News in Music
Everything We Know About Kanye West's Yeezy Season 5 Fashion Show
Category: News in Music

Are you ready for Kanye West's newest fashion show?

The rapper-designer will be unveiling Yeezy Season 5 on Wednesday at 3 p.m. for Fashion Week, but details about the show have been shrouded in mystery. But during E! News' Grammys pre-show Sunday, Kris Jenner gave some tiny details to Ryan SeacrestBrad Goreski and Kristin Cavallari about what fans can expect from Kanye (especially in terms of celebrity appearances).

"There's been a rumor that he's not coming [to the Grammys] for various reasons, but the truth is he's got a big fashion show in New York because it's New York Fashion Week right now," Kris explained. "And my entire family is back there. Kim [Kardashian] and some of the kids—Khloe [Kardashian]— are on their way tomorrow. And Kendall [Jenner] and Kylie [Jenner] and a few others are there I can't even count anymore.

Kanye West, Blond Hair

JosiahW / AKM-GSI

"Kanye's back in New York City preparing for his big fashion show this week," she continued. He's got a lot of work to do. He wishes he could be here."

Yeezy Season 4's show took place on Franklin D. Roosevelt Four Freedoms Park Roosevelt Island, a location far removed from Fashion Week's typical locales. Yeezy Season 3 debuted at Madison Square Garden. Yeezy Season 5's show tomorrow, however, will take place at Pier 59, a more traditional Fashion Week venue, indicating that it will probably be a more low-key affair than his Roosevelt Island show that sparked controversy when its casting call requested "multiracial women only."

Tomorrow will also be a big day in that it marks one of Kanye's first official public appearances since canceling his Saint Pablo Tour and entering the hospital for exhaustion. Although rumors started to swirl about his marriage to Kim, a source told E! News that they're doing just fine.

"They are working on getting stronger and more solid as a married couple," the source said. "This is an exciting time for Kanye and he is really looking forward to this presentation. The Kardashians will be there to support him, including his leading lady Kim. Kylie and Kendall will also be there."

Part of Kanye's preparations includes dyeing his hair platinum blond. He's been playing with his hair color since he was released from the hospital, first choosing a darker shade of blond in December and then opted for a more rainbow-style 'do. But come Wednesday, the "Famous" rapper could unveil something entirely different.

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The man behind Iconic hip hop photos
Category: News in Music
Tags: 2pac biggie hiphop
Chi Modu: The Man Behind the Lens of Some of Hip-Hop’s Most Iconic Moments
By Amarachi Nwosu in Art & Design
Published in April 2017

For Nigerian-American photographer Chi Modu, imagery goes beyond showing a lifestyle; it is about telling a unique story that brings the viewer closer to his subject’s truth. From photographing legendary artist like Tupac, Biggie and Nas to traveling the world and documenting the daily life of people in Yemen and India, Chi has created a unique lane for himself with a body of work that puts him in legendary status with no questions asked.

His journey to maneuvering the hip-hop scene came after working at The Source as the photo director during the 90’s. Chi explained “I started with Source in 1990 when it was really starting to bubble up and get bigger. I went to the office on a tip that they were looking for people to work for them. When I got to the office, it was a really nice energy and buzz. For me, they were really doing something important for that time and I wanted in.”

Despite being a first generation American growing up in a Nigerian household, which is usually traditional in career choices, Chi took risks and created a path that was not common for people of his background. “I had a very American experience, but I was still raised in a Nigerian house. When I was younger, the pressure for first generation American kids with Nigerian parents was even more. There was no artist to look up to and show your parents as an example because these guys did not exist yet. It was really on us to break what our parents know.“

Between the early 90’s and late 80’s, hip-hop was still a very new genre to mainstream media. MTV was still heavily Rock based and it was very difficult for rappers to get play on primetime networks. This marked an era of DIY style that relied on passion and hard work. “People ask me all the time what is the difference between then and now. For me, things were a little more fun then because we were groundbreaking. Now the ground has been broken and you’re not really going to impress me with a fancy car or a private jet, because I have already seen it. Back then; even getting a Mercedes was a big deal. We appreciated it more because it was harder on the come up. The music is reflective of that too.”

This is also why Chi feels the landscape surrounding hip-hop affects how photographers capture artist. While Chi is known for shooting artist like Nas in his bedroom at the age of 17 in Queens bridge and Method Man getting his hair braided at his girlfriend’s house in Staten Island, not many photographers today are seen capturing artist in intimate settings. Chi explained “People are best in photographs when they are really true to who they are. These days, some artists are more about their brand than who they are. But, brands don’t live. People live. Even within your brand you have to let some of who you are out. Look at Tupac, he is vulnerability and strength. That’s why he stays. It can’t just be every picture at the after party tossing money and opening a bottle. That’s actually boring. You have to give more to keep your audience’s attention.”

Chi recognized the value of authenticity and visual collateral early in the game and saw a gap that needed to be filled. While he knew the importance of documenting the history of hip-hop, he didn’t realize just how impactful his images would be on the world stage. “It’s crazy because at the time we were perceived as the bad kids, so it is amazing to see hip-hop be able to impact the world and be apart of pop culture. And I travel and see it first hand, so that is definitely one of the more shocking things. Because when you work, you work in a bubble so you don’t really know how it’s affecting the world until you move.”

