Pick Your Passion: 8 Divine Insights From MTV Star and Author, Charlamagne Tha God

MTV star and author Charlamagne Tha God recently took a break from his busy schedule to talk to employees at Viacom headquarters in New York City. The host of MTV’s Uncommon Sense and the recently-published author of Black Privilege: Opportunity Comes to Those Who Create It told employees about his journey to stardom, from growing up in the small town of Moncks Corner, South Carolina, to working for Jay Z, to finding his truth and passion in radio and on-air TV.

Charlamagne’s close friend, radio host Lawrence Jackson, moderated the discussion, which was followed by a question-and-answer session with employees.

Watch the video:

Charlamagne emphasized finding truth and authenticity in your work, no matter what you do. He considers getting fired (by Jay Z, nonetheless) to be a necessary part of his life—a “divine misdirection.” He thinks everybody should follow their passion, but keep an open mind if their passion doesn’t fit their skillset—not everybody has the voice to sing, for example, but if your passion is music, there are many opportunities to make a career in the industry without trying to rap.

Here are some more of Charlamagne’s insights from the conversation:

On being an author: “I honestly feel like that’s the most fulfilling thing I’ve done so far. I’m from a small town in South Carolina. In order to transcend your circumstances, books and hip-hop music are what allowed me to dream. Looking at a book full of experiences I’ve been through, and hoping somebody will be empowered and touched by the way I was touched by literature is a real dope feeling.”

On privilege: “White privilege is very real. But as a black man, I feel privileged to be black. I feel like when you’re talking about black privilege, you’re talking about something spiritual. When you’re talking about white privilege, you’re talking about something systemic. When you tap into black privilege, it gives you that divine ability to prosper in life in spite of everything thrown in our face to hinder us.

“I grew up hearing about black men being kings and black women being queens and goddesses. For us, we need to get back to that way of thinking. My skin is not a liability. My skin is my strength. For anybody marginalized or oppressed, that’s your privilege. Tap into your unique privilege. Whatever you are, embrace that. I choose to embrace my black privilege.”

BURBANK, CA - MAY 08: Charlamagne Tha God, co-host of The Breakfast Club on New York's Power 105.1,autographs copies of "Black Privilege: Opportunity Comes to Those Who Create It" at the iHeartRadio Theater LA in Burbank, California on May 8, 2017. (Photo by Rich Fury/Getty Images for iHeartMedia)

Charlamagne Tha God autographs copies of Black Privilege: Opportunity Comes to Those Who Create It at the iHeartRadio Theater LA in Burbank, California on May 8, 2017. (Photo by Rich Fury/Getty Images for iHeartMedia)

On superheroes: “I grew up with Marvel comic books, and recently worked with them. I was a big Luke Cage fan, and it was a big thing for me when Netflix decided to do the series. They recently re-issued the Power Man Iron Fist comic books, and the guy who did the illustrations for those books did the illustration for me. It’s like a vision board of sorts. We were marginalized, now we’re superheroes.”

On making it in New York City: “It’s not the size of the pond, but the size of the hustle.

“Even though I was in a small pond, the ripples were making their way to New York City. I cultivated my craft in that small pond, and made a splash.”

On living your truth: “When people say things about you, or have a perception about you, that’s fine. That’s not your true character. If you’re aware of who your true character is, you can be self-aware, self-deprecating. What can people say to you then?

“As a young black man growing up, we often see men who look like us who are successful in athletics or in entertainment. If that’s not your dream, don’t do it.”

On producing top-notch content: “In the TV world, you have executives who know TV and that’s good, but do you know culture and content? You have to know both.

“Give everybody in the room credit. The know-it-all knows nothing. I tell people in radio, you’re never going to beat the internet.”

On being a fan: “I’m always a fan. Once you stop being a fan, you think your word matters a little too much, and people start saying, “Who does he think he is?” I always try to keep that fan perspective.”

