During live tapings of Ja'Cory King's podcast, things can get a little tense. King, who goes by Hollywood Kas, recalls a particularly impassioned debate during a taping at Deep Ellum's Drugstore Cowboy. "I remembering thinking, 'This feels like a fight,'" he says.
The source of the conflict was King's assertion that Jay-Z is a better rapper than West Coast iconoclast Tupac. Even listening to the episode, it sounds like someone might throw a punch at any moment. Then, all of a sudden, King breaks it up. He starts cracking jokes until the audience is wracked with laughter.
Co-host Joshua Wilson, aka JayWil, says outbursts like this are common on the show. That's why he and King named it Don't Take It Personal.
“Anytime we talk, we really want to elicit strong emotions from the audience,” says Wilson, who once ran the internet radio show Live From The Underground and is also known for his web series Matters of the Heart.
Don't Take It Personal is a biweekly podcast available on SoundCloud and iTunes that focuses on sports, politics and hip-hop. It premiered last winter and has featured guests including rapper-producer Nick Grant; Dallas beat-maker Sikwitit, who is responsible for scoring the 2016 XXL Freshman; comedian and rabble-rouser Andrew Schulz of the Brilliant Idiots podcast; and the creative director of New York creative agency Dinner Land, which counts Billboard among its clients.
The show’s fan base has expanded considerably since it debuted. Both King and Wilson say they expected 25 people to show up to the first live taping. Instead, 150 attended. They have listeners in New York City, Ireland and Germany.
King and Wilson are longtime friends. “I’m the divisive one,” King says. He credits Wilson's skills as a facilitator for making the podcast interesting. Wilson moderates and occasionally plays devil's advocate, steering the course for King and their wide lineup of guests. “He provides a certain structure that wouldn't be there if it’s just me," King says.
The hosts' hope for Don’t Take It Personal is that it will provide insight to listeners and panelists alike. Moments like the row about Tupac are meant to encourage people to express and reconsider their opinions without preparation. “It’s kind of refreshing to defend your opinion in real time,” King says. “I like hostility.”
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Recurring guests — such as rappers Mga-Czar, 88-Killa and writer-actor Ejike Jamal of the podcast Problematic Safe Place — personify the generational conflict in rap between “old heads” and young folk. On one episode, the rappers go head to head with their junior, Jamal, when he argues an early death and meager discography take Biggie out of the running for top five rappers of all time.
“Typically what helps us grow is when we are strong in one area but lacking in another,” Wilson says. “But we may see a kindred spirit strong in one area that we may be lacking in, and that helps us grow.”
At one time, rappers gave their support to hot blogs Combat Jack and Byron Crawford. Today, it's podcasts like Drink Champs, The Brilliant Idiots, The Joe Budden Podcast and Complex’s breakout YouTube show, Everyday Struggle.
With their broadcasted debates, Wilson and King want to “build a character that’s lacking in this generation." In February, they'll take their show on the road. "Society is looking for people to tell them what to think, [as] if people are afraid to have a unique opinion and be criticized nowadays,” Wilson says.