After decades of using his craft as a way to keep moments alive, Chi has traveled the world and reminds people of the importance of visual documentation. While we all recognize the people in front of the camera, it is important to understand that the people behind also play a key role in shaping the history that is remembered. “I knew that 20 years later, that is when my work would really matter to people. I knew that I could shoot it for a magazine but it would eventually become old and after old comes iconic.”

For more on Chi and his book Tupac Shakur Uncategorized make sure you visit his website.


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Nicki Minaj Vs. Remy Ma: Rap Queens' Beef History Explained
Category: News in Music
Tags: battle beef rap queens hiphop winners loser lovers friends enemies rivals

nd Terror Squad MC Remy Ma viciously reignited a decade-long feud. The public beef that started in 2007 seemingly expired when Ma was incarcerated on multiple charges in 2008. Since Remy Ma's release in 2014, time has only soured feelings between the rappers, as evidenced by Remy Ma's "Shether," a diss track aimed at Minaj. Here's a cheat sheet on the rap queen battle: 

Nicki Minaj started the feud in 2007.

Nicki Minaj released the freestyle "Dirty Money" off her Playtime Is Over mixtape in 2007, which includes the line: "Tell that bitch with the crown to run it like Chris Brown" over a beat from Terror Squad's "Yeah Yeah Yeah." Minaj never confirmed the rumor that she was taking shots at Remy Ma, a Terror Squad MC. Remy Ma felt the line was a personal attack and confronted Minaj at a release party. 

Dating rumors did not help mend their friendship. 

On top of the lyrical drama, unfounded rumors began swirling in tabloids and gossip columns that Minaj and Remy Ma had been lovers. Both rappers denied that they had dated, though the lore became more intense when a video of a woman claiming to be Remy Ma's ex-girlfriend surfaced and she strongly resembled Minaj.

Remy Ma was in prison for six years while Minaj's career took off.

Ma served six years in Bedford Hills Correctional Facility, missing much of Minaj's rise. The feud remained dormant for that time, though the imprisoned MC addressed the mixtape party confrontation in an interview she did from jail. Upon her release, the rapper suggested the feud was over and congratulated Minaj on winning the Best Female Hip-Hop Artist Award at the BET Awards in 2016.

Remy Ma took shots at Minaj while restarting her rap career.

Since her release from jail, Ma freestyled over Minaj's "Truffle Butter" beat. She also imitated Minaj's "Monster" verse during a cypher. Remy Ma found real success without disparaging Minaj on the 2016 summer hit "All the Way Up" with Fat Joe. 

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Category: News in Music
Tags: LIL yacthy Joe budden clap hiphop
Lil Yachty Claps Back At Joe Budden For Claiming He's "Not Hip Hop"

Lil Yachty went for Joe Budden after the OG expressed outrage over his "Teenage Emotions" album cover.

Lil Yachty's particular brand of music and style has often rubbed people the wrong way. Monday on Complex News, temper flared when Joe Budden and DJ Akademiks sat down to analyze Yachty's album cover for his debut Teenage Emotions. The "Pump It Up" rapper called Lil Yachty a "troll."

"I don't think that Yachty is hip-hop," Budden said. "I don't think that Yachty's label is hip-hop. When you're not hip-hop and you're trying to just troll or exploit, you get things like this album cover."

Budden then suggested that Yachty was gay or at least gay-friendly -- two men kiss on the cover on Teenage Emotions. He said the ATL rapper was ruining hip hop and "should not be accepted [...] in this culture." He also called Capitol Records "bum ass." Though DJ Akademiks was quick to dispel the notion that Yachty was gay, Budden persisted, saying he "looked a little fruity."

He claimed Yachty was catering to the gay market and added that the style worked well for Lil B a few years back when he put out I'm Gay.

Well, King Boat clapped right back at Budden on social media, referencing Lil B's harsh 2010 diss track "T-Shirts and Buddens." It prompted Budden to throw one more jab at the younger emcee.

Listen to Lil B - T Shirts and Buddens (Joe Budden Diss) by EverythingOnDeckBased #np on #SoundCloud

— lil boat kot* (@lilyachty) April 25, 2017
My Mood 🎶🎶🎶

— lil boat kot* (@lilyachty) April 25, 2017
Mood …. nigga lol

— Joe Budden (@JoeBudden) April 25, 2017
That Lil B diss still hard all these years later tho lol

— Joe Budden (@JoeBudden) April 25, 2017
On his podcast Tuesday, Budden apologized to Yachty fans, perhaps putting a quick end to the beef. For now.

Music News Joe Budden Lil Yachty teenage emotions atlanta DJ akademiks Lil B i'm gay beef

How Mike WiLL Made-It And Kendrick Lamar Created The Year's Most Urgent Music
Category: News in Music
Tags: Hip-Hop Rap
New LA Artist Emerge
Category: News in Music
Danny Schwartz
Jan 17, 2017 at 10:31am

D'Angelo's management says his next album "might be coming sooner than you think!"

