You Should Be Reading This: Charlamagne Tha God's Black Privilege + Book Review
When I moved from the Midwest metropolis of Indianapolis, Indiana to the dirt roads of St. Stephen, South Carolina in 2008, I thought my parents had collectively lost their minds. I mean, who in their right mind would think that this middle-of-nowhere town of just under 2,000 vessels would be the proper place to raise their children? You want to talk about small? In about 15 minutes, you could ride Highway 52 straight through and experience all that the town had to offer, which wasn't much. However, on weekends, we soon learned of a magical land, just 20 miles away that would serve as our connection to "modern" civilization, Moncks Corner, SC.
At the time, I never knew just how much of an impact the town of Moncks Corner would have on my life over the next few years. Not only was it the home of the only Wal-Mart within 40 miles, it's where I received my first job offer out of college at the local McDonalds and served as a safe haven when me, my Dad and sister found ourselves homeless. It's also the hometown of one of my biggest role models, Charalmagne Tha God.
This April, Charlamagne Tha God released his debut memoir/self-help guide entitled, Black Privilege: Opportunities Come to Those Who Create Them. The book, now a New York Times Best Seller, depicts the life of Charlamagne, (born Lenard McKelvey) from his early adolescent years in Moncks Corner, SC to now, as a TV/radio personality and one-third of Power 105.1's The Breakfast Club. As opposed to chapters, Charalmagne guides the reader through the many successes and pitfalls of his life with his Eight Principles (like my favorite, "Put the Weed In The Bag"), accompanied by quick gems or "God Jewels" ("It ain't where you're from, it's where you're at" - Eric B. and Rakim); so take notes.
We learn early on of the impact reading and education had on his development. Encouraged by his mother to read "books about people [he] didn't seem to have anything in common with," sparked his curiosity to seek after any direct connection between his small town roots and the rest of the world; hip-hop was the answer. Unfortunately, Charlemagne's passion for learning led to a great deal of bullying, causing him to flip the script on his persona and slip into a life of jail time and drug dealing.
I grew a bit frustrated with him in these moments of teenage rebellion, hoping that the number of friends, cousins, and classmates he would lose at the hand of gun violence and drug abuse would serve as the wake-up call he needed to leave his "thug life" in the past, but the change didn't come overnight... or overyear for that matter.
If we're being honest, Charlamagne was an arrogant, butthole for the majority of his young life, and a large part of Black Privilege serves as a cautionary tale for how not to follow in his old "f-boy" footsteps. Many of the stories you'll read are both inspiring (like his time serving as Wendy William's co-host, unpaid, from 2006 - 2008) and cringeworthy, (like when he tricked out one of his fans after getting a little status in the Carolina radio scene). But this uncut and uncensored approach to actively live his truth (Principle #6) made the book that much more personal and stirring. If you're used to listening to Charlamagne on any of his platforms, it's easy to image him reading the book to you.
To that point, I can't help but to wish things could work out between him and his ex-mentor, Wendy Williams. We learned that after working alongside her for nearly 2 years, their falling out ensued after internal disputes between Charlemagne and Wendy's husband, Kevin Hunter. Of course, loyalty will always go to the spouse, but man, it wrecked me to read of this blooming relationship become nothing due to high doses of male energy... and ego. Still, Wendy's name is mentioned throughout the book in a manner that is both reflective and protective, as if to tell just enough without tarnishing the legacy of his past radio Sensei. Much respect.
The day Black Privilege dropped, it soon began trending on Twitter. Since I’m a supporter of Charlamagne and a student of the culture, I decided to take a look at what the Twitter streets were talking regarding the book, simply based off the title. A lot of individuals couldn’t wrap their heads around the concept that Black folks, with all the racial, systematic, and economic setbacks we’ve faced could have any type of privilege. I mean if almost 400 years of oppression doesn’t prove that, then I don’t know what could. But as Charlemagne breaks down in his final chapter of the book, this "Black Privilege" he speaks of is not systematic or forced like White Privilege nor does it discount the fact that racism exists. Black Privilege is a concept of tapping into the God-given power living within us. That we don’t have to let any obstacle we face as Black people, whether that be race, incarceration, getting fired 4 times, having a "boonky" nose,” or growing up in the rural south, stop us from reaching our divine purpose.
In all, Black Privilege is an enlightening, inspirational and in most moments, laugh-out-loud hilarious memoir from Tha God. The many trials and achievements Charlamagne shares break down the hard exterior that listeners and celebrities alike have either grown to love or hate. I used to be ashamed to say I was from the small town of St. Stephen, SC, but I left this book feeling overwhelmingly empowered to take ownership of my truth. I'm in NYC now and every day I seek to create the opportunities that will lead me to the life I want to live. If you're in a personal rut that feels inescapable or feel like all doors are closed around you, I strongly encourage you to pick up a copy of Black Privilege today.
Before you go: Have you checked out Black Privilege? Meaning to read it? Let me know what you think of the review in the comments below and if you'll be picking up your copy.