The tension in the air was so thick you could’ve cut it with a kitchen knife. The show hadn’t even started yet and Birdman, the founder of Cash Money Records, was already squaring off with his hosts. Across from him sat Charlamagne tha God, DJ Envy and Angela Yee, otherwise known as “The Breakfast Club,” Power 105.1’s premier morning radio show.
That fateful morning in April 2016, they were hosting a fuming music mogul in their New York studio. Over the past few months, the show had been discussing the rapper’s public controversies — everything from bad business deals to his possible involvement in the shooting of Lil Wayne’s tour bus — and he’d had enough.
Birdman’s goons filled every square inch of the room that wasn’t occupied by crew or equipment, yet all three hosts seemed more amused than intimidated. After all, this was their home court. But once they were all on the air, it was game on. Birdman wasted no time getting straight to the point.
“I wanted to come look you in your face like a man and tell you how I feel,” the Cash Money executive told Charlamagne. He then uttered the words that would turn him into a viral meme overnight: “When y’all sayin’ my name, put some respek on it.”
With that, the alpha and his pack stormed out of the studio without another word. The interview lasted less than two minutes, but the video of it posted on “The Breakfast Club” YouTube channel racked up over 18 million views.
“The Breakfast Club” is known for wild and memorable interviews with celebrities and influencers, which has made the show a staple of hip-hop media, but their entire body of work is so much more than that. Here are 5 reasons to listen in on this one-of-a-kind show.
1. Each host has their own unique story
Angela Yee was born and raised in Brooklyn and graduated from Wesleyan University with an English degree in 1997. From there, she interned for the Wu-Tang Clan and even worked for Eminem’s clothing line, “Shady Limited.” After that, she moved on to Eminem’s radio station, “Shade 45,” which kick-started her career in broadcasting. She then joined “The Breakfast Club” in December 2010 and hasn’t looked back.
DJ Envy is a Queens native. He got a lucky break in the early ‘90s when DJ Clue, a New York mixtape legend, hired him as his gardener. As he worked, he would beatbox like it was nobody’s business. That is, until DJ Clue overheard him and took the youngster under his wing.
From there, Envy would go on to work with the likes of Jay Z, 50 Cent, DMX and Joe Budden. He got his start in radio by mixing for Hot 97, even earning his own show called “The People’s Mix.” When the opportunity came to join “The Breakfast Club,” he took it and ran with it.
Charlamagne tha God grew up in Moncks Corner, South Carolina, of all places. As a teenager, he sold drugs and was arrested twice for possession and intent to distribute. After his third arrest, he served 41 days in the county jail which, upon his release, prompted him to start attending night school. This led to his interning for local radio and he’s been in broadcasting since.
His first big break came when he landed a job working for Wendy Williams, where he began to distinguish himself with his tough, upfront questioning during interviews with celebrities. After he was laid off from Williams’ show, he found a new home on “The Breakfast Club.”
Each host’s different background helps establish a firm, yet effective dynamic on the air. Yee is the voice of reason and enjoys a bit of gossip here and there, Charlamagne is the controversial hard line questioner and Envy handles the intros, transitions between segments and does some mixing as well.
Geespin, Power 105.1’s former program director, praised the trio’s balance: “They just work in synergy … if you want to use a sports metaphor, use Phil Jackson. They run the ‘triangle offense’. All three of them touch the ball every time.”
2. They cover literally everything
It’s good they have a winning formula because “The Breakfast Club” essentially has no limits. Politics, music, gossip, sports, relationships, you name it, they’ve probably touched on it. The show has also hosted almost every big name rapper in the game today, along with a slew of other celebrities and even some politicians. What makes this show so great, though, is that every interview gives the audience something to remember, for better or for worse.
Who could forget when Kodak Black went on the show donning a black mask and claimed to be the best rapper alive? Or when Trevor Noah sat down for an hour-long discussion on racism in America and dropped at least 50 pearls of wisdom? No matter what your tastes are, at some point “The Breakfast Club” will cover something that will make you turn up the radio.
3. Chill vibes for days
With handles of alcohol on a table behind Charlamagne’s seat, hip-hop posters and merchandise everywhere, the show’s studio is the last thing that comes to mind when one imagines an office. Yet, every day the hosts use this laidback environment as a platform to address some of the hardest topics.
Envy explained in an interview, “We can have a real conversation with somebody and be open … you get a real interview … we’re gonna talk about politics, we’re gonna talk about what’s going on in your life, we’re gonna talk about what’s going on in the world, we’re gonna talk about what you’re feeling.”
This relaxed pace has even cracked tough media-trained politicians such as Kamala Harris and Corey Booker. When she was on the show, Harris admitted to smoking marijuana in college during a discussion about her views on legalization, and Booker opened up about his love life shortly before a detailed conversation about the pharmaceutical industry.
4. They prioritize the black perspective in mainstream media
It’s impossible to ignore the impact “The Breakfast Club” has on the African American community. Being nationally syndicated, the show’s importance lies in letting African American people of all types speak for themselves to the nation.
Kanye West touched on this in a 2015 interview: “That’s why I respect this show [“The Breakfast Club”], because this is a voice to society. This is the voice of, I’d say, the barbershop. This is the voice of the streets.” B Dot, a hip-hop writer for Rap Radar, even went so far as to call the show “America’s Radio Show,” and it’s not hard to see why.
With an audience consisting of over 60% African Americans, the show provides a space for young African Americans to delve into not only the music they listen to, but also contemporary issues and their impact on them as individuals. For example, Kamala Harris’ interview brought up her interactions with marijuana and Snoop Dogg. But she also explored uneven incarceration rates for marijuana charges that put African American men at a disadvantage, despite similar usage rates between whites and blacks.
Charlamagne even brought in Jordan Belfort for an interview on his book about the art of selling in which he also discussed his rapid downfall involving drug addiction, in hopes of inspiring his younger audience members.
5. They’ve kept their poise even after going mainstream
Many radio shows and podcasts often get too big for their britches once they hit the national markets and end up popping like a balloon. “The Breakfast Club” has kept itself going even amidst exponential growth by simply keeping it in its original format. Instead of trying to do too much, the three hosts attempt a balance between simply living their lives and capitalizing on what fame they do have.
Yee co-hosted “The Real,” a daytime radio talk show, back in 2017 and even appeared in an episode of “Empire.” Envy has done some work with MTV and will probably never stop mixing. Then there’s Charlamagne, who has written two books, co-hosts a podcast called “The Brilliant Idiots” and has even been known to appear on popular talk shows such as “The Late Show with Stephen Colbert.”
“The Breakfast Club” airs from 6 a.m. to 10 a.m. on weekdays. Being nationally syndicated, it airs in most major cities. Be sure to tune in for a relaxed, yet provocative start to your morning. Or, as Charlamagne puts it, “righteousness and ratchetness.”