The podcast industry has evolved from a nerdy endeavor no one cared about into a $1 billion market that has completely changed the entertainment landscape. Podcasting broke down barriers for Black creatives to have their often silenced voices heard; all you need to host a podcast is recording equipment, an internet connection, and opinions. As a result, there has been nothing short of a Black renaissance in the podcast industry, where retired rappers, stay-at-home parents, ex-convicts, and 9-to-5 workers can speak their truth to power and connect with (potentially) millions who feel the same way.
From Dave Chappelle sharing more jokes on his Midnight Miracle podcast than anywhere else in 2021, to Black businessmen Rashad Bilal and Troy Millings equipping Black people with financial literacy, here are nine of the best Black podcasts to help you get your life right.
The Midnight Miracle is essentially the audio version of Dave Chappelle’s FOMO-inducing 2020 private comedy shows in Dayton, Ohio, that included everyone from Chris Rock to Tiffany Haddish. Chappelle — who hosts the podcast alongside Yasiin Bey and Talib Kweli — imbues the show with his penchant for format-busting that solidified The Chapelle Show as one of the most inventive comedy series in history. In one episode, Chappelle and his gang are chatting with rapper Sada Baby before Chapelle pauses the episode mid-discussion to tell the listeners how the conversation was so ridiculous and had a naturally comedic pacing, that the writer in him decided to transform it into a sitcom-style episode complete with a laugh track. The Midnight Miracle hosts have told stories that compelled guests like David Letterman leave the recording and Questlove question his existence, while also inspiring thousands of people to pay the $2.99 per month required to listen.
Former ESPN journalist and acclaimed writer Jemele Hill’s Jemele Hill Is Unbothered podcast flips the idea of being bothered on its head, giving some of the most talked about celebrities the space to address what irks them and how they handle those issues. She has welcomed legendary singer Patti Labelle to dispel the decades-long misconception that she’s a diva, Jill Scott to explain her thought process behind depicting sexuality in her music, and Issa Rae to delve into the lack of diversity in the Golden Globes’s voting process. You’ll definitely leave every episode of Jemele Hill Is Unbothered entertained — but you may also leave with a few life hacks on how to stay unbothered, a skill we all need to develop.
Don’t listen to 85 South while drinking anything; this Black-hosted podcast will have you spitting out that liquid in bouts of uncontrollable laughter. 85 South episodes, hosted by comedians and Wild ‘N Out alums Karlous Miller, DC Young Fly, and Chico Bean, are southern-fried kick back sessions where the conversation typically goes wherever the pungent cannabis in their air takes them. The jokes — about everything from men being absentee fathers to what a Black Super Mario might be like — come at such a torrential pace, the guests have no choice but to get swept up in the hilarity and tell one-liners they may have never told anywhere else. Case in point: Where else can you hear ESPN anchor Elle Duncan freestyle about conceiving a “quarantine baby”? 85 South is it.
Netflix has been inching its way into the podcast arena for the last three years, but when it debuted the Strong Black Lead podcast Okay, Now Listen in April 2020, the streaming giant leapt in the right direction. Okay, Now Listen, co-hosted by media personality Scottie Beam and culture journalist Sylvia Obell, is a comforting display of the multitude of the Black woman experience. Obell and Beam can dissect racist microaggressions and police brutality, as well as expound on the trickle-down effect of women faking orgasms to satiate the male ego and love of all things Beyoncé, in equally erudite ways. If for nothing else, Okay, Now Listen is a constant dismantling of any monolithic view of Black women that says they can’t have a Hot Girl Summer while also taking down the patriarchy over mimosas at brunch.
Over the last decade, professional athletes have been adamantly fighting back against the notion they should do nothing but shut up and dribble (or score goals, touchdowns, et al.), and I Am Athlete is a great example of some such pros controlling their narrative. Co-hosted by former NFL players Brandon Marshall, Chad Johnson, Fred Taylor, and Channing Crowder, the podcast delves into real-life issues with athletes that extend beyond the sports they play. Miami Heat legend Dwyane Wade discusses raising a transgender daughter, Rick Ross gives tips on Black business ownership, and NFL Hall-of-Famer Deion Sanders gets candid about a suicide attempt during his prime. These normally reserved Black entertainers and athletes open up while speaking with their peers in a way that makes I Am Athlete a paradigm shift in the perception of Black masculinity in both sports and entertainment.
Former VIBE Editor-in-Chief — and one of the preeminent culture critics of all time — Danyel Smith has probably forgotten more music history than most of us will ever know to begin with. That’s what makes her podcast, Black Girl Songbook, a must-listen for any and all music fans. Each episode finds Smith celebrating Black women in the music industry, drawing on her 30-plus years of journalism experience to contextualize the racially divisive marketing of Macy Gray as “different from the Black girl norm,” how The Miseducation of Lauryn Hill saved hip-hop following the deaths of the Notorious B.I.G.and Tupac Shakur, and why we need to put some historical respect on Ciara’s name. With guests including H.E.R., Corinne Bailey Rae, Deborah Cox, and Brandy, Black Girl Songbook is one of the most beautiful reminders of how Black women have forever shaped the music we love.
Financial literacy is a persistent issue in the Black community, where only 55% of Black Americans own stocks and the median white family has 10 times the wealth as the median Black family. On Earn Your Leisure, co-hosts and Black businessmen Rashad Bilal and Troy Millings go deep with entrepreneurs and financial experts about strategies the average Black person can implement to better their financial circumstances. Think: how to turn your car into a mobile business, how to sell houses you never own, and how to turn debt into good credit. Earn Your Leisure is an essential podcast for any Black person ready for financial freedom.
Girl, I Guess is dripping with unapologetic Blackness, from the colloquial title to discussion topics like normalizing Black girl luxury. Media maven Karen Civil and entrepreneur Ming Lee co-host the podcast as a hybrid hangout/therapy session, where stories of tripping on psychedelic drugs aren’t far removed from conversations on Black motherhood. But the biggest draw of Girl, I Guess is the co-hosts’ genial personalities, which seemingly inspire their guests — including Black life coaches and Black fashion stylists, as well as artists like Mario and O.T. Genesis — to be more relaxed and open than they typically are in interviews. Frankly, Girl, I Guess isn’t so much a podcast as it is a healing session that Civil and Lee let us in on.
Only an encyclopedic knowledge of sports and pop culture like Jones’s could draw larger-than-life parallels between Tiger Woods’s impact on golf’s popularity and Bob Marley’s impact on reggae. “Not many who really like Reggae but love Bob Marley,” Jones quipped in a 2018 episode. The Right Time with Bomani Jones sees the ESPN personality mixing knowledgable sports commentary, perspective on everything from race to economics to tech, and hilarious storytelling from both his personal life and his listeners’ voicemails. The show doubled its downloads in 2020 while we were all adjusting to COVID-19, leading all ESPN original podcasts in the year and resulting in the worldwide leader in sports expanding the show’s output from two to three times a week.
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