The Breakfast Club’s Charlamagne Tha God has never shied away from sharing his opinion.
From current events to celebrity gossip to his personal life, he rose to fame by stirring up controversy. Now, he shares the life lessons that got him to where he is in his first book “Black Privilege.” The autobiography follows him from humble beginnings in Mt. Pleasant as Lenard McKelvey to radio personality, heard locally on hip hop and R&B radio stations Hot 103.9, 939.9 FM. In addition to The Breakfast Club, he also appears on MTV2’s “Uncommon Sense” and co-hosts the Best of iTunes podcast “Brilliant Idiots.”
We sat down with him in advance of a weekend book signing in Columbia to talk about his new book and some of those life lessons.
What inspired you to write “Black Privilege?”
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I’ve always wanted to write a book. I’m a real big reader and big into self-help books. I wanted to write something for my culture and my generation. I wanted to share eight principles that I learned in my life that I hope can empower people and enlighten people the way other books have empowered and enlightened me.
How did you settle on the title?
I grew up studying the five pillars of Islam and they would teach you that the black man is god and king and that black women are goddesses and queens. It was about black pride and black power and black excellence. I felt like we were getting disconnected from those affirmations and that constant reinforcement. ... When we’re talking about white privilege we’re talking about institutionalized racism and systemic oppression. When we talk about black privilege we’re talking about something spiritual. And just the overall concept of privilege, period. It’s a privilege to live. Privilege is a divine thing. When you really focus on the spiritual privilege that you have and the divine privilege that you have, you can run circles around the stuff they throw at you.
During the writing process did you ever find it difficult relaying your life lessons and sharing such personal stories from your past and present?
Not really. I’m very transparent on the radio. I think the toughest part for me was writing about my mom and dad. I realized how much I didn’t know about them. We forget our parents had a life before they were our parents!
Who did you discuss the book idea with before moving forward?
No one. I didn’t want any outside opinions to ruin how I chose to create. I’d rather tell those stories based off how I felt them, how I went through them and just let everybody read it. My mom read it and told me it has some “alternative facts.” She said, “I didn’t beat you after you came home from jail the second time” and I told her she did and the fact that she didn’t remember bothered me. Kids don’t forget that!
What’s something your readers will be surprised to learn about you from the book?
If you really listen to me then you know perception is not reality. I’m not that rude, mean guy that people try to paint me as. In fact I strive to be the exact opposite. My grandmother always told me, manners will take you where money won’t. So I talk a lot in the book about respect and showing respect to everybody from the custodian to the CEO. You never know who’s going to be who, and I think that energy is very important. So contrary to what you may read about me online, the love when I’m out and about in the world overpowers the hate.
Looking back is there any advice you would go back and give yourself?
In the book I talk about “divine misdirection” and I feel like every move I made, even if I thought it was a misstep, got me on the path that I needed to be on. So I think I played everything pretty much the right way. Like I talk about in the book, there are no losses in life, only lessons. You either win or you learn and I’ve learned from every single experience I’ve been in.
What’s the message you want people to take away from the book?
Empowerment. I want people to read this and feel enlightened. I want people to read this and feel like they can accomplish anything they want. I want people to understand that success is subjective. We live in America and equate success with celebrity and fame but no, it’s way more people out here who are successful and not famous than there are that are successful and famous.
Is there anything else on the horizon for you we should be on the lookout for in the near future?
I’ve got a lot of different TV projects in the works. I’m executive producing television shows from scripted to reality. And a lot of them I’m not even starring in. I always tell people, I like to throw more assists than I like to score. I like finding new talent. Finding those voices that need to be heard and building things for them, giving them opportunities to prosper. That’s what I’m big on right now – empowering people – in every way, shape and form.
When you’re in Columbia what do you like to do?
“I love going downtown. There’s so much history. I just love South Carolina. It’s home. There’s a lot of industry talk where people blow smoke up and tell you how great you are ... so sometimes I say let me go home where its real.”