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Black Privilege Book Summary, Review, Notes

Black Privilege is an autobiography of Charlamagne tha God (Lenard Larry McKelvey), a radio presenter and host of The Breakfast Club. The story follows Charlamagne from his childhood at Moncks Corner, South Carolina, all the way to his success at The Breakfast Club.

Book Title: Black Privilege: Opportunity Comes to Those Who Create It
Author: Charlamagne tha God
Date of Reading: July, 2017
Rating: 7/10

Table of Contents

What Is Being Said In Detail:

Black Privilege is an autobiography of Charlamagne and each chapter in the book covers a part of his life. From childhood to prison to getting fired multiple times and going back to live with his mother, the book doesn’t hold any punches. The book is divided into Charlamagne’s principles of life:

  • PRINCIPLE 1 – It’s Not the Size of the Pond but the Hustle in the Fish
  • PRINCIPLE 2 – PYP (Pick Your Passion, Poison, or Procrastination)
  • PRINCIPLE 3 – Fu*k Your Dreams
  • PRINCIPLE 4 – There Are No Losses, Only Lessons
  • PRINCIPLE 5 – Put the Weed in the Bag!
  • PRINCIPLE 6 – Live Your Truth
  • PRINCIPLE 7 – Give People the Credit They Deserve for Being Stupid
  • PRINCIPLE 8 – Access Your Black Privilege

Most Important Keywords, Sentences, Quotes:


“I’ve been a bully (and been bullied). I’ve been a drug dealer. A so-called thug. A so-called nerd. I’ve been to jail a few times. I’ve come within inches—on more than one occasion—of fulfilling my father’s prediction for Darnell and all the other knuckleheads in our town: broke under a tree, dead in the ground, or rotting in jail.”

“As someone who has been fired countless times, I can promise you there are no “losses” in life, only lessons. From getting let go from Taco Bell (by my own sister no less) to getting canned from Wendy Williams’s show to every single time I’ve been fired, a short time later I’ve always landed in a better position. As long as you don’t compromise who you are, no matter how many pink slips you get, there’s always going to be something better out there for you. Learn how to trust what I call “divine misdirection.”

“Remember s*it is the best fertilizer; it’s what helps the flowers grow.”

PRINCIPLE 1 – It’s Not the Size of the Pond but the Hustle in the Fish

“Geographical location doesn’t determine what kind of success you will have, but your psychological position always will. How are you going to make waves in a bigger pond when you haven’t even learned how to cause a ripple in the pond you’re in? When you stop complaining about where you are physically and start focusing on where you are mentally, that’s when you will start to transcend your circumstances.

“With hip-hop and books empowering me, the excuse “I’m from this small-a*s town” simply wasn’t going to be a good enough reason for me not to make it. I’d learned that from Malcolm X to Method Man, from Louis Farrakhan to the Notorious B.I.G., so many of my heroes had grown up in circumstances as bad, if not worse, than mine. If you let society tell it, none of them should have achieved what they did.”

“While it’s important to rise above your roots and transcend your circumstances, it is also key that no matter where life takes you, you must never get detached from those roots. You can go from swimming in the smallest pond to controlling the oceans like Poseidon, but if you lose touch with your core, you’re gonna find yourself adrift. Make no mistake about it, Moncks Corner is my core. And as any real trainer will tell you, when your core isn’t strong, everything else is going to fall apart.”

“When the roots are deep there is no reason to fear the wind. —African Proverb”

PRINCIPLE 2 – PYP (Pick Your Passion, Poison, or Procrastination)

”Destiny is not a matter of chance, it’s a matter of choice.” That’s a quote from the nineteenth century American orator William Jennings Bryan.”

“That’s why if you take one thing away from these stories, don’t let it be, “Man, Charlamagne was bad when he was a kid.” Instead, let it be, “As bad as he was, Charlamagne still managed to turn it around.”

“Then remember that all these other young thugs out here, no matter how lost they might seem, can make similar changes in their lives. As long as they accept responsibility for their decisions. Just like I did.”

“Staring at the broken glasses on the sidewalk while my cousins laughed at me, I realized I was tired. Tired of being bullied. Tired of not having friends. Tired of always looking over my shoulder. “Fu*k this smart s*it,” I told myself. “I gotta be down with them guys if I’m going to survive.” This time, I wasn’t getting my glasses fixed. My days as Mr. Magoo were over. I was casting my lot with my thug-a*s cousins. Which is when the real bulls*it began.”