Is D'Angelo about to drop his fourth album?

If so... Mother of god.

Kevin Liles management company, to whom D'Angelo is signed, hinted that such an earth-shattering event may be on the horizon. "Ready for another D'Angelo album?" the company wrote on its Instagram account. "Might be coming sooner than you think! On the way."

D'Angelo, who pop critic Robert Christgau once dubbed "R&B Jesus," unexpectedly released Black Messiah at the tail end of 2014, shortly after a jury declined to indict Michael Brown shooter Darren Wilson. It had been fourteen years since his previous album, and most fans have expected a similar drought -- until KWL Management shared this fabulous news.

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A photo posted by KWL Management (@kwlmanagement) on 


Remembering Ella Fitzgerald, Who Made Great Songs Greater
Category: News in Music
Tags: Classic
Ella Fitzgerald singing at the Hammersmith Odeon in 1963.
Ronald Dumont/Getty Images

Ella Fitzgerald singing at the Hammersmith Odeon in 1963.
Ronald Dumont/Getty Images
Ella Fitzgerald, who would have turned 100 Tuesday, was one of the most beloved and versatile singers of the 20th century. In a career that spanned six decades, Fitzgerald recorded hundreds of songs, including definitive versions of many standards. Along the way, she influenced generations of singers.

But the first thing that strikes you about Fitzgerald is that voice.

Cécile McLorin Salvant, who won a Grammy last year for Best Jazz Vocal Album, says a combination of qualities made Fitzgerald's voice unique. "When you hear the tone of her voice — which has kind of a brightness, kind of a breathiness, but it also has this really great depth, and kind of a laser-like, really clear quality to it — it hits you," she says.

Early Hardship Couldn't Muffle Ella Fitzgerald's Joy
Early Hardship Couldn't Muffle Ella Fitzgerald's Joy
Salvant, 27, says she learned to sing jazz standards by listening to Fitzgerald's versions.

"I remember being 17 and living in France and feeling really homesick and wanting to go back to Miami, and listening to Ella Fitzgerald singing 'I Didn't Know What Time It Was,' " Salvant says. "And I would listen to that all day. All day. For, like, weeks. And it felt — it created a home for me."

Fitzgerald had perfect pitch, impeccable diction and a remarkable sense of rhythm. And it all came naturally to her, as she told the CBC in 1974.

"What I sing is only what I feel," she said. "I had some lady ask me the other day about music lessons and I never — except for what I had to learn for my half-credit in school — I've never given it a thought. I've never taken breathing lessons. I had to go for myself, and I guess that's how I got a style."

That style was an immediate hit. Fitzgerald was discovered at an amateur contest and began her professional career when she was only 16, singing with the Chick Webb Orchestra at Harlem's Savoy Ballroom. When she was 21, she became internationally famous with a hit record based on a nursery rhyme, "A-Tisket, A-Tasket."

Tony Bennett says that when he was starting out as a young singer, Ella Fitzgerald was his idol. "She was a complete swinger," he says. "She just understood the whole art of jazz phrasing."

Ella Fitzgerald: America's First Lady Of Song
Ella Fitzgerald: America's First Lady Of Song
Bennett is now 90 years old, and Fitzgerald is still his idol. (A portrait he painted of her is even in the Smithsonian National Museum of American History's collections.) He says she was the quintessential performer.

"She loved performing. She loved it. And the audience knew it right away," Bennett says. "The minute she walked out on that stage, they knew she was ready to give them the best she could ever imagine for them. She couldn't wait to get on that stage and hit the back of the house, and have them react to her right away."

In the 1940s, Fitzgerald took part in late-night Harlem jam sessions with trumpeter Dizzy Gillespie. Those sessions would give rise to bebop — and Fitzgerald embraced bebop scat singing, using her voice like a horn.

"She knew how to improvise better than anybody I ever listened to," Bennett says. "Just like an instrumentalist would take a jazz solo, she would do that vocally, and it would be perfection."

Fitzgerald toured and recorded constantly, producing one hit record after another. Music publishers wanted her to be the first to record their new songs, and she became known as "The First Lady of Song." In the 1950s, she embarked on an ambitious recording project: eight albums of standards written by prominent American composers — including Cole Porter, Irving Berlin, Duke Ellington, Jerome Kern and George and Ira Gershwin.

Ella Fitzgerald Sings The George And Ira Gershwin Songbook is being reissued this year for the first time since its original release.
Courtesy of Verve
Many of Fitzgerald's recordings of the musical canon known as the Great American Songbook are considered definitive versions. Ira Gershwin once said, "I never knew how good our songs were until I heard Ella Fitzgerald sing them."

Dan Morgenstern, Director Emeritus of the Rutgers Institute of Jazz Studies, says this is what she'll be remembered for.

"She could take a great song and make it even greater," Morgenstern says. "She had a wonderful sense of melody. She had that beautiful voice. She had that perfect intonation. And she always knew what the right tempo should be. And she put so much feeling into what she did."