On the value of success: “I admire success, but I admire what you do with success. For example, people like Oprah Winfrey, Will Smith, and Jay-Z. They’re doing a lot for culture, they’re moving things forward. Those are the people I admire—not for their fame, or money, but what they do with their prosperity. Like Jay Z’s Kalief Browder documentary [on Viacom’s Spike network] – I can’t attribute that whole documentary to why Rikers is closing, but it brought a lot of attention to the vile conditions at Rikers. I don’t think that story gets told without somebody like Jay Z.”

Fast Company Ranks Viacom As a Top Destination for Those Seeking Work-Life Balance

by Stuart Winchester, Viacom

Sure, Viacom is a great place to work. The offices tend to be seated in thriving, energized urban hubs (New York! Los Angeles! Nashville! Miami! London! Amsterdam!). The aura of iconic franchises (South Park turns 20 this year), new hits that rumble through pop culture (my 8-year-old daughter cannot turn off Nickelodeon’s The Loud House), progressive programming (RuPaul just received his first Emmy nomination for his role as host of RuPaul’s Drag Race), and the mystique of Hollywood (Paramount’s century-old library continues to grow both through franchise expansion and compelling original ideas: Jack Reacher and Xander Cage are fighting back onscreen later this year, while films about alien landings and monster trucks present us with entirely new worlds) linger over the whole operation.

But it’s also a great place to live while working, which earned the company a top-five slot on Fast Company’s list of employers with the best work-life balance.

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LL COOL J on How He Chose His Name, What He Fears, the Three Things Everybody Needs, and More

by Stuart Winchester, Viacom

He’s not just the host of Spike’s incredible Lip Sync Battle and the 2,571st star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame and a critical character on NCIS: Los Angeles and a two-time Grammy Award winner (and five-time host!). And he’s not just the thousand other adjectives so easily plucked from the bromide bin to describe him, from elder statesman of hip-hop to movie star, author and philanthropist.

No, LL COOL J is so much more than that.

As a group of Viacom employees found out when the man who laughingly estimates that he is booked “20 years out” sliced a bit of time from his schedule to visit our offices in Times Square on a recent Wednesday. In a nearly hour-long conversation with Spike President Kevin Kay, the man who launched off the New York streets more than three decades ago by tracking Rick Rubin to his NYU dorm room with a demo tape riffed in an incisive, passionate, often hilarious and always genuine manner. Watching him banter with Kay and the audience, it’s not hard to imagine how the man who dubbed himself “Ladies Love Cool J” out of “wishful thinking” willed his way to success in so many ways.

Here, just a couple highlights from his conversation. Watch the video to see the rest. It’s well worth your time.

On early hip-hop’s influence on him: “There was something about hearing these young men that was so empowering… It attracted me to the music, it attracted me to the culture. Hip-hop is a funny art form, because to me, what I learned being raised at home, is all of the cockiness, all of the arrogance, all of the showmanship is for the song. So tomorrow, if I made an album, it would be probably the cockiest, most arrogant, craziest thing you’ve ever heard in your life, but then, when you get away from that, my mother taught me how to be human and to be normal, and to respect people and to have manners, wipe my feet on the mat before I walk in and say hello to somebody’s mother like I have some sense. I fell in love with the whole idea of being strong. When you grow up in somewhere like Queens, you just want to matter. I just wanted to matter.”

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Darren Star Talks Younger with Viacom CEO Philippe Dauman

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Emmy Award-winning television producer Darren Star visited Viacom’s New York headquarters last week to discuss his career and personal experiences in the media industry. Employees packed the lobby-level event space to watch the event live.

The event was the second installment in our Conversations at Viacom speaker series, which pairs CEO Philippe Dauman with notable creators and personalities who inspire creativity through their stories.

Recognized as one of the most successful television producers to date, Star has created hit television series we all know and love such as Melrose Place, Beverly Hills 90210, Sex and the City and of course, TV Land’s latest hit, Younger.

One big reveal: even with such a mountain of critically acclaimed successes, Star is no stranger to failure. “Rejection is never easy and it’s never happy, but you have to take chances. I used to have an amazing batting average with developing shows and then it went down after a few hit shows,” said Star. “Staying calm is something you learn over time just by doing it and not freaking out so much, but just dealing with the idea that you’ll find solutions as things go on. You have to learn by doing it.”

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