“After a couple of weeks of fifty-dollar slabs, I graduated to a “quarter spoon.” It was basically seven grams of crack that, when split up correctly, would earn you about a hundred dollars off every gram of crack you produced. So if you spent $250 on your initial pack, with a little bit of cooking, you could end up earning around $600 to $700 for your trouble. Not bad for a high school kid.”

“Once, during a stint in night school, I was reading a book that mentioned the famous French king Charles the Great, or Charlemagne, as he was known in French. I learned he was a renowned warrior but also was famous for spreading education and religion. That sounded very cool to me. Since I was already going by “Charles,” I figured why not spice it up and start calling myself Charlemagne?”

PRINCIPLE 3 – Fu*k Your Dreams

“Once I was in the room, I never tried to muscle my way onto the mic, but I made my presence felt. I’d crack little jokes to keep Willie loose, cut out newspaper articles for him to talk about, pass him notes on funny things he could say about artists, and generally keep the energy upbeat. After a few months of playing the background, people began to notice I was having a positive impact on Willie’s show. Ron White, who was the music director at the time, approached me at one of the station’s outdoor events. “I hear you popping up now and then on Willie’s show,” he told me. “Would you be interested in having a spot on air yourself?” he asked me. “Hell yeah,” I quickly replied.”

”Listen, Charlamagne, I know your dream is to be a famous rapper, but fu*k that dream. You’re just not that good. “You are, however, great at being a radio jock,” he continued. “Focus on that instead. And if you still want to be involved in hip-hop, learn the behind-the-scenes skills of running a label. Because it’s never going to happen for you as a rapper. You need to dead that dream.”

“Thankfully Dr. Evans woke me up, but not enough young people have a presence like that in their lives. Instead, they spend years and years chasing their “dream” of being a rapper, even though the world keeps telling them it’s not for them. It really breaks my heart to think of all the people who could have been great engineers, architects, doctors, and lawyers but never even considered those dreams, let alone chased them. All because the entertainment game looks so glamorous.”

“This is why it’s critical that you be able to tell the difference between someone telling you “Fu*k your dreams” in order to get you on the right path or simply telling you “Fu*k your dreams” because they’ve already given up on their own. I trusted Dr. Evans because I knew he had taken the time to observe me, to see what I was capable of. Plus, he was an accomplished individual in his own right. He was someone who strove to get the most out of life. Someone who chose pursuing passion over procrastination. Those are the types of people you want to listen to.”

PRINCIPLE 4 – There Are No Losses, Only Lessons

“I did learn one thing that day: no amount of classroom instruction can ever match the experience you’ll get from actually performing a job.”

“I was “just a local radio personality in Columbia,” I fired back that “My mouth is going to take me farther than your butt.”

“…got renewed in 2007, I was given a full-time salary of $70K a year. For someone whose sole income had been hosting parties in Columbia for $400 or $500 a pop, it felt like a windfall.”

“So I decided to keep my black a*s home and watch our daughter while Mook Mook went to work every day for a blood lab in Manhattan. Now, for a lot of men, that situation would be the very definition of a loss. Going from a high-profile job to running a daddy day care while his woman goes out and brings home the turkey bacon. Not me. I consider those days to be one of the highlights of my life. The reason is simple: it helped me build a lasting bond with my daughter.”

“This period in my life is a prime example of the principle that returning to your core doesn’t always have to entail taking a physical trip. Very few things will center you and recharge your spirit like caring for your child.”

“Why would you want to make an enemy out of Jay?” he asked. “I’m not trying to make any enemy out of anyone,” I explained. “I’m just trying to put good content on the air.” Obviously there was no right answer for me to give, so he got to the point: “Sorry, but we’re moving in another direction. We’re going to have to let you go.” For those keeping score at home, that’s Radio Industry: 4, Charlamagne: 0.”

I have politically incorrect views and potentially dangerous rhetoric. So when you’re someone like me, there’s always a chance you can get fired.”

Charlamagne tha God Quote: “I did learn one thing that day: no amount of classroom instruction can ever match the experience you’ll get from actually performing a job.”

”Look at you, you used to be with Wendy and had a radio show in Philly,” she gloated. “Now you back living at home with Mama.” It was intended to be a low blow, but what she failed to mention is that while I was moving back in with our mother, my sister at that time had never even left. “This is temporary for me,” I reminded her. “But it’s permanent for you.” I know that’s a harsh thing to say to your sister, but I like to think those words had a positive impact on her as well. Because after that she did move out of my mama’s house and is currently living in Atlanta—with our sister. She’s trying to better herself.”