Fitzgerald lived for her career — and her personal life suffered. She fell in love with good-looking younger men who turned out to be scam artists. Her marriage to bebop bassist Ray Brown lasted only six years. She was insecure, got nervous before performances and cried if she got a bad review. And she was overweight for much of her life.

"She was not a sex symbol," Salvant says. "And yet she was very successful. It's a testament to both the audience and — of course, most of all — her artistry. And we're not even talking about racism. That a black woman could be so popular across the board with both black and white audiences — that's a beautiful thing."

Ella Fitzgerald sold 40 million records in her lifetime. She died in 1996 from complications caused by diabetes. She was 79 years old.

Hear Some Of Ella's Best
For Ella Fitzgerald's centennial, the Verve Label Group is reissuing much of her music, including a compilation called '100 Songs For A
How Charlamagne Tha God Became Tha God of Radio
Category: News in Music

It was 5 a.m. on a chilly early-sprıng morning, and Charlamagne Tha God was piloting his regal Jaguar across the George Washington Bridge from the wilds of Jersey. As if by Old Testament decree, the Manhattan skies lightened to welcome the King of the Hip-Hop Morning. Another day was dawning, and Charlamagne, co-host of “The Breakfast Club,” the hot-shot urban-contemporary wake-up call, was doing what he does best, which is run his mouth.  

It was the mouth that had elevated the slightly stocky, slightly short former Lenard McKelvey from Moncks Corner, South Carolina (pop. 9,460), to his current exalted state. It was the Charlamagne mouth that asked the elephant-in-the-room questions, that went in on the haughty high and the mighty.

A major reason for the success of the nationally syndicated “Breakfast Club,” heard in these humble precincts over Power 105.1 FM from 6 to 10 a.m., is the program’s ability to get the genre’s biggest names to drag their behinds to the studio in the old AT&T building on Sixth Avenue at the crack of dawn so Charlamagne and his co-hosts, DJ Envy and Angela Yee, can give them the business. Everyone from Jay Z on down has put in time in that hot seat. There’s no way out of it. As the rapper, singer, and philanthropist Akon, a recent guest, put it, “Who gets up this early? But if you’re anybody who wants to stay somebody, you better be here.” After all, “The Breakfast Club” was in 54 national markets at the end of 2015, with an average growth of 33 percent in “measured metros.” Last year in New York alone, the show’s numbers rose 25 percent in the crucial 18-to-34 demo and 42 percent among the 25-to-54 graybeards. 2 Chainz, the Atlanta rapper who recently appeared on the show, seconded Akon, explaining, “It is our Johnny Carson show. Leno. Can’t blow that off.” Still, even for “The Breakfast Club,” Kanye West, a god in his own right, was considered a major get when he entered the studio in November 2013.

“When Kanye first came on, people were wondering if I was going to be me,” recalled Charlamagne, who dispelled his fans’ fear of a celebrity kowtow with his introduction of the touchy West as “Kanye Kardashian.” Tha God followed this up by saying that “as a Kanye West fan” it pained him to say so, but the star’s most recent record — Yeezus, at the time was, alas, “wack.” (West’s only rejoinder was a nonplussed double take.) Not to play favorites among rap moguls, Tha God was not so long afterward heard asking a resplendent Puff Daddy about nasty rumors implicating him in the death of Tupac Shakur. This seemed a risky gambit considering that Puffy owns the Revolt TV network, which carries the video version of “The Breakfast Club” in markets around the country. But Combs took it. It was just a case of Charlamagne being Charlamagne, as pure a thing as pineapple-flavored Cîroc.

Driving through the dawn’s early light on the West Side Highway, Charlamagne said this sort of acting up, which includes using more words for female genitalia than Eskimos have for snow and rarely going light on the fart jokes, is “just good media.” As precedent, he cites a pantheon of shit-stirring personalities like Joan Rivers, Wendy Williams, Bill O’Reilly (if you can believe that), and his abiding radio idol, Howard Stern. “Rolling Stone called me the hip-hop Howard!” kvells Tha God. Still, at the end of the day, Charlamagne said with a furrow of his shaven-headed brow, if you wanted to stay on top of the morning during the social-media era, there were only two things you needed to know. These were: “How to keep a conversation going and when to change it.”

That was the problem, Charlamagne said. The conversation was stuck on Donald Trump. It had been for months. This was bugging Charlamagne, who was growing weary of naming Trump the Donkey of the Day, a “Breakfast Club” egregious-achievement award, signaled by a loud, braying hee-haw.

“The only people who want to vote for Trump are poor white niggas,” Tha God exclaimed, employing the N-word to characterize those who showed up at the real-estate baron’s “make-America-hate-again Klan rallies.” Trump election paraphernalia was nothing but “the new Confederate flag,” Charlamagne said, familiar with the situation from having Stars-and-Bars-decaled pickups dog his rearview through the Carolina lowlands. A son of Jehovah’s Witnesses, Charlamagne decided that Trump wasn’t a candidate for president after all. The job he was really running for was “the Antichrist.”

We were downtown now, threading through early-morning traffic. The city was stirring, a few stray workers making their way to the subway. One 30-ish African-American man in a postal uniform recognized the “Breakfast Club” host, gave a shout.

