying? It’s not a Black or White thing; it’s a good music thing. If you hear good music and people are bopping to it, why shouldn’t it be on the countdown?
Because some argue that it’s a “black radio station for black music”?
Okay, imagine if people felt like that about politics then Barack Obama could not be in the White House. That’s stupid as f**k. It’s a dumb, ignorant mentally, people need to let go of that.
Good analogy…! In your opinion, how important is radio to an artist hoping to top the ‘Billboard Hot 100’, and is payola an issue the industry still finds itself faced with?
I ain’t got paid in a long time (laughs). I don’t know. I don’t think radio is as important as it used to be. I think still it is, but I still think there are other ways that you can pop off without radio. Like, when I see people, like new artists they’ll say, “you know, you don’t play our records, we don’t give them radio play”… I think that’s kind of lazy. I still think there’s a primitive way of thinking. Especially when you see people that have viral hits and no big record deals or people that have viral hits but don’t get radio play; and yet when their records come on in the club, people lose their minds. So I think it’s important, but I don’t think it’s the end all or be all.
In the past year or so, your career has really taken off! How much have things changed for you since the start of your career wing manning Wendy Williams?
Ummm, I don’t know. I haven’t really noticed to be honest with you.
Really?! You’ve been popping up on TV shows all over the place and you haven’t noticed any difference? Come on, Charlamagne?!
Naaah, I just do the work.
You haven’t noticed AT ALL that your career’s changed since Wendy Williams days?
No. I put in a lot of work. All I noticed is the workload keeps increasing.
Okay cool… You are your own brand outside of The Breakfast Club. What do you hope “Brand Charlamagne” looks like in five years time? Also, do you enjoy working with Yee and Envy more than doing your own stuff?
Yeah, it’s always good to work with a team. When you work with a team, it takes …it maximizes whatever it is that you’re good at because you got two other people that are good at things. Like, everybody has a role to play. I’ve done my own show and I had to play all the roles. That’s very strenuous and it doesn’t maximize whatever it is that you’re good at so I’m able to maximize my strengths by being a part of a unit so I love doing that and umm… In five years man, I guess that’s when I want to look back and say and realize yeah, I came a long way.
Angie Martinez shocked the whole industry when she recently left rival station Hot 97 and joined the Power 105 gang. Were you just as shocked as the rest of us?
I didn’t know for real. I found out the day before. I was very shocked. Like, I told my boss shut the f**k up. Like when she told us, I was like shut the f**k up. What’s the real news you got for us? But that was it.
How would you describe her journey at ‘105’ thus far?
She just started and just came on the air Thursday. That was her first interview, her first day. It’s an easy transition for someone like Angie. I mean Angie is radio royalty you know what I’m saying so it’s like…After you get past the awe of oh s**t that’s Angie Martinez, you know because if you a radio personality or DJ, you grew up looking up to people like Angie Martinez and once you get past the oh s**t that’s Angie in the building, she’s cool.
You call yourself the “Prince of P*ssing People Off and we all watch and love you for your brutal honesty. Do you do that because you feel like you have to sometimes?
Oh no, because I always said that I never wanted to become a caricature of myself. When you become a caricature of yourself, then it becomes corny. It’s almost like umm… I used to love Simon Cowell when he was on American Idol and X Factor but then it seemed like he was doing it because people were expecting it so it got wack. So I always be like yo, if it don’t come from an authentic place, I’m not even going to give my opinion on it. If I think something is waack, sincerely, I’ll say it’s whack. But if I like something sincerely, I’ll say I like it. As long as I’m doing that and it comes from an authentic place, I’ll be cool.
You have mocked a multitude of celebrities, yet one that you always your target on the daily and that’s Drake. What is it about Drake that jars you??
(Laughs out loud) – I mean, it’s not that I can’t stand him, you know what I’m saying. Like, I think he’s a very talented rapper but he makes it so easy. I mean come on man, at the ESPYs he was on his knees blowing on a ball player. Didn’t he expect that? He did a good job at the ESPYs though.
So Kanye mentioned you at his concert… Kanye doesn’t mention just anybody…especially at his concerts, but mentioned you after that legendary interview you did with him. Were you surprised?
Errr… yeah because it was three months later. After the fact. Like, I didn’t know he was mad.
We think that interview is going to be a big deal for a long time.
GOOD! I need one of those. Every radio personality has at least one of those right? People can go back and listen like “Yo remember when that happened?”
What are your feelings towards Kanye now?
