We live in contradictory times. On the one hand, people have a more sophisticated understanding the world -- its historic and present-day inadequacies particularly -- and on the other, we’ve seen a rise in a loud kind of willful ignorance. Folks have never been more woke. But they’ve also never been so dumb.
Enter the “Brilliant Idiots.”
That’s the name of the weekly podcast in which “The Breakfast Club” radio personality Charlamagne Tha God chops it up with comedian Andrew Schulz about all manners of topical controversies, exchanging ideas and debating the world in a tone that is as friendly as it is pugilistic.
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This Saturday, the two opinionated co-hosts will bring their show to Boston’s Wilbur Theatre, where fans will participate in a live recording of the podcast. We spoke with Charlamagne — who also anchors MTV2 shows like “Uncommon Sense,” and will release his first book, "Black Privilege: Opportunity Comes to Those Who Create It," in April 2017 — and got his thoughts on all the most abhorred world leaders: Fidel Castro, Trump and Kanye.
On the podcast, you and Schulz can disagree on a topic, even sharply, and then move on without much grudge. How essential do you think it is for people to not just disagree but go into it, and then compartmentalize and move on?
I mean, that’s the key to life. If we could have more people that could agree to disagree, the world would be a better place. I think that 98% of the problems in the world are because of a lack of communication.
I feel like if black people and white people could sit around and talk about race relations, or if straight people and gay people could sit around and talk about sexuality, or religious people could sit around and talk about the reasons they believe in their different religions, without it being a conflict, without the other party feeling offended because someone shares different views with them, I feel like the world would genuinely be a better place.
Like today, on the radio, [we had] a conversation about Fidel Castro. Because Fidel Castro is one of those people that is a primary example of having a mixed legacy. I don’t have an opinion on him one way or the other, I just am very aware of all the good he did and I’m aware of all the bad he did, and I don’t have to pick a side. We don’t need to be emotionally invested in any of this stuff.
It’s funny, though. I feel like a lot of it is an attachment to being right. Everything is an argument that people have to win.
The thing is, man, the only reason people don’t share their honest, true opinion anymore is because they’re afraid of people disagreeing with them. I put up a post the other day about Fidel Castro, and all I said was, y’know, "RIP," and I said, “Hey, the Honorable Louis Farrakhan always would tell me stories about how [Castro] truly wanted to empower people,” and I put “Thank you.” And I just got bombarded with a whole bunch of people like, “You f—g idiot, how dare you praise Castro?”
I’m like, I’m not praising him at all. I’m just telling you what somebody told me about him, and from the information that I know, as far as what he did in assisting black and brown people in the fight against white supremacy and colonization, he did do a lot. So I said "Thank you," but I don’t have an opinion either way on the subject.
Well, speaking about controversy and not caring about people’s opinions… Kanye West. Everybody knows Kanye can be a headache, but is he worth it?
Listen, Kanye is absolutely worth it. And the reason I say that is because Kanye’s like a gun. Kanye is the epitome of a gun because when it’s in the right hands, it can be used for the right things. Cops carry guns because cops want to protect and serve the community. But then, when you have that same gun in the hands of a rogue cop or a cop who may be scared of the community he’s policing you can see the negative things that can happen because of it. So for me, Kanye is a person who has power, and when that power is used for the right things he’s definitely worth it.
And that’s why when everybody jumped out the window [last] weekend, like "Oh my god, Kanye’s crazy." I’m like, "Why is Kanye crazy when he says something you disagree with, but when he says something you agree with he’s a genius?" All we saw this week was the same old Kanye we’ve been seeing for years -- he rants, he has these “verbal streams of consciousness,” this is what he does. But as soon as he’s pro-Trump, as soon as he’s talking out against Beyoncé and Jay Z—now he’s crazy? Nah, I’m not buying that.
The Trump stuff was jarring to me, because as a dude that’s gone to a lot of Kanye shows, those are about as “post-racial” an environment as I’ve seen.