“The greatest was that you can never—even if the situation blows up in your face—hurt yourself by helping others.”

“The same with Envy. You know how many people ask him to play their record every day? Today we’re partners on the biggest hip-hop radio show in the country, The Breakfast Club, but Envy didn’t know me from Adam back then. He didn’t have to help me. But Envy is a giver. So when you go on Instagram and see his big mansion, fleet of fancy cars, and, most important, his beautiful family, know that’s how he got to where he is today. Just like Swizz. They got all that through giving.”

PRINCIPLE 5 – Put the Weed in the Bag!

“Later my contract came through and I found myself part of the station’s all-new morning show The Breakfast Club.”

“Spending a year in Moncks Corner waiting for the right opportunity had been hard, but in the end it had proven to be the right choice.”

“Too often we’re given bad advice on what it takes to get from where we are to where we want to be. We’re taught that the only accurate sign that we’re moving toward success is making money. We get caught up sweating the results instead of embracing the process. Even though embracing the process is the only way you’re ever going to get what you want out of life.”

“Yet I ended up spending a year and a half working for Wendy for free. I didn’t earn a dime from the show during that period. But I don’t feel like I wasted a single second.”

“This is what many kids today fail to understand: you’re supposed to be busting your a*s for “nothing” when you’re in your twenties. And sometimes even your thirties. That doesn’t mean you’re being exploited. It means you’re building up the skills, connections, and reputation to eventually build a platform of your own.”

“I’ve said it before, but I’ve got to say it one more time for the people in the back: there is no book, no cheat sheet or secret formula that’s going to allow you to skip over any rung on the success ladder without putting in the work first.”

“Tiffany Williams from MTV eventually saw it and was impressed enough to invite us into the building for a meeting. Once we were inside, the rest was history. But we created that initial traction ourselves. No one put us on, or gave us a break.”

“On my own. I didn’t partake in any secret Illuminati Initiation ceremony where I had to sacrifice a hamster in front of Jay Z, Beyoncé, Kanye, and Rihanna. Nor was I sworn into a secret cabal of gay music executives. If you believe in that sort of s*it, ladies and gentlemen, I don’t know what else to tell you. But just know that while you’re making excuses about your favorite artists’ success, someone else is out there putting the weed in the bag and creating opportunities for themselves.”

“Notice that I didn’t allocate any time in my schedule for socializing, or just hanging out. I’d say out of my week, 95 percent of my waking hours are spent either working on my career or with my wife and kids. I wouldn’t have it any other way. The question is, are you willing to put in those”

“Just like I find it insulting when people say I must have joined the Illuminati, or be gay, to achieve my success. Trust me, if all you had to do to be Will Smith was give an old movie exec a blow job, there would be a lot of Will Smiths running around out here (unless of course Will’s head is just that fire). But there aren’t. Because success like the kind Will has enjoyed only comes through putting in thousands and thousands of hours’ worth of work and sacrifice.”

PRINCIPLE 6 – Live Your Truth

“When you are completely honest about yourself, there is very little people can say about you that’s going to have a negative impact. It’s hard for a person to slander you about something you’ve already revealed to the world. As I like to say, “No judgment or opinion formed against you shall prosper when you live your truth.”

“I was molested by my cousin’s ex-wife when I was around eight years old. I should call her out by name, but I won’t. So let’s call her Linda. She was probably in her late twenties or early thirties at the time and was supposed to be watching me after school when my grandmother wasn’t around. All Linda needed to do was feed me snacks and make sure I didn’t get into any trouble, but for whatever twisted reasons, she added making me suck her tit*ies and giving me head to our activity list.”

I can’t say I was traumatized by the sex, because the truth is I liked it. When she told me, “If you tell a soul about this, I’ll never let you do it again,” I damn sure kept my mouth shut. But clearly this wasn’t a healthy situation.”

“Try it. Pick something that you’ve always been self-conscious or guarded about and start sharing it with the world. If it’s physical, show it. If it’s emotional, share it. I’m confident you’ll see that, far from making jokes at your expense, people will be sympathetic, even supportive. And most important, you’re taking all the power out of it. At the end of the day, everyone respects honesty. When you free yourself of all the insecurity and anxiety that’s been weighing you down, you’ll be shocked at how high you can soar.”