“I’m still sleeping, Charlamagne; you going to wake me up?” the postman asked.

Charlamagne getting a preshow shave in the studio. Photo: Jessica Lehrman

Once upon a time, radio — African-American radio in particular — was dominated by magisterial disk jockeys like Frankie “Hollywood!” Crocker, who held sway over sainted call letters like WWRL, WMCA, and WBLS. Crocker, who once rode up to Studio 54 on a snow-white charger, was the nonpareil, but most cities had a star DJ, heroes of the drive time and late night who delivered the musical 411. Hip-hop, though, was a different beast. Too dirty, violent, and flat-out anti-social to get much mainstream airplay, the form developed its own underground regionalism: East Coast versus West; the Dirty South; Detroit; and New York with its housing-project immortals like Jay Z, Nas, and Mobb Deep, who surfaced on the hometown-touting Hot 97. Gangsta turf wars got heavy enough that the Three 6 Mafia out of Memphis felt the need to record “Who Gives afudge Where You From.” This hard, ultramale street style began to melt in the current decade with the advent of neurotics like Kanye and “sensitive” men like Drake, who hearken back to the days of Marvin Gaye’s “Here, My Dear” period. This was a Blood-and-Crip-free hip-hop that almost anyone could listen to. The sound, not rooted in any particular place, time, or mind-set, fit the 21st-century internet model. 

But hip-hop has long since ceased being basically about the music, if it ever was. The subterranean scratchings of Kool Herc have morphed into a Pan-Zeitgeist, Pan-racial (the audience of “The Breakfast Club” is 60 percent African-American, 40 percent everyone else) outlook that extends to big-time sports, reality shows, stand-up comedy, conspiracy theories, unending celebrity gossip, Twitter, and Instagram. It’s a super-commodified world of cyber-neologisms where rap battles are not waged in verbal flame fights on stages in dank warehouses but via 140-character bursts. And so it has long since ceased to be possible for latter-day Tipper Gores to typecast the genre as hat-backward black street culture in which artists thought it was a sharp career move to name themselves “Murder.” Hip-hop is simply culture, in many ways — language, fashion, etc. — theculture, as mainstreamed as Elvis ever was.

This is something that Charlamagne Tha God and everyone else involved with “The Breakfast Club” knows well. An accomplished master of the three- (or four-) screen experience who tweets his own horn as “the prince of pissing people off, the ruler of rubbing you the wrong way, the architect of aggravation,” he will be the first to tell you that the current state of affairs is a very different ballgame. After all, back in the DMX era, what were the chances that someone like him who did an obligatory bid in the county jail would wind up interviewing Hillary Clinton just before the crucial New York State primary?

Yet that was what happened the other week, as Charlamagne, DJ Envy, and Angela Yee worked over the former First Lady about the bottle of hot sauce she claims to carry around wherever she goes, because the spicy stuff is good for her immune system. Charlamagne and his colleagues weren’t going for that (though it turned out she’s been referencing this habit for years in interviews). Hillary was only talking about the hot sauce because she was “pandering to black people,” Tha God charged with mock outrage. Gamely, HRC came back with what has to be her best line of the campaign, asking, “Is it working?”

This won over “The Breakfast Club” crew. Later, Charlamagne said, “You see, we brought out the best in her.” Not that he was taking full credit. For Tha God, the Hillary interview, which got picked up all over the country, was important for hip-hop, where it had come from, where it was going.

“America used to say that hip-hop was a cancer,” he reflected. “Then it embraced that cancer and realized, Hey, this isn’t a bad thing. It is part of us, just more America.

Hillary Clinton on “The Breakfast Club” last month. Photo: Courtesy of Charlamagne Tha God

There’s always something in a hip-hop name, and Charlamagne’s is no different. As he tells it, the dirt road from being Lenard McKelvey to Charlamagne Tha God, Hip-Hop King of the Morning, was not always smooth.

“Fade in on me when I was about 9,” the DJ said, setting the stage. “I was that little kid with the glasses and the fanny pack, in the house with my sisters and cousins. They were watching Michael Bivins, who was in New Edition at the time, dancing on TV. ‘Oh, Michael is mad cute,’ they said. I didn’t know any better, so I said, ‘Yeah, Michael is mad cute.’ Wrong! My cousins told my dad what I said and that was it. You see, my father, Larry McKelvey, he was the man in Moncks Corner. He ran illegal nightclubs where everyone went, ran around in red leather pants, claimed he partied with Rick James. If you needed anything in Moncks Corner, you saw Larry McKelvey. There was no way he was going to have a son who thought Michael Bivins was mad cute.

“The word went out to toughen that boy up. It was like my daddy took out a hit on me. My cousins were pushing on me, bullying me. I was in the advanced classes in school, and now the white kids wouldn’t hang out with me anymore. One day I got beat up and my glasses, which were crooked already, got shattered on the ground. That’s when I said, ‘Okay, enough.’ I became like Batman. I decided to thug myself out, all the way.”

