No matter what you think of Charlamagne, if you’re trying to advance your music career don’t just dismiss him as a shock jock or as someone taking cheap shots. Yes, Charlamagne’s discourse can sometimes veer off into obnoxious juvenile silliness, but pay attention to the key points of his conversation as it relates to the music business and your music career. From watching countless interviews of The Breakfast Club on YouTube, I took this approach and thought much of what he had to say made common sense.
In a 2012 interview with Montreality, Charlamagne described his philosophy, “I feel like I’m a public servant. I feel like when you hear me on the radio or see me on television, I feel like I’m giving you something. I think a lot of people misconstrue what I do. I think they look at it as hate sometime, but I’m just a young brother with an opinion. I feel like honesty makes the world go round. I feel like when you lie about something or sugar coat something it stagnates it. Especially in the culture of hip hop. The culture of music. I’m not saying that my word is law, but think about how much wack shit we let fly. Not even just musically but just the behavior… That’s why I think the game needs referees, man. It needs critics. It needs cultural critics to be like ‘nah that’s corny’, or ‘nah that ain’t right’…That’s what I bring to the game.”
Can you handle tough feedback? If so, read and reflect on this list of insights from a 16 plus year radio and TV veteran who has watched the rise and fall of many music careers.
*** WARNING. VIDEOS CONTAIN PROFANITY. ***
15. You’re not Beyonce.
Beyonce is a superstar. She is known worldwide, and anything she does gets a lot of attention. A year ago Beyonce dropped a full album and 17 videos without any marketing and promotion. This approach was practically unheard of, but Beyonce pulled it off with flying colors. Should you or other artists try this strategy? Charlamagne’s take on this subject is to bring women and artists in general back to reality. “You’re not Beyonce.”
View Tip #15
14. Be the best YOU, you can be. Don’t start out trying to take out a legend.
Charlamagne thought Young Thug’s concept for “The Barter 6” was wack. He thinks new artists should not attempt to “take out” a legend. Charlamagne urged giving Lil Wayne and other legends the respect they deserve.
View Tip #14
13. If your social media activity doesn’t translate into dollars, it doesn’t make sense.
Charlamagne hopes artists can find a way to turn their social media popularity into dollars. If they don’t, he doesn’t see the point of posting and retweeting things just for laughs.
View Tip #13
12. The media is holding up a mirror, reflecting society. If there is anybody determined to destroy your career, it’s you.
“Stop giving the devil something to print.” That’s Charlamagne’s comeback to artists who gets mad at media outlets for reporting bad press about them. In this video, Charlamagne tells Chris Brown and other artist to look at their own destructive behavior as the problem. Not the outlets that report them.
View Tip #12
11. Don’t contradict yourself.
Charlamagne thinks Kanye West is a walking contradiction. In other words, Charlamagne thinks Kanye’s branding and messaging conflicts with his actions. “You can’t denounce corporations when you’re in business with corporations…He’s just sending a lot of mixed messages and I think it’s B.S.”
View Tip #11
10. Surround yourself with real friends- not yes men.
The value of having good friends is well known. Charlamagne describes a few benefits of having real friends versus people who agree with everything you say and do. “You need friends around you that are going to check you when you’re wrong, and give you props when you’re right. You’re not doing yourself any favor by having a bunch of yes men in your corner who will let you self destruct.”
View Tip #10
9. Just because someone puts you in a good position, it doesn’t mean they’re your friend.
One of Charlamagne’s big breaks came in 2006 when he began working with Wendy Williams. He viewed Williams as a mentor and felt so close to her that he considered her a friend and like family. Charlagmagne was surprised and admittedly hurt when Williams denied even knowing him.
View Tip #9
8. When you believe in something so much, and you think about something so much, it can happen (the law of attraction).
Before the infamous sex tape and the reality show Keeping up with the Kardishians, in 2006 Kim Kardashian would sit in Wendy Williams’ office trying to get an interview on The Wendy Williams Experience, a 2006 radio show/reality show that aired on VH1 . Charlamagne remembered Kardashian believing in herself and speaking about her future in a manner that she felt was sure to happen. Kardashian told Williams’ assistant her master plan of becoming a reality show star. Charlamagne remarked, “She called it. Everything that is going on with them now, I remember her having those conversations…I remember respecting the hustle…”
View Tip #8
7. Just grow and maintain. Don’t worry about getting back to your peak.
Maintaining musically is more realistic than trying to recapture a red hot year. Charlamagne elaborates with examples of artists who are still relevant because they focused on working consistently instead of trying to make lightening strike the same place twice- artists like 50 Cent, Lil Wayne, Jay Z.
View Tip #7
6. Go where the love is. Expand out of your genre.
Don’t be afraid to evolve and try new things. Like any career a music career will have its ups and downs. After riding waves of success most superstar artists experience periods where their music isn’t capturing enough attention. In this video Charlamagne agrees that Nelly should do a country music album.
View Tip #6
5. Value an objective fan over fans that always tell you, you’re great.
Fans are vital to your success, but Charlamagne uses a fallout he had with Nicki Minaj to caution artists against getting caught up with too much hype. “My father use to tell me all the time. You’re never as good as they say you are, and you’re never as bad as they say you are. So, if everybody’s telling you how great you are somebody’s lying, and if everybody’s telling you how bad you are, somebody’s lying over there too.”
View Tip #5
4. Learn how to keep the public’s eyes on you and leverage that buzz to move to the next level.
If you’ve watched tip #8, you’ve already watched part of this video. I’ve kicked back the time stamp to the part where Charlamagne talks about the Kardashians and their ability to stay in the public eye. “The Kardashians are the epicenter of the pop culture universe. They know how to keep the attention on them at all times.” Charlamagne continues talking about this subject at the 6 minutes and 22nd timestamp, where he describes how the Kardashians are able to connect the dots of media and marketing to leverage the buzz about them.
View Tip #4
3. Be Authentic. You can’t reheat cold french fries.
Charlamagne thinks Mase is not being genuine in terms of his career, “You can’t go from rap to doing something as extreme as being a pastor then come back to rap…then he left again. Went back to the church, but then you come back with G-Unit… trying to be Murder Mase again.”
View Tip #3
2. Don’t sign or do business with a label who doesn’t pay their artists
Charlamagne doesn’t understand why Rich Homie Quan would do business with Cash Money Records, “You see Lil Wayne suing him [Birdman] for 51 million dollars, he’s notorious for not paying people. He didn’t pay Juvenile. He didn’t pay B.G. He didn’t pay Mannie Fresh. Turk’s looking for his money. Why would you sign with Birdman?”
View Tip #2
1. Hard work will always beat talent.
Have you read Outliers: The Story of Success? Charlamagne has and in this video he paraphrased one of the book’s key points, “Talent, hard work, and preparation creates opportunity. Once you get put in certain opportunities, it will create privilege for you. period. Hard work will always beat talent when talent doesn’t work.”
View Tip #1