Kanye West shows -- I don’t think anybody brings people together like Kanye. Drake shows and Kanye shows, I went to both this year, and those are the most diverse shows I’ve seen in my life.
Do you think black audiences and white audiences perceive Kanye in radically different ways, or do you think it’s more the same than different?
I think everybody appreciates Kanye for being Kanye. I think as a black audience, the black audience holds Kanye very close to our heart, and I think it hurts us more when he says things like he’s pro-Trump, because Kanye is someone that’s always stood on the front lines for us. I mean, Kanye is the guy who stood around and said, “George Bush doesn’t care about black people." He really jumped out there and spoke for the people. He always had a lot of socially conscious stuff in his music.
The main thing for me, when I heard him make those statements about Trump, it wasn’t the fact that he was pro-Trump — I wanted to know why. Because for me, a person that, you know, stands on a foundation of hatred and bigotry I’m not supporting in any way, shape or form, because that’s just something I don’t believe in.
I don’t believe in: "Just because you love black people and hate everyone else — cool." That’s not how I move. I don’t like prejudice, period. I don’t care if it’s sexuality, race, gender, I don’t like discrimination in any way, shape or form. Class. So I need to know why you wanted to vote for Donald Trump, because Donald Trump standing on that foundation of hatred and bigotry is enough for me not to support him, but I would love to know why somebody like Kanye would.
That brings us to the unavoidable Trump. New Yorkers are known for taking things in stride — do you think what’s going on with Trump Tower becoming a “White House North” is going to push those limits?
I think it’s very disrespectful. We can’t have someone in the White House who’s treating being the president like a part-time job. You can’t pick and choose whether or not you’re going to live in the White House. You can’t say things like, "I can run my business and be president at the same time. I can do both of those perfectly." No, I don’t want you to multitask when it comes to being the president of the United States of America, I just don’t.
Donald Trump being in New York isn’t safe for the city of New York. Go to the White House, where the White House is damn-near like a fortress and they’re equipped to protect a president. Don’t put other people in harm’s way just because you want to continue to have this mentality of being anti-government and anti-establishment and you don’t want to live in the White House. He shouldn’t even have that option.
I just think what he’s doing is very dangerous, man. Especially right now with the holiday season, and all these people down there on Fifth Avenue that are shopping and you’ve got Secret Service on every block. It’s just too easy a target, man, and I think it’s socially irresponsible for Donald Trump to do that.
You’re doing a live recording of “The Brilliant Idiots” this Saturday in Boston. What do you look forward to in doing the live show?
The best part about the live shows is just the interaction with the people. Just sitting around, communicating in real time. It’s the same reason I love radio, you know? When they can call in and talk to us. That’s why I want to do live TV, like an old Larry King-style model of a show, where people can actually call in, and social media can be in real-time. That’s an element I really want to bring back.
You got any Boston memories?
Oh man, I love Boston. Man, like, I wouldn’t be in the position I’m in right now if it wasn’t for Boston. The two people who hired me at Power 105.1 in New York are from both Boston — my man, G-Spin, and my man, Cadillac Jack. Those two guys took a chance on a crazy dude like me. They understood exactly what I was about. They knew I had been fired four times, and it was just a risk they were willing to take. And I think that risk has paid off and paid often, and in a lot of different ways. And when they were courting me for the station, I flew to Boston, and G-Spin took me to a Celtics-Miami Heat game. This had to be like six or seven years ago.
The Big Three era.
Matter of fact, it was the Big Three era, but it was when LeBron had just signed to Miami. It was like his first game, and it was against Boston. I went to that game, and then, you know, I went out. G-Spin took me to a club that night, and there was this young lady in Boston who was one of the most beautiful women I’d ever seen in my life, and, you know, her [place] was great. So I have amazing memories of Boston. I really appreciate Boston.
If you go
The Brilliant Idiots Live! With Charlamagne Tha God & Andrew Schulz
December 3 at 7 p.m.
The Wilbur Theatre
246 Tremont St., Boston