It’s no small achievement to become a well-known personality within the media. It takes a potent combination of charisma and grit to capture the attention of the masses in one space, let alone across multiple media platforms.
But Lenard “Charlamagne” McKelvey –– also known as Charlamagne tha God –– is up for the challenge. Over the past two decades Charlamagne has made a name for himself as a radio personality, building an audience of more than 4.5 million listeners a week for his syndicated radio morning show “The Breakfast Club,” as well as authoring two books, acting and hosting a podcast. Now the multimedia mogul is applying his signature wit and style to a new medium with his new show on Comedy Central, Tha God’s Honest Truth.
Over the course of his career, Charlamagne has made a name for himself as someone who doesn’t shy away from giving his opinion or asking tough questions, and has said that people should expect nothing less from him in this weekly late-night series. According to the Comedy Central website, the show will use a variety of deep dives, sketches and social experiments to tackle relevant social issues and unpack the most pressing topics in politics and culture, and the first three episodes that have been released do not renege on that promise. With episodes entitled “Decrackerfication” and “Critical Racist Theory,” Charlamagne has already shown the ability to deliver his uniquely thought-provoking and uninhibited observations in this new medium.
Born in Moncks Corner, South Carolina, Charlamagne grew up in the small town of the Palmetto state. Although his school teacher mom instilled in him a love of reading that he carried with him his whole life, his teenage years were fraught with turmoil as he neglected schooling in favor of the more glamorized street life. However, after a few run-ins with the law he eventually escaped the worse fates of many on his path, attending night school and eventually graduating high school. These successes enabled him to get an internship with a local radio station, and through it he was able to discover his passion earlier than many in their lives. Within a few short years, he was able to turn that internship into an on-air position that saw him gain statewide recognition for his irreverent and straightforward style.
In 2010, Charlamagne became a co-host of The Breakfast Club alongside DJ Envy and Angela Yee, which quickly exploded into one of the most popular radio shows. Syndicated by Premiere Networks on nearly 100 stations across the country, today it is widely known as the most informative and entertaining top-rated hip hop and R&B morning show. Last year, the show celebrated its 10-year anniversary and the three co-hosts were inducted into the Radio Hall of Fame for their work.
With radio providing a solid launching point, Charlamagne has been able to parlay that influence into many other types of media. In 2014 he began hosting the widely-acclaimed podcast Brilliant Idiots alongside Andrew Schultz, where the two provide their reactions to news in pop culture and the world. The show’s popularity has seen them able to take it on the road, appearing on stage in cities across the globe for live tapings, and each episode is streamed and downloaded by hundreds of thousands of listeners and fans. In 2017 he added author to his repertoire, coming out with “Black Privilege: Opportunity Comes to Those Who Create It.” Published by the Simon & Schuster Inc. imprint Touchstone, the book outlines his belief that living life authentically is the fastest way to earn success. It was well-received by critics, making the New York Times list of best-selling hardback non-fiction and opening the doors for him to release his second book “Shook One: Anxiety Playing Tricks on Me” in 2018.
Television is far from a new medium for the multimedia mogul, but Tha God’s Honest Truth may be the best way he is able to utilize his unique conversational talents for the platform. In 2011 he was made a cast member of Guy Code, a comedy television show on MTV2 that talked about a special code of conduct just for men, and also starred on the MTV2 show Uncommon Sense with Charlamagne, which evolved into the show Charlamagne & Friends. He served as a co-host for MTV New Year’s live from Times Square for two years in a row, and in 2015 was also a correspondent for the pre-show of the MTV Video Music Awards.
At the end of the day, that appears to be the secret behind Charlamagne’s ability to translate himself across multiple platforms. Although he has called himself at times everything from “prince of pissing people off” to “ruler of rubbing you the wrong way” to “architect of aggravation,” the lack of contrivance in the way he approaches any subject or person ultimately garner the respect of those he interviews and the people who tune in to hear what he has to say.