’Nard, as he was called, began to be disruptive, got left back. By his late teens, he was in the street, selling crack. “We had this little crew, the Infamous Buddhaheads. I started to call myself Charles, or Charlie, which I thought would hide what I was doing. One night these guys rolled up on us, shit happened, and suddenly I’m in the county jail with a felony charge, assault with intent to kill,” he said. “I thought I’d be out in a couple of days, at least in time for the homecoming game. But then it was like a week, a month, a few months. My dad told my mother it was best for me to stay in there a while. He thought it would teach me a lesson.”

This sort of tough love was kind of a joke, Charlamagne said, recalling another occasion he was in jail for selling. “Who’s right there, sitting in the same cell? Pops. On the same charges.”

When he got out, “people still knew me as Charles, so when I came across Charlemagne in a history book, that sounded good: Charles the Great, a warrior who used his power to spread religion and education. He was the head of the Carolingian dynasty, and with me being from South Carolina, that clicked. I got his name tattooed on my forearm. But I didn’t like the ein Charlemagne. The looked better.”

As for Tha God part, that came from the Five Percenters, an offshoot of Elijah Muhammad’s Nation of Islam, which said out of 100 percent of the people, only 5 percent, the “poor righteous teachers,” could be trusted to do the right thing. “The 5 percent, the nation of gods and earths, those who try to change the world for the better. That’s how I saw myself,” explained Charlamagne Tha God.

Growing up in the 1990s, the golden era of rap, it would have been next to impossible for Charlamagne — who says he’s 35, though public records have him a couple of years older — not to be a hip-hop fan, partial to items like Raekwon’s “purple tape” Only Built 4 Cuban Linx. Like everyone else, he thought he’d be a rapper. “I got a tattoo of Wolverine holding a mike on my arm, practiced my shit. There was a local station, 100.9 in Walterboro, where you could go on the air and freestyle,” he remembered. That’s when he learned that not everyone can rap.

Radio, though, that was something he could do. Coming from a family where you’d better be quick and loud if you wanted to be heard at all, he already had the essential training. To learn the ropes, he worked at several stations in Charleston and Columbia, developing signature features like “Hate O’Clock.” Listeners were invited to call in at eight and start hating on whatever. Never fated to be “a time-and-temperature guy,” Charlamagne didn’t see himself as a DJ, even back then, but rather “a personality,” someone like the Washington, D.C., street savant Petey Greene, who began his broadcasting career over a prison-yard loudspeaker. Sometimes, Charlamagne would show up “drunk or stoned and just saying what was on my mind.” His apprenticeship followed a pattern. “I’d get hired, raise the station’s ratings like from No. 14 to No. 2, and then get fired for one reason or another.” No matter. His bumpy work history taught him “how to sound like me.” This was paramount because radio, Tha God says, “is totally personal.”

His career path really began to look good after he got with the Gucci-bedecked Queen of Radio, Wendy Williams. “First time Wendy ever spoke to me was when I came into the studio where she was working to give her a mixtape and she told me to get the fuck away from her,” Charlamagne recalled, not without fondness. Williams (who now answers questions about Charlamagne by saying “Who?”) recognized a kindred provocateur spirit and eventually offered Tha God a co-host gig when she ruled the roost at WBLS. He lasted two and a half years before getting fired, but six months after losing that gig, Charlamagne had his own show, on 100.3 in Philly. As always, he bumped up the numbers for his time slot, but it didn’t stop him from getting fired again, for a fourth time — as the legend goes, at the behest of Jay Z, who was mad that Charlamagne had allowed the Philly rapper Beanie Sigel to dis him on the program. Approaching 30, out of a job, Tha God found himself back in Moncks Corner, living with his mother. He’d stay down there for an entire year. “I knew I’d be back, but it was a little like being the kid with the glasses again. It really hurt.”

“The Breakfast Club” saved Charlamagne. The corporate suits at the recently renamed iHeartMedia (formerly Clear Channel), owners of the Power 105.1, were looking to overthrow Hot 97, long the default voice of New York hip-hop, and its star hit enabler, DJ Funkmaster Flex. “We needed to be strong in the morning,” said Geoff Gamere, a.k.a. Geespin, a well-known Boston DJ brought in by iHeart to develop its Power product. “We needed someone to push the envelope. That was Charlamagne. It didn’t matter how many times he’d been fired. He was a solid radio guy. He knew how to get to the edge and not go over it, too much.”

Everyone involved says they knew “The Breakfast Club” was major when it showed up on Google ahead of the John Hughes movie of the same name, but no one, Charlamagne included, ever guessed how culturally significant the show would get. Much of this success is based on what “Breakfast Club” fans call the “deep ecology” of the program, an evolutionary adaptation suited to continually fuel the insatiable social-media fire. This means the real-time, traffic-jam incarnation of “The Breakfast Club,” larded with the interminable commercial blocks and a single-digit song playlist of the Auto-Tuned, Joy Division–vibed R&B that has primarily replaced traditional rap, is merely the first take of the package. The rest of “The Breakfast Club” lives on the web, its various segments posted and reposted by fans, ad infinitum.

