When you hear a name like Charlamagne Tha God, it’s easy to envision an untouchable, larger-than-life figure. Yes, he’s snarky and sometimes intimidating on air as the co-host of The Breakfast Club, the top syndicated morning show in the country. And yep, he’s piercing and hilarious as co-host of the popular Brilliant Idiots podcast. And of course you can always count on him to be full of witty banter on shows like MTV’s Guy Code, and most recently, his very own round-table pop culture series Uncommon Sense.
But in real life, Charlamagne is less about ego and more about uplifting himself and others, even if it means being a little tough sometimes.
As Uncommon Sense begins its second season on MTV2 on April 1, 2016, Charlamagne’s schedule has become more hectic than ever. He’s been prepared for this from years of relentless work, surviving challenges along the way to secure longevity in the crazy entertainment business.
UrbLife.com took some time out with Charlamagne to see what’s up next for Uncommon Sense and other projects, and to learn exactly what keeps him motivated despite any obstacles. Read on for his inspiring Optimism Rules…
Do you feel Uncommon Sense came out the way you wanted it to? Do you have plans to develop it into something bigger?
Charlamagne: I mean I definitely want it to grow bigger, but I feel like it is an extension of me. I didn’t really feel like that with the last show Charlamagne & Friends. Even though that was a great experience because it kinda taught me how to be a television host. Just how to handle the business as far as teleprompters and things were concerned, but it really didn’t showcase my personality. I feel like Uncommon Sense does that very well, and I feel like it’s great because they are allowing me a platform to put other voices that I appreciate on.
There are certain people you may not see on TV a lot, or maybe not at all, who finally get a chance to express themselves. I definitely feel like it’s an extension of me, and it is going to grow and evolve even more. We’re starting to add celebrity guests here and there. I want people that make sense though. I just don’t want somebody sitting on the panel just because of who they are. I want somebody who actually going to add to the conversation.
How do you balance having a successful television show and the #1 Radio show in the country at the same time?
Charlamagne: You don’t have any choice. There’s 168 hours in a week. You have plenty of time to do anything that you need to do or want to do, you’ve just gotta make time for it. I literally just left The Breakfast Club from being there from 5am this morning, we had four interviews after the show, now I’m on my way to do my podcast, so I’m doing this interview in the car. When I leave here I go to MTV, and that’s it. The day’s basically done after that. You make time for what you want to make time for.
Do you have plans to bring your podcast show Brilliant Idiots to another platform?
Charlamagne: That’s an interesting question. I personally think that the podcast should stay a podcast. If you bring Brilliant Idiots to TV then it’s a TV Show. If you bring Brilliant Idiots to radio then it’s a radio show. Its something that’s different and intimate about the podcast. It’s just a different energy. You can actually see us in the room doing it, but other than that I think it should stay the way it is.
There’s a different level of intimacy with podcast I kinda want to keep it at. For me it’s good, and like therapy for me because everything else is so structured. We’re pretty loose on The Breakfast Club but it’s still a structure. There are certain boundaries you can’t cross. With a podcast you can just go there and vent for an hour and half a week. That’s better than going to see a therapist.
Do you have any intentions of writing a book about your life story?
Charlamagne: Absolutely. I’m in the middle of finalizing a book situation right now. There are a couple of situations there – I’ve just got to figure out where I want to go with it. I’m definitely doing a book, absolutely.
What do you attribute your resiliency to? What kept you going in your hard times?
Charlamagne: To tell you the truth, I don’t know if resiliency is even an accurate word. The only time you’re not resilient is when you quit. For me I don’t care what situation I’m put in. Yeah, I’ve been fired four times from radio, but that doesn’t mean I’m going to quit. A lot of people would have [quit]a long time ago and said “this ain’t for me. I’m going to find something else to do.” But for me I knew radio is my passion, my calling, what I was destined to do and nobody could tell me different.
So the reason I was able to bounce back was because of positive thinking. My thoughts become things. Every time I got “fired”, I’ve gotten better jobs because of it. My home girl Kendra G put everything in perspective to me after I got fired from Philadelphia. She told me to take the time, pull myself together, and enjoy it, because when I get back on I’m not going to have any time. She also said “You didn’t get fired, God moved you in another direction.”
That clicked for me, because every time they would call me in the office to let me go they would say, “We’re moving in another direction” or “The company wants to move in another direction”. The company doesn’t want to move in another direction. God wants me to move in another direction. Every time its been something bigger.
It’s about having a will to win and not accepting anything less. It’s not even a loss. You lose your job – it’s either you win or you learn. I don’t believe in losses. What’s kept me positive about the whole situation was knowing something else was better out there for me. I never sat around and put my head in my hands and cried about any situation. It was always “what’s next?” Because I know it’s going to be amazing.
What are some of the ways you keep yourself positive every day when you wake up?
Charlamagne: I mean of course prayer. I read a lot of Joel Osteen. I read a lot of self-help books period from Dr. Wayne Dyer (RIP) to Don Miguel Ruiz. I keep cards on me. Right now I have Voice of Knowledge cards on me so if I need some positive affirmations throughout the day I just pick one and feel like this is where my mind is supposed to be today. And keep positive people around you.
If I wanted to sell my soul I would’ve done it a long time ago. Being I never did that, I’m good. I’m not doing anything I don’t want to do. The only time you see people be down and feel like things are really getting to them, is because they’re not doing what they want to do. I’m doing what I want to do, and I’m doing it my way.
How do you cope with getting older in the Hip Hop world? Do you think age will slow you down?
Charlamagne: Not at all. You can’t be afraid to grow. Age is a blessing. The alternative is what, death?[laughs]You know what I’m saying? I’m young in my field. The people that I look up to, they’re 50. I look at the Elvis Durans, the Howard Sterns, the Wendy Williams’s. They are much older than me and they’re doing it. If you look at late night television. Stephen Colbert, Jimmy Fallon and all those guys are 40-plus, early fifties.
I love the position I’m in because I have no choice but to continue to be next. I’m the one that has the experience, constantly learning, and I’m grooming myself for those positions. The guys behind me are grooming themselves for the position that I’m currently in, so it’s all about growth. I actually look forward to it.
I look at somebody like Steve Harvey and he says that he couldn’t even buy his first car until he was like 36. Look at him now. He’s a multi multi hundred millionaire! I’m look forward to it. I think Hip Hop is even changing with it now, because it’s not so much emphasis being young in the game. I’m totally looking forward to it. I like being the young OG.
What do you want people to know most about you at this stage of your life and career?
Charlamagne: I just want people to look at me as a public servant. I’m here to serve the needs of the public. Even when you hear me talking shit or getting at somebody, for me that’s a public service because there’s some shit that people need to hear. It’s okay to say some things are wack. It’s okay to say that some people’s behavior is despicable.
It’s okay to call people out on the bullshit. That’s doing a service to the public, because if I don’t call somebody out on their bullshit then there’s gonna be some little impressionable kid who thinks it’s okay to do what that person is doing. So its good to say that’s not cool, that’s not the way you should act, that’s not the way you should carry yourself, that’s not the way you should be saying. I think it’s perfectly fine to express that, so for me, I want people to know that I was there to serve the needs of the public.