Charlamagne Preps New Show: “It’s Just Me In A Suit, Being Me”
There may be no figure in hip-hop more polarizing than comedian/radio personality Charlamagne Tha God. As one-third of Power 105's The Breakfast Club, alongside Angela Yee and DJ Envy, Charlamagne has established himself as an outspoken and in-your-face interviewer who cuts no slack to the many rappers who stop by Power 105's studio on their New York press run. But by being as straight-up as he is controversial, the South Carolina native has found a fan base that admires his brutal honesty and rapid-fire wit, and has parlayed his newfound fame into stints as a series regular on MTV2 shows Guy Code and Girl Code.
In a recent addition to his already-busy schedule, Charlamagne was tapped by MTV2 to host his very own show, Charlamagne & Friends, which premiered last night. The 5-night mini-series features Charlamagne and a slew of guest panelists—including 2 Chainz, Big Sean, Nick Cannon and Hannibal Buress—shooting the shit about pop culture, music and news, and will serve as a precursor to Saturday night's MTV VMA's. After his morning stop at The Breakfast club, Charlamagne stopped by XXL offices last week to discuss the new show, clowning Jay Z and seeing the warning signs of Miley Cyrus and Justin Bieber's looming ratchetness.
Check out the hilarious interview below, and make sure to tune into MTV2 every night this week to catch new episodes of Charlamagne & Friends.
Tell me about your new show Charlamagne & Friends. How'd it come together?
I spoke prophecy, man. I always said I wanted to do a late-night talk show, and I guess I said it enough. It's perfect timing, with the VMA's coming to Brooklyn, it's like a pre-party leading into the VMA's. It's gonna be dope. A lot of my politically incorrect views, a lot of potentially dangerous rhetoric. Nothing's gonna change, it's just me in a suit, being me.
Does MTV have any say as far as telling you, "You can't go too far"?
Yeah of course, because it's VMA Week. You know, I'm the Prince of Pissing People Off and Ruler of Rubbing People The Wrong Way, but I don't want to be responsible for somebody pulling out of the VMA's. I play my position this week, then I slander them the next time when it's not an award show.
How does it feel to step out on your own outside of [Power 105's] Breakfast Club?
It don't feel strange at all. Even on The Breakfast Club, I'm an island unto myself. My views aren't ever their views. If I'm thinking this way, they're thinking that way. It's just organic that way. But my opinions are my opinions—I have strong opinions and I'm not afraid to express them, so it's not even a matter of me stepping away because I'm sure that there'll be people on the panel who don't agree with the things I'm saying. So it feels like a natural transition.
Do you think you'll be doing more stuff on your own now, after Charlamagne & Friends?
I would love to. I would love to be doing The Breakfast Club in the mornings and be doing Charlamagne & Friends every night. I just think it's a natural transition. I can look at a Ryan Seacrest or a Steve Harvey and see that they do their morning shows on the radio then they do their TV show at night. And me, I'm the type of person who has to have all these different outlets to express myself. If not, I'd go crazy.
Are Ryan Seacrest and Steve Harvey some of your role models?
Yeah, from a business model. I mean, with radio, I also studied Petey Green, Wendy Williams, Howard Stern. I like Rush Limbaugh. I like Bill O'Reilly. I like anybody with a different viewpoint or a politically incorrect viewpoint. It's not even politically incorrect, I guess they go against the grain because they're not just trying to say what people want to hear. They're actually expressing their opinions, and they don't care whether you like it or not.
So if MTV came calling and offered you a primetime show but they said you had to cater to a family audience, would you change your persona?
I don't think that would be smart business for them to do that. That's not my brand. Go to Terence J. for something like that. I don't think I could do it. It's funny because, they wanted me to be on Basketball Wives this season to pretend to be someone's love interest. I was like, "I'm not doing that. That's corny." That's not me. I mean, is she really gonna give me some pussy? We gonna really fuck? If we really fuck, then yeah, I might do it. But if you not gonna really fuck then what's the point?
Tell me about your relationships with rappers. It seems like no matter who you have on the Breakfast Club, you're comfortable making fun of them or talking to them a certain way, even if it's someone like Jay Z. How are you able to do that without offending anybody?
It's just a convo. 48 Laws Of Power says don't offend the wrong person. You gotta know who you're talking to, but you can still be yourself and ask the questions you want to ask, but a lot of the times it's a respect thing, too. Like, I'm gonna clown Hov? That's Hov. I grew up on Hov! How you don't respect Hov? Like, I'll tell him Amil was a wack signing, but that's a conversation.
