Charlamagne tha God went from controversial radio sidekick to famed radio personality and MTV host in a few short years, making some friends and enemies along the way. Now, a new memoir chronicles his journey from wide-eyed newbie to popular shock jock.
Charlamagne (né Lenard McKelvey) can add New York Times best selling author to his long list of titles, thanks to his new book, Black Privilege: Opportunity Comes to Those Who Create It. And the 36-year-old says he thought long and hard about the attention-grabbing title.
“I was just sitting around like, ‘Yo, what’s the message I really wanna convey? What are the two things in my life that have always identified me?’ ” Charlamagne tells PEOPLE. “So for me, it was two things: being black and being from South Carolina.”
He says he thought about naming the book after his hometown of Moncks Corner, but decided that he wanted something “broader.”
“I’m like, ‘What would be dope? You know what, it’s just an honor to be black. It’s a privilege to be black. Like, Black Privilege,” the star tells PEOPLE.
In the memoir, he writes about everything from his humble Moncks Corner beginnings to his headline-making interview with Kanye West — all while staying true to his mantra: “Bite my tongue for no one.”
“It’s not saying success comes to those who create. It’s just that all anybody wants is an opportunity at the end of the day,” he tells PEOPLE. “So, I feel like if you live a true, authentic life — if you’re your true authentic self at all times — you can create opportunities for yourself.”
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The significance of such a title is not lost on The Breakfast Club voice, though.
“I understand the play on words with white privilege. But, for me, I simply feel like it’s a privilege to be black. I feel like it’s an honor to be black. I feel like when you are talking about black privilege you’re talking about something spiritual,” he says.
Charlamagne adds: “Of course, when you look at the word ‘privilege,’ it means a set of advantages granted to a certain community, but it also means ‘an honor to be.’ I feel like it is a privilege and an honor to be in this black skin. I don’t feel like it’s a burden. I feel like it’s strength in being who and what I am.”