Key to the endless morning is “The Breakfast Club” interview, the parade of rappers, TV stars, and political figures that is easily the best Q&A in the business. Often running as long as an hour, the interviews are edited to fit the radio mode, but the video versions are posted in their full, unadulterated form on the website. Lo and behold: The sheer length of the interviews, the way they morph from sound-bite-as-usual to actual personality-revealing conversations, has become the most resonant iteration of “Breakfast Club” product. In an era where sites like Shade Room, Baller Alert, and half a million blogs are scouring the retweet bins to report Amber Rose items, “The Breakfast Club” comes on like a breaking-news juggernaut. For instance, recently, Birdman, the Cash Money CEO and onetime Lil Wayne mentorwalked out of his “Breakfast Club” interview within two minutes (a record) after shouting that the hosts had been “fucking with my name.” That was big news: He’d come on, seemingly, just to tell them off. When, the next day, DJ Envy reported on air that a more compos mentis Birdman had apologized for his outburst, that was news, too.

The standard “Breakfast Club” interview goes like this: After obligatory honorifics and product-placement opportunities for the star of the day, the three hosts get in their lanes and rev their role-play engines. DJ Envy, a.k.a. 38-year-old Raashaun Casey, plays the man of experience, the genius mixtape-maker, the steady hand at the tiller, the cool dad (he’s got four children, another on the way). Yee, quite raunchy in her SiriusXM satellite days, now embodies the feminine moral compass, an isle of empathetic sanity in testosterone-filled seas. This is both offset and augmented by Charlamagne’s profane Peck’s Bad Boy truth-teller. When the dance is working, like the 75-minute Rorschach test with an eminently addled Dame Dash, who kept shouting “Pause!” every time the hosts tried to interrupt his on-air meltdown, these encounters can rise to museum-quality exemplars of lyric and flow.

Everyone has their favorite “Breakfast Club” interview moments, like the time rapper-actor Ray J called in, sounding possibly unhinged and/or inebriated, to provide a highly prejudicial account of a dust-up with “that bitch-ass” Fabolous, or when Charlamagne opened the interview with AIDS profiteer and Wu-Tang memorabilia collector Martin Shkreli by saying, “First question: Are you a privileged, entitled prick?” But it wasthat Clinton interview — when she, like Cardi B., Dick Gregory, Master P, Rick Ross, and Yo Gotti before her, came to sit before “The Breakfast Club” microphone — that made Charlamagne reflect on how far they’d come.

“We came in with the mind-set not to ask her anything she could respond to with a talking point, like on CNN, to just talk some [N-word] shit with her,” explained Charlamagne, who still couldn’t quite resist asking Hillary if she was really going to open the UFO files (a firm believer, he thinks he might have been abducted “at least once”). 

The next day, Charlamagne was still jazzed about the encounter, noting that the candidate “came to us, we didn’t go to her.” Like every other rapper, Clinton knew she better play “The Breakfast Club.” “Five years ago you’d have seen her with some black congressman, possibly Al Sharpton,” Charlamagne said. “For sure we couldn’t have talked to her like that. If we did, how would she have taken it? Would she have rolled with it like that?” It was a case of hip-hop and the supposed dominant culture meeting each other halfway, Tha God said.

It was a point Charlamagne had been making since I started talking to him: Hip-hop had “some age” on it. “If you grow up with Run-DMC, you’re not going to stop because you’re older.” You respected hip-hop’s history, took pride that it not only survived but triumphed, even if “The Breakfast Club” plays endless commercials for Home Depot and Scotts lawn products. Asked about the corporate influence of iHeart — which as Clear Channel had sought to repress certain songs following the 9/11 attacks — Charlamagne said, “We interviewed Minister Louis Farrakhan, and no one said a word about it.”

The grown-up version of hip-hop was apparent just the other day when 2 Chainz, who used to perform under the name Tity Boi, came in for his interview. Fifteen minutes in, his phone rang. It was the rapper’s kid, upset that the dog had eaten a beloved basketball. None of the “Breakfast Club” trio blinked at this domestic moment. Not so long ago, groupies were still posting bits about Charlamagne getting frisky in various clubs, but now he was settled down, married with two kids, tweeting a lot about this season of Girls. Of “the 168 hours in my week, 95 percent of that is work and family,” he said. As if to demonstrate his larger outlook, he prostrates himself in prayer before every show. Asked if he was facing Mecca, he said, “No, man.” He faces a different direction every day. That was how his “spiritual geography” worked.     

Charlamagne. Photo: Jessica Lehrman

Getting off work at noon gives you plenty of time for other avenues of potential commerce. Charlamagne is a busy bee that way, so today he’s making the rounds accompanied by Wax, his decades-long homeboy, who at six-four and 250 pounds cuts a formidable figure. Wax’s employment became necessary shortly after the infamous “Can I get a drop?” incident. To wit: A dude on the street came over to ask Tha God for “a drop” — a recorded celebrity shout-out. But it turned out to be a ruse, as Tha God was soon sucker-punched and surrounded. Surveying the five-to-one odds, Charlamagne, a student of Sun Tzu’s The Art of Wardecided he had “no interest whatsoever in keeping it real” in such circumstances and beat a retreat up Sixth Avenue.

