Interestingly enough I wanted to write about The Breakfast Club and the level of conversation that takes place there more often than not. Prior to all the hubbub that is going on right at this moment due to some less than thoughtful tweets from Charlemagne the God. I noticed when interviewing artists the conversations are very surface. When any given artist is on a press run they go to various outlets and basically give the same interview. You may get slight variations depending on the relationship between the artist and the interviewer. I will normally watch between two and four interviews of any given artist’s press run depending on how much I’m interested in said artist. And do you know what I discovered? More often than not TBC gives the least insightful interview. Of course some of this may depend on the artist and the amount of actual charisma they possess, but the questions they ask typically run a tad sophomoric. With a platform as large as theirs, what is point of playing it dumb? Well I know why, it’s what the audience wants.
Then the question becomes do you give what you have to offer or do you give them what they want? Sometimes those things may be aligned, many times they won’t. But it is also known that people don’t necessarily know they want until you give it to them. I’ll be honest and admit that I have never been a big fan of Charlemagne because I do not like the character he is portraying. A character who proudly lacks a certain level of intelligence when it suits him. Envy I believe is not in character and with all the experiences he has had still comes off green and moderately conservative. I’ve learned to enjoy him more through his podcast with his wife “The Casey Crew.” Angela Yee is smart but many times I wish she would voice a stronger opinion and sometimes an opinion in general specifically around how the other hosts speak about women and honestly a multitude of topics that require more nuance than they give. I would be willing to accept that they don’t have control over how political they can be or they don’t have the ability to raise the conversation due to contractual issues, but that cannot be the case when you can have Farrakhan on your show. They have had many people who would not get mainstream exposure in any other setting besides YouTube.
One would think with all the things going on they would have raised the conversation level, and maybe they have, but when I listen it feels not only bubblegum it also perpetuates some harmful rhetoric and ideas. Even if we take the stance that their main function is to interview artists and keep it light. The conversation remains at a certain level depending on how much Charlemagne likes the person. If I see an artist’s who’s music I am not familiar with I would learn more about them from Hot97 than TBC. That may be for a multitude of reasons, one being it appears Hot’s main function is to support the culture. TBC is more tabloid.
Because of the reach of TBC they very well may be the most dangerous morning show on radio. They can control ideas of what is acceptable culturally and what isn’t. Their platform introduces people who under no other circumstance would have an interview in smaller markets. What they say matters, how they say it matters, and in the times we live in it is important to use your power thoughtfully.
I don’t particularly want to dissect what is going on with Charlemagne at this moment. It is layered, and I’m not in the mood, but I will say this. i do not listen to his podcast because as stated above I do not like the character he plays and his cohost is always no for me. But I can say I see that he has provided a platform for many black folks to get into spaces they may not have had an opportunity to get in without a gatekeeper. He is a gatekeeper. He has opened it and I’m sure those people who have benefited from it and appreciate it. However, that does not absolve him from the dangerous things he has said not just in this current instance but what he has said in the past.
These are dangerous times be careful.