Lenard McKelvey aka “Charlamagne tha God” is an entrepreneur of sorts, who is smart enough to manage his own career in radio. This is virtually unheard of for MOST black announcers on the air today. He was terminated from Radio One in Philly a couple of years ago when a VP of programming could not put a leash on him to control his content and delivery like most of the other black announcers at the corporation. Some state the VP was envious of Charlamagne’s potential and tried to curtail it. After being out of work for a while, he landed the biggest job of his career at Power 105.1 in NYC. Hosing the morning show. That’s not the most interesting part of his short career in the industry. He served time in a South Carolina jails as a youth and finally got his life on point after his 3rd offense and got an internship at a radio station there. He asked the right questions and got his big break when he was brought on WBLS by TV Talk Show host Wendy Williams during the twilight of her radio career before a successful jump to TV. Charlamagne was in the BEST place at the right time and it’s virtually unheard of for black announcers to climb the radio ladder so quickly. So what set’s Charlamagne apart from other black announcers? His refusal to be controlled. In addition, his idol was Howard Stern. I can honestly tell you I have rarely heard of a black announcer who’s idol was Howard Stern for the most part many have idolized announcers who said goodbye to their heyday years before they started and unfortunately there are VERY few stars in Urban radio with true radio backgrounds who break the usual mold and bring excitement to the industry. Stern still being a huge star is certainly a great choice and more realistic as an idol in today’s radio climate.
Charlamagne never wanted to be ‘the 40-year-old DJ that dyes his beard and tries to act like he’s 20,’ He understands the essence of timing. He continues to achieve success by creating it instead of waiting for someone to give it to him, which rarely happens to a majority of jocks in the radio industry. There are only a few stars in radio and nobody can deny that Charlamagne is one of them. Out of all the national black radio stars Charlamagne has the greatest potential. He is a natural and it’s incredibly evident that he is not trying to be a “personality” and this is not a backup career for him, he IS a personality and he is great at what he does. There is not one single (at least urban) jock on the air today that could ask a guest if they could “Suck a fart out their butt” without the intense fear or should I say REALITY of not only getting fired but being BLACKBALLED by the heavily patrolled politics at major radio corporations. Charlamagne brings leverage because he is atypical and not afraid to be himself on the air. He is the Petey Greene of this generation.
KEVIN ROSS: I’ve noticed that you understood from the beginning that being a basic radio DJ would only get you so far. Were you advised against taking a more non traditional approach to radio and what made you go against the grain?
CHARLAMAGNE: Well any field a person gets involved in they shouldn’t want to be basic at it. You should want to be amongst the elite I don’t care if you’re an attorney, architect, veterinarian, radio personality, whatever you should want to be at the top of the food chain and strive to be one of the greatest so it was just a conscious decision to be great in my chosen profession which just happened to be radio. Nobody ever advised me to take a non traditional approach it’s just coming up when would listen to radio I would say to myself why isn’t the interviewer asking the most obvious question? Why is the interviewer acting like this person has talent when he doesn’t I just wanted people to talk the way we talk in the hood everyday, in the barber shops, and now on social media. That’s why Petey Greene, Howard Stern, Wendy Williams and Star were so refreshing to me. It just sounded like they were being honest. Tom Joyner, J Anthony Brown they just sounded like they were being honest. Regular people on the radio having regular conversation so that’s what I wanted to bring to the table. I’ve had PD’s in the past tell me you’re not supposed to have an opinion in radio, tell me not to give my opinion but I would rather not do it if I can’t be me which is probably why I’ve been fired 4 times in my career LMAO. (wonder if he’s talking about Philly?)
KR: You have calmed down your presentation quite a bit. Why is that?
CTG: I have? Didn’t realize that. I’ve been doing the same exact thing since day 1. This isn’t a shtick or a gimmick. I don’t even know what that means when you say I’ve calmed down my presentation. I’ve never had any FCC fines, never had any major controversies, that shock jock, hip hop Howard Stern label is a label put on me by the industry so I think people read that and think about what they are used to hearing from the great’s that came before me that were labeled that and expect to hear that from me but I’ve never been that. I’m just a regular guy having regular everyday conversations on the radio. Nothing more nothing less so when you say “calmed down my presentation” truth is I’ve never been as wild as people make me out to be to begin with.
KR: Is there anyone in radio that you admire? If so can you give 3 names?
CTG: Past or Present??? I admire a lot of people personalities and programmers. Elvis Duran, Tom Joyner, Steve Harvey, Ryan Seacrest, Cadillac Jack, Mike Love, George Cook, Sway, Big Boi, man I admire a lot of people in this radio game. That’s a loooooooong list and each one for various reasons but my top 3 ever or Petey Greene, Howard Stern, and Wendy Williams.
KR What’s next for Charlamagne?
CTG: I’m just striving to be the best me that I can be. It’s so many opportunities being presented to me and I plan on taking advantage of all them. All i’m going to say is don’t put me in a box I may be what you think I am and I may be not. Don’t limit what you think I can do based on the perception you have of me. I might be doing late night like Jimmy Fallon or Arsenio, I might be getting my Bill Maher or Jon Stewart on, I might move in to Dr.Phil or Jerry Springer territory you never know? No matter what it is radio will be the foundation of it all. I’m not walking away from that microphone if Steve Harvey and Ryan Seacrest can do their radio shows every morning and still take over the world…then so can I.
KR: If you were not in Radio what would you be doing?
CTG: I don’t even want to think about such things. Your thoughts become things and i’m not even entertaining the thought of what my life would be like without radio. I don’t know, don’t want to know, and glad I didn’t or won’t have to find out. I will say the times I was unemployed and wasn’t in radio I felt completely naked, completely but booty naked, worse feeling in the world. Matter fact let’s change subject don’t even want to think about it…
KR: BONUS QUESTION: What advice would you give a person just entering radio?
I would tell them to be able to recognize opportunity even if it’s not a dollar amount attached to it. I would tell them if their reasoning for wanting to be in radio is money then they are absolutely in it for the wrong reasons. I would tell them hard work beats talent when talent doesn’t work so I don’t care how good you think you are if you don’t work hard nothing will come of it and I will tell them that manners will take them where money won’t. Treat everybody you come in contact with respect because you get back what you put out. Always be nice and respectful greatest compliment someone can give you in this business is “He or she is a pleasure to work with” and most importantly always let Gratitude be your Attitude. When you’re happy for what you have you will get blessed with more!!!