Podcasting When I Should Be Reading

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A writer I follow on Instagram asked for podcast recommendations in honor of International Podcast Day. That caused me to pause and take inventory of my podcast subscriptions.

I tiptoed into the podcast-listening world. I went from Soundcloud to Google Music to a now-defunct app that let you earn points per minute listened and now I’ve landed at Spotify. It’s not one of the platforms that let’s your rate or leave reviews, like iTunes or Stitcher, but I like it.

The first few podcasts I listened to without subscribing were the ones of the three co-hosts of The Breakfast Club on Power 105.1. Charlamagne tha God and Angela Yee’s podcasts, The Brilliant Idiots and Lip Service, respectively, were up and running before DJ Envy threw his hat into the ring with The Casey Crew. After months of listening, I quit. They mostly talked about their marriage and their kids. While I enjoyed the behind-the-scenes discussions of their family life, my life was and is the total opposite: single with no kids. Hell, while they’ve been together since their teens, I’m chronically single and childless.

I do listen to and love Deadass with Khadeen and Devale. While this Brooklyn “millennial couple” talks about their family life with “three whole boys,” the dynamics of their relationship me crack me up. I followed Devale and Khadeen on Instagram for their antics. Their posts are carefully curated and edited, but still authentically them (at least I think so). I first learned about the Ellises when they were one of the couples featured on the OWN series Black Love. Even though he’s a former football player and they both had a large social media following, I had no idea who they were. I’ve enjoyed watching their glow up as Devale earned a role in Tyler Perry’s Sistas and Khadeen has launched her own lifestyle website.

I love Luvvie Ajayi. I follow her on all social media platforms. I first became aware of her when a friend posted her blog post, #BLAXIT: More Things We’re Taking With Us If We Leave about the hypothetical Blaxit (Black exit, a play on Brexit) years ago. From there I subscribed to her blog, AwesomelyLuvvie.com. Her podcast, Rants and Randomness evolved from short videos on Facebook. These videos included book recommendations, which were always books I had already read, like The Broke Diaries by Angela Nissel. Luvvie was already a friend in my head, but me being a book nerd had to upgrade her to Play Cousin.

Of course I bought her book I’m Judging You: The Do-Better Manual and I signed up for her social network LuvvNation, which admittedly I’m not very active on. Instagram has my heart above all other apps. I was also at the Brooklyn stop of the book tour at St. Francis College. Crissle, co-host of The Read  podcast moderated that book talk. I’ve been a listener from Day 1 when Luvvie started the Jesus & Jollof podcast with Yvonne Orji from HBO’s Insecure. The way they rib on each other and their Nigerian culture is freaking hilarious. I posted about them to my stories so much that a cousin with her own lengthy list of podcast subscriptions hit the subscribe button.

Said cousin is the one who convinced me to subscribe to The Brilliant Idiots instead of my spotty listening. I was on the fence about Dead Ass (because of the family-centered content), but she wanted a listening buddy. She also got me into The Read, Gary Owen’s Get Some and The Donnell Rawlings Show. Our text chain is full of “OMG Did you listen to _______ yet?” We’ll quote a line or reference a topic (usually pop culture-related) and the other will reply with LOL or OMG. It’s funny how we rarely speak on the phone, but our bond is strong thanks to shared podcast listening, TV shows and discovering new recipes. When another cousin went to her for podcast references, she felt my suggestions would be more refined and sent her my way.

I sent screenshots of my podcasts, but keeping her tastes in mind, I strongly recommended Essence magazine’s Yes, Girl!, Luvvie’s Rants and Randomness and Demetria Lucas’ Ratchet and Respectable. She and Iboth have been following Demetria’s writing career since early 2000s at Essence, so I knew she’d enjoy it. When Demetria first launched her podcast, she said it would be a temporary thing unless the demand remained strong and if she could get some sponsors. Well, nearly two years later she’s still here with sponsors including Audible and Beachbody, and has guests from time to time. Our similar takes on pop culture have me convinced we’d get along in real life, but friend in my head will have to do.

I don’t remember how or why I started following Amanda Seales on Instagram, but I would sit and watch all her Instagram stories no matter how many little dashes I saw at the top of the screen. When she announced she was starting a podcast called Small Doses, I was in. When she wrote a book of the same name, I pre-ordered it. I was looking forward to meeting her on her book tour during her Bronx stop at The Lit Bar. Unfortunately, it was the same evening as my then-boyfriend’s farewell outing before his deployment to Iraq. He’s gone (from my life not the world), and I’ve got an unautographed, but read, copy of the beautiful Small Doses. The pages are pink and the original artwork is stunning. For now the closest I’ve come to meeting Amanda is when I attended Smart, Funny and Black at the Apollo Theater in Harlem. By the way, I was also there for the live taping Jesus and Jollof the same year.

Although there haven’t been new episodes for months, I subscribe to Hey Black Gurl. My essay Retail Therapy vs Real Therapy was featured on the nascent show’s third episode on March 11, 2020. It was such an honor to have my words sought out and read for someone else’s audience. I sent a group text to the family and posted on my social media. The outpouring of support from family, friends and social media associates was heart-warming. I didn’t see a jump in blog activity or followers, but I visited the blogs and sites of others who were also featured on the podcast.

In addition to Hey Black Gurl, I listen to other self-help podcasts, such as Suze Orman’s Women and Money, Therapy for Black Girls, Oprah’s SuperSoul Conversations, and Women’s Meditation Network, whose 10-15 minute episodes are part of my daily routine. Listening to Jemele Hill is Unbothered and The Michelle Obama Podcast make me feel like a responsible adult. 

Shows like Lovecraft Country Radio and Insecuritea (co-hosted by Crissle from The Read) are seasonal. They’re recaps of the HBO shows Lovecraft Country and Insecure. My cousin launched The Ray Grand Show and it’s inspiring to hear the stories of people living with various disabilities thriving in life. I have yet to listen to an episode of Shut TF Jessie but will once time allows.

I subscribe to dozens of podcasts. It’s impossible to stay on top of all them, especially since many cap at an hour, sometimes two, running time. Since the pandemic hit, I added more to the rotation. It’s a way to stay entertained, especially since I live alone, work from home, and no longer have a commute to enjoy reading time. My reading of physical books has taken a hit, but my consumption of audiobooks has increased. I’ve resumed blogging and journaling. I hear and see sponsored ads about starting a podcast. If I didn’t detest the sound of my voice, I would give it a try, but I’ll stick to being a listener and a writer.

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