Charlamagne Tha God is the host of the nationally revered radio show The Breakfast Club where provocative celebrity interviews help drive the daily national conversation about issues related to hip-hop, race, society, and politics. He is the New York Times bestselling author of Black Privilege: Opportunity Comes to Those Who Create It. And his second book, Shook One: Anxiety Playing Tricks on Me—about overcoming and using fear as fuel—was just released.
When we saw Charlamagne posting meditations from The Daily Stoic on Instagram, we reached out to learn more about his study of Stoicism. Charlamagne also opened up about dealing with anxiety, battling fear, managing ego in the hip-hop industry, and a whole lot more.
Enjoy our interview with Charlamagne Tha God, and we encourage you to check out his new book Shook One.
When did you get into reading? How has that habit changed your life?
I got into reading when I was old enough to learn how to read. My mother was an English teacher so she kept a book in my face. I grew up on the “Book It” program. That was the program that if you read 4 books you would get a free personal pan pizza from Pizza Hut. I used to run through books just to get that pizza. I read everything in the library—all the Judy Blume books, all the Beverly Cleary books, I read every book about the supernatural, UFO’s, Sasquatch, The Loch Ness Monster—anything and everything I could read to get that pizza, I read. My mother gave me great advice which is read things that don’t always pertain to you or your experiences so that’s exactly what I did and why I know the “I must, I must, I must increase my bust!” exercise!!
Do you remember how you first got introduced to Stoicism? Was it through The Obstacle is the Way or The Daily Stoic? Or something else?
Your new book Shook One: Anxiety Playing Tricks On Me is a vulnerable account of your experiences dealing with anxiety. It’s from the Mobb Deep lyric right? People who act tough until they’re faced with something that’s really hard. What have you learned battling your fears?
Yes definitely was from the Mobb Deep song. Growing up being a “Shook One” was the last thing you wanted to be. If people knew you was shook or a pussy, you were an easy target. You was food as they say in the hood. That’s why you have to project this image of being hardcore or tough. Don’t get me wrong, a lot of the lifestyle I was living (selling crack) contributed to my anxiety but my anxiety exasperated that paranoia that came with the streets. It’s interesting you used the word “vulnerable” because I always felt like I was being transparent but now I feel like I’m being vulnerable, it’s a difference. Sharing a story is one thing sharing how that story made you feel is another. The most important thing I learned from battling my fears is that you will either fear everything and run or face everything and rise. Some people let their anxiety cripple them. Me, I use my fear as fuel to push forward and propel me to success.
The Stoics would say that the past is done (no reason to be anxious about stuff that’s already happened) and the future is outside of our control, so we should focus here and now on the present instead of worrying. What do you try to tell people struggling with fear and anxiety?.
It’s hard not to be anxious about things in your past especially if you’ve never truly dealt with them. Also what if something you did in your past negatively affected someone’s future? And their present-day pain is based off something you may have done in the past? Not to mention, worry is a part of life. I have 3 daughters and a wife to protect and provide for—not worrying about them is not an option and if someone out there has figured out the way to be worry-free about your family, please pass that remedy!!! What I would tell people who struggle with fear and anxiety is that it’s natural, just always try to be aware of the source of it. That’s why I believe in rational anxiety and irrational anxiety. Rational is when you know why you’re afraid and anxious. Irrational is when these thoughts just flood your mind and you don’t know where they are coming from, so you’re just scared and having a panic attack for no reason.
What do you think of the role of ego in hip-hop today? Obviously it’s a big part of the lifestyle and it’s what makes the music so entertaining, but it can also destroy promising talent. How have you managed your own ego as The Breakfast Club has blown up?
I think being fired 4x from radio previously keeps me humble. I’ve never once thought I was bigger than any situation. That’s also something that gives me anxiety—my life feels surreal. I don’t even know what I really did to get in this position, other than believe. I truly feel like my thoughts become things. So what gives you even more anxiety is when you get that irrational anxiety in your mind and don’t know why you feel a certain way so you rush to push those negative thoughts out of your head because you don’t want to hold on to them and have them manifest in the real world. I also truly feel like I’ve been blessed with this huge platform but it’s not to exalt me, it’s too be of service to others. I like exalting other people. I’m going to shine regardless—that’s preordained by GOD but it makes me feel even more blessed when I can be of service to others through my platform.
You’re a big Robert Greene fan too. What do you think you’ve learned most from his books?
That strategy is way more important than emotion in any situation and that there is historical context for damn near every modern-day situation.
As the creator of Donkey of the Day, what’s your reaction to hearing that Chrysippus, one of the earlier Stoics, literally died from laughing too hard at a donkey doing something stupid (eating figs, actually)?
I think that’s the way life is right? The same things that make you laugh can make you cry. In this scenario, the things that make you laugh can make you die. It honestly makes me never want to use the term “I’m dying laughing” ever again.