People fail to realize sometimes that these people are just human beings. They breathe like we breathe, they bleed like we bleed, so why can't you have a conversation with them? But a lot of times, if you see me interviewing Stevie J. and Joseline and clowning the shit out of them… Stevie J. and Joseline aren't Jay Z. [Laughs]
So you pick your battles.
It's not that I pick my battles, there's just some people I respect more than others. That's just the truth of the matter. Certain people I just don't respect that much… But I'm never doing it in malice. I got a real opinion on things, and you're entitled to come and defend yourself based on what I may have said. I'm not there just to stomp on people. Let's have a healthy debate about it. You might prove me wrong!
Have there been times that you've gone too far and got confronted about it once you were off the air?
Nah, because it's all very calculated and strategic. I don't move off of emotion. I know what I'm gonna say, and I feel like I know what the reaction is gonna be as well. So I've never felt like I've gone too far. I mean, I've looked at things in hindsight and could see, like, "Okay, I could understand why you would be upset about that."
Like when Diddy called my phone about when I buried Last Train To Paris and said it was Shake Weight music, and that Chris Bosh warms up to it for games. Diddy called and was upset about that, but he was also upset about when I interviewed Cassie. He was like, "Yo, man. That's my girl, imagine how you would feel if you saw your girl getting slandered like that and you couldn't do nothing to help her." I could understand that, as a man, so apologies for that.
But you've gotta do your job at the end of the day and be honest.
Exactly. You can't bring Cassie to the radio station when she's got nude pics all over the place and she just sang live on 106 & Park and was terrible and expect me not to slander her for that!
Tell me about the importance of the VMA's coming back to New York and this time to Brooklyn.
MTV is always on the pulse of everything that's fresh and fly, and right now the Barclays Center is the freshest and flyest arena in the world. They already did it in Miami, they did it in L.A. several times, so why not bring it back to New York? And I always feel like whenever the VMA's are in New York, those are the best VMA's. The last one was in 2009, and that was a classic VMA's. You had Lil' Mama interrupting Jay Z. You had Kanye interrupting Taylor. New York brings a certain honesty out of artists. Everybody's really being themselves and it's no holds barred, and I think this year should be no exception. And it's been a big year! You've had a lot of historic moments. It's gonna be something to watch.
What's your responsibility at the actual award show?
My responsibility is just to get as drunk as possible and look fly in my suit.
And jump onstage with somebody?
Nah, I'm definitely not doing that. I like my job at MTV. I'm not gonna be the reason that a moment gets fucked up. Not me.
So you've mentioned that Big Sean is going to be on the panel on Charlamagne & Friends.
Yeah, it's gonna be good. For me personally, Big Sean might be my favorite rapper out right now. Bar-wise. Big Sean been snappin'. "Switch Up" was my joint, I think people slept on that. People slept on his verse on "Control," because Kendrick's verse was so crazy. It's almost like "Renegade," when Jay spit two prolific verses, but Em is otherworldly was his. But Sean snapped on that record. "Fire" was cool, he snapped on the record with Drake. Sean is dope right now. At this very moment, he might be my favorite guy spitting.
No offense to Sean, but I've never heard anyone say Big Sean was their favorite rapper.
Well, you know, people always catch on to things that I say later. I told y'all that Miley Cyrus and Justin Bieber wanted to be ratchet niggas two years ago. I called it! Justin was on the Breakfast Club and I told him, "If you don't stop hanging out with these rap negroes… It's cool to do songs with them, but eventually they gonna start getting you in trouble." And look what happened. I called that.
Would you have Bieber on your show now?
Of course! Why wouldn't I? We gonna get down to the bottom of this ratchet mess. Gotta tell him to keep his head above ratchet waters. I would love to see how that conversation would go now, being that I told him that then, and he sees it now. I would love to hear where his mind state is at now.
Alright, so what should people expect from Charlamagne & Friends?
It's just more of the same. Nothing's gonna change, except it's gonna be me with a suit on. I'm big on being consistent. Whatever you're doing in life, you have to be consistent. Anybody can score 30 points in one night, but can you consistently average 30 points throughout the season? That's what makes you a great. So I want to consistently be consistent… I would love to see Charlamagne & Friends as a regular series. I want to do what Andy Cohen is doing for Bravo on MTV2, or what Chelsea is doing on E!, I want to be that for MTV2. And just keep being consistent. Keep working, keep God first and stay humble.