“When all you’ve been getting is preapproved validation, hearing the hard truth can mess your head up. I’m sure that’s how Kanye felt. All the more reason he needed to hear it. If the people closest to you won’t be real with you, how else can you improve? How else can you push yourself? How else will you know when you’re playing yourself?”

PRINCIPLE 7 – Give People the Credit They Deserve for Being Stupid

If they’re still stuck in the same place where they were ten or fifteen years ago, they’ll never point you in the right direction.

“But let’s say you had taken the time to show them respect and introduce yourself. “Great to meet you, Kanye. Where are you from? What do you do around here?” Who knows where those conversations could have led. Maybe to a friendship. So when they were popping, when they were the hottest producer in town, they would have given you a beat, or produced a song for you when everyone else was begging to work with them. Simply because you took the time to show them that respect way back when.”

“When you make the mistake of thinking you know it all, you’re going to shut yourself off from so much wisdom. I see talented people fall into this trap all the time. They experience a little success and then think their talent is enough to carry them the rest of the way to the top. If they meet someone who doesn’t seem as gifted, or skilled, as they are, they’ll dismiss that person’s advice out of hand. But here’s a little secret: there are a lot of people out there whose main talent is their ability to coach. Phil Jackson wasn’t a star as an NBA player, but he’s probably the greatest coach in the history of the game.”

Charlamagne tha God Quote 2: “I’ve said it before, but I’ve got to say it one more time for the people in the back: there is no book, no cheat sheet or secret formula that’s going to allow you to skip over any rung on the success ladder without putting in the work first.”

“That was the case the first time I went down on my friend. I though I was putting in real work, but she stopped me in mid slurp and told me straight up, “Charlamagne! You do not know how to eat pussy!” A lot of men would have gotten upset in that moment. Not me. Like I said, I’ve always prided myself on being extremely open to constructive criticism. Even when I’m standing on the verge of getting it on.”

“”Then I would get down on my knee,” as I got down on my knee. Then I pulled the ring out and she knew what was happening. Instant tears. I asked her to marry me. And she said yes.”

“And being my true soul mate, the next words out of her mouth were: “You have no idea how good I’m going to suck your dick tonight.”

PRINCIPLE 8 – Access Your Black Privilege

“The most overwhelming evidence that you’re special is that you’re here at all. Fellas, next time you’re about to bust a nut, shoot it on your lady’s stomach and then really look at that puddle of se*en. Consider all those squiggling sperm on her belly. Each one of them had one mission and one mission only: find its way into an egg and create a life! At that fateful moment your daddy decided to shoot up your mama’s club (that’s my expression for eja*ulating inside a woman), out of the millions of sperm he let loose, YOU were the only one who accomplished its mission! A single winning sperm out of the 250 million that are in each nut.”

“Despite all of that, however, in the words of Maya Angelou: You may kill me with your hatefulness, But still like air I’ll rise.”

Remember, I was raised a poor black male in South Carolina. I lived in a trailer. I sold drugs. I was kicked out of two high schools and did time in jail twice before I was eighteen. I had a big nose and a funny name (okay, a few). My face had several shades. I know what it means to be counted out. To be overlooked. To be profiled. I’ve experienced all those things. And continue to experience them to this day.”

Book Review (Personal Opinion):

Black Privilege is a solid autobiographical book about Charlamagne. There are some great principles in it that are universal for a good life, and also some great book recommendations. Also, Charlamagne really goes into details about his life, explaining his time in jail and getting molested as a kid so it’s a really authentic book.

Rating: 7/10

This Book Is For (Recommend):

  • A millennial looking to make it in the music industry
  • Anyone who wants to make a name of him himself in the business world
  • A hustler looking for guidance in life

If You Want To Learn More

Here’s Charlamagne talking about Black Privilege:
Breakfast Club

How I’ve Implemented The Ideas From The Book

I most certainly follow his 6th principle— live your truth. When you’re authentic in the world, then you can’t get hurt by others. You take away their power to inflict harm to you when you own yourself fully. That means owning your successes but also your failures. But that ends up liberating you from any shackles imposed on you by anyone.

One Small Actionable Step You Can Do

Follow his 5th principle— put the weed in the bag. Well, don’t literally put the weed in the bag. This means that you need to start doing the grunt work before you hit success. So start from the bottom if you want to climb to the top.

Black Privilege Opportunity Comes to Those Who Create It by Charlamagne tha God - Summary Infographic