Some people treat honesty as a virtue. Charlamagne Tha God, host of radio show “The Breakfast Club,” treats honesty like armor. In his upcoming book, “Black Privilege: Opportunity Comes to Those Who Create It,” Charlamagne offers a blunt, humorous account of his life from his upbringing in South Carolina to reforming himself after drug-related arrests to becoming the “Howard Stern” of hip-hop and a social media tycoon.
Part biography and part self-help book, Charlamagne hopes his story will inspire readers to pursue their dreams and be realistic about their goals.
Born Lenard McKelvey in the small town of Moncks Corner, South Carolina, Charlamagne showed promise as a young elementary school student, but he later became caught up in selling drugs and causing trouble throughout middle and high school, which landed him in prison more than once and nearly fractured his relationship with
After landing a job as an intern for a local radio station, Charlamagne found his calling in working as a DJ and giving his unfiltered, unabashed opinion on his show free of charge. From there, he co-hosted a morning show in New York with Wendy Williams and then went on to host “The Breakfast Club,” which is aired around the world, with Angela Yee and DJ Envy.
While his personal story reads like a funnier, slightly sordid rehash of the American Dream, the recurring theme in “Black Privilege” is honesty. For Charlamagne, placing importance on always speaking what he believed in started young.
“My father was always telling me that you’re not lying to the person, you’re actually lying to yourself. I figured early on that it’s always easier just to tell the truth,” Charlamagne said.
“I come from a town [where] we used to clown each other so hard. … Nothing was off limits. It was almost like we had to own things before somebody else uses it against us. It’s just weird. It’s kind of like one of those things where I just realized — voila! What’s the point of lying?”
Though the colorful anecdotes about Charlamagne’s father and ongoing relationship with his now-wife make for entertaining reading, the most powerful takeaway from “Black Privilege” is Charlamagne’s “PYP” philosophy. PYP stands for Pick Your ___, with the third P standing for Passion, Poison or Procrastination.
Using different stories from his life to illustrate each point, he urges readers that they have the choice between pursuing their dreams, getting caught up in their vices or not reaching for anything at all. Of all the stories in “Black Privilege,” the one Charlamagne hopes will stick with readers the most is “definitely looking at all the times I’ve been fired.” Charlamagne has been fired four times from four different radio stations, all for different reasons. Now, he is a host on one of the most popular radio shows in the country.
“I just knew radio was my passion, it was something I was willing to do for free,” he said. “It was something that I just couldn’t escape. … Even if you get fired, if it’s something that you love to do, you’ll wait for the next opportunity regardless of how big … or how small that opportunity is.”
This philosophy, Charlamagne stresses, is for everyone, regardless of the book’s title “Black
“People will look at the title and think that it’s just a book for black people, but it’s not,”
“I feel like anybody who’s ever felt marginalized, anybody who’s ever felt depressed, anybody who feels like they need an extra push when it comes to transcending their circumstances, I believe this book is for them. Because when I talk about the whole concept of privileges, I’m just telling people that my privilege is black because that’s what God made me. God made me a black male.
“You can have woman privilege, you can have gay privilege, you can have Asian privilege, whatever you are. It’s just a matter of embracing it and realizing that God gave you everything you need to succeed, in spite of all the obstacles.”
Charlamagne will be signing his book, “Black Privilege: Opportunity Comes to Those Who Create It.” A question and answer session will be moderated by Rodney Ho from the Atlanta Journal Constitution at the Barnes & Noble in Tech Square on Saturday, April 22, at 12:30 p.m.