A video of the incident soon appeared on, causing people to wonder who had jumped Charlamagne. There were any number of suspects. He’d made Lil Momma cry on the air, needling her even after she talked about her mom’s passing. He’d razzed Lil’ Kim on the plastic-surgery issue. Then there was Hot 97’s Funkmaster Flex, supposedly still seething over his rival’s rise to the top. No one was ever charged in the case, but never one to miss an opportunity to build his brand, Charlamagne soon started marketing can i get a drop? T-shirts.

Nothing like that transpired today, as Charlamagne was greeted with universal good vibes up at the offices of Marvel comics, where he was given the royal tour and talked to “Powerman and Iron Fist” artist (and fellow South Carolinian) Sanford Greene about doing the cover for his autobiography. Then it was downtown to do a session of the podcast “Brilliant Idiots,” an ongoing discussion of race circa now he does along with white comic Andrew Schulz. This was followed by a stop at MTV, where his show Uncommon Sense With Charlamagne recently had its season premiere. You could never have too many platforms in today’s uncertain times, Tha God remarked, before heading to the West Side to meet the Rockefeller in his life, Ryan. The two were collaborating on Liyo, a new music-streaming app. Identifying himself as, yes, indeed, “a real Rockefeller,” the 28-year-old Ryan demonstrated the workings of the app, how it allowed users to “sync up with other people’s playlists instantaneously.” For such a project, the participation of “tastemakers” like Charlamagne was essential, Rockefeller said.

It was crazy, Charlamagne mused as he sat wearing a Malcolm X T-shirt in the greenroom for The Nightly Show With Larry Wilmore, his last stop of the day. Imagine all the different ways his life could have gone, considering where it started. “Check this,” Tha God said, bringing up a September 2011 Daily News article on his phone.

Under the headline “Cowboys Fan Uses Taser Gun on Jets Crowd at MetLife Stadium Despite Security on 9/11 Anniversary,” the story told how “Leroy” McKelvey, 59, of Moncks Corner, South Carolina, “wildly fired a stun gun in a crowd at MetLife Stadium ... injuring three people, including a Marine.” The mêlée “erupted after a Marine became annoyed at McKelvey and his friends for not taking their hats off or standing during the national anthem and speaking loudly during ‘Taps.’ ”

“Can you believe that,” Charlamagne said with a half-loving, half-exasperated smile. “He brings the Taser in even though George W. Bush was at the damn game, on the tenth anniversary of 9/11! I had to go down to the jail and bail him out.” Yes, Charlamagne had to agree, the USA had its faults, but where else could the son of Larry McKelvey find himself in business with a Rockefeller?

Later, in front of the Nightly Show studio, a 50-ish guy in a leather Kangol hat, looking very much like a ghost of hip-hop past, snuck up behind Tha God. “Can I get a drop?” he asked, to which Charlamagne laughingly said, “I get a lot of that.” The guy said he’d cut a couple of tracks back in the day, worked with good people. Maybe Charlamagne would play his stuff on “The Breakfast Club.”

Charlamagne smiled gently. That wasn’t going to happen, but the guy knew that. “Okay,” he said to Charlamagne. “I’ll check you out tomorrow morning. Try not to say nothing wicked.”

To this Charlamagne Tha God smiled. “Now, that’s a lot of pressure.”

*This article appears in the May 2, 2016 issue of New York Magazine.

Band To Watch: Microwave
Category: News in Music
Tags: new music stereogum west coast

When Microwave released their debut album Stovall in 2014, frontman Nathan Hardy had recently disassociated from the Mormon Church. He returned to his home state of Georgia over a year before that from school and a missionary trip on the West Coast, itching to play some songs that he had written while out there. He found a compatriot in an old high school friend, drummer Tito Pittard, and together they released an EP and rounded up a band that would grow to include guitarist Wesley Swanson and, a little further down the line, bassist Tyler Hill.

During the run-up to Stovall, Hardy was still going through the process of leaving the church, and he was experiencing the world through a fresh set of eyes, away from the heavy indoctrination of religion. The songs on Stovall are about his new experiences with binge drinking and sex and unhealthy habits and the residual guilt that comes from being engaged in all of that after being taught that they were forbidden. Out of fear, he buried those subjects in oblique metaphors and narratives: “I would speak in symbolic or poetic code because I wanted to lie to my extended family and have an alternative explanation to what the song was about,” Hardy explains over the phone. “So I could be like, No, this isn’t about having sex or something. I’m Mormon still.

Over the last two years, though, having found a support system within and because of the band, Hardy had the difficult conversation with his family about no longer being a member of the church, and that’s given him the freedom to be more direct and explicit in his songwriting. On Much Love, the Atlanta-based band’s upcoming sophomore album, Microwave tackles the same topics as before, but with an unflinching gaze and an eye towards the repercussions and fallout. The wonder and fascination with a new lifestyle that was present on much of Stovallhas disappeared and been replaced with disillusionment and disappointment in the vices that once seemed so appealing.



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