Still a fan of Kanye. You know, I’ve always been a fan of Kanye West, I’m just not a fan of Kanye Kardashian, you know? And I want him to put out a great album this time around. Like, I personally thought ‘Yeezus’ was wack, but that’s just my opinion. I still think it’s wack and I still don’t like that album, but I hope for his next album he comes out like “boom”..that’s the Kanye I was waiting for.
Are there any interviews you’ve looked back on with regret?
Yeah…every now and then you look back and you be like damn I forgot to ask this question. It’s nothing major you. Like with people I’m really looking forward to interviewing, I tend to cover everything I want to cover but sometimes you do look back and be like oh sh*t I should’ve asked that question.
There’s a story you tell often about Rihanna taking you out and then paying for cab. Is that a true story?
What was it like hanging out with her?
I mean it cool; I ain’t had to spend no money! She bought all the liquor, all the weed AND she paid for the car service. That’s what I like in any woman!
The music industry has changed tremendously especially with low sales figures. Robin Thicke, for example recently sold 530 copies of his latest album ‘Paula’ in the UK.
*Whistles and looks away*. Why y’all did him like that man?!! With all that man is going through, He’s trying get his girl back, y’all know if that album flop, that girl is not going want nothing to do with him especially since he named that album after her and y’all couldn’t support that album? 530 copies???
Right?!… So why do you think labels are failing to produce mega sellers in the way they used to.
I don’t even think that it’s the labels. Like Robin Thicke didn’t realize that don’t nobody give a f**k about your problems. If he had named his album something generic titles when there songs were catering to her, then it would’ve done better. But you named your whole album Paula? How does that affect me as a regular consumer? What about that makes me want to go buy it?
One of the controversial mottos you live by is not talking to N****s after 5pm. A lot of people find it funny but some say you are helping spread the use of the “N” word and making things worse by painting Black people in a negative light. How do you feel about that?
Well, they not listening to my whole statement. My whole statement is Black people aren’t the only “N” word out here.
You have said that Justin Bieber is one as well…
EXACTLY. N word is just an ignorant person, But now I don’t even use the N word at all now. I say the “N word”. I don’t use the whole world anymore just because I feel like, I’m tired of being a hypocrite you know what I’m saying?
That’s good. Changing your ways?
Like when I use it, it’s cool or when we use it it’s cool… but when other people use it, it’s like oh it’s World War Three. So, I’d rather not use it at all.
People only see Charalmagne the presenter, personality but we never see anything from your private life even though you’re engaged and have a five-year-old daughter. What are you like in your home life? What are you like with your daughter and fiancé?
I ain’t sh*t man. I’m terrible.
But you’re not like the way you are when you talk to us?
I’m horrible! Why ya’ll think I’M ENGAGED???!!
You said you are and Yee routinely confirms so on-air as well!
Laughs hysterically – Alight, ya’ll keep listening to Angela Yee.
You’re always tweeting positive things and thanking God daily, so we know positivity and spirituality is important to you. But you also have negative tweets sometimes like your recent beef with Azealia Banks. Do you ever try to censor yourself on social media at all and, if so, is a battle?
Nah, that’s just being human man. You know? That’s just human and human is like, you gotta take the good with the bad. There’s going to be good things that come to you and there’s going to be bad things that come to you but me? I’m the type of person, I don’t believe in good or bad experiences, I just believe that everything is part of the process.
Your self-help book is due to come out. For those who don’t know, what’s one piece of advice that’s in your book you can tell us?
Umm, f**k your dreams. That’s one chapter because it’s basically like everybody’s chasing the same dream now so what you think is your dream isn’t really your dream like everybody wants to be in entertainment, everybody wants to be in athletics, everybody wants to be a rapper. That can’t possibly be your dream so it’s like f**k that dream and go find y-o-u-r dream. You know what I’m saying, go find the thing that you’re good at because all of us are all good at one thing that can totally change our lives. But if you’re busy trying be a rapper, tryna be an athlete? Nah that ain’t gon’ work, so f**k your dreams.
One of the biggest, if not the biggest entertainment news story of the year so far has been the Jay-Z/Solange fight. Had you been their publicist, how would you have handled the drama?
Exactly how they did it. Don’t say nothing! Let the video come out, let everybody come to their own conclusions and then after about a week or so just release a statement basically saying we’re good.
And finally, what’s next?
Umm…I’m just going to keep going man, that’s what I do. I put my head down man, I do the work that’s all!