DJ Envy: HBCU Ambassador

DJ Envy touts his Hampton University Pirate Pride whenever he gets the chance. You can spot the HU banner behind him as he hosts The Breakfast Club with Angela Yee and Charlamagne tha God. He also challenges Howard University alumni, many of whom have been guests on his radio show, to a friendly game of “Who’s the Real HU” from time to time. It’s all love, though!

DJ Envy credits his mother with encouraging him to attend an HBCU, specifically Hampton University, where he majored in Business Management, and describes his experience on of the best of his life. That is why he tries to give back whenever he can. He also loves cars, so it’s not surprising that he teamed up with Chevrolet for Discover the Unexpected, a fellowship geared toward HBCU students. Six fellows from various HBCU’s were paired with four newspapers, given a $10,000 scholarship, a $5,000 stipend, access to industry mentors like DJ Envy and Fonzworth Bentley (both HBCU grads) as well as a brand-new Chevy Blazer. Chevy, in partnership with the National Newspaper Publishers Association, has provided the chosen students with the chance to go on a remarkable road trip to various parts of the country. The idea is to give them experience in journalism while getting the opportunity to “discover the unexpected” about their communities, careers, and themselves.

DJ Envy served as one of the mentors, lending industry experience about work, business, and how to create and maintain a thriving career. American Urban Radio Networks caught up with the iconic DJ to chat about why this unique program, as well as HBCU’s, are important.  

On Joining the Program

Chevy reached out and they told me about what they were doing and I just thought it was dope, Me going to Hampton, being in radio, and thinking to myself that I never had these opportunities—the fact that they took a bunch of students from different HBCUs, Howard, Grambling, and Hampton of course, and basically taking them on a tour and teaching them and giving them a headstart when it comes to journalism—I just thought that was a wonderful thing. There’s so many times that I wished that I had an opportunity to do something like that. Now I actually get the opportunity to help some of these students.

For me it was more than just being a mentor. It was also being real. And when I say being real, it’s easy to be like, “I did it this way and I made a left here and then I did this,” But it was telling them the ups and downs of the industry—the difficult parts, the hard parts, the grind, what it really, really takes. Sometimes, people will just tell you about the craft, but not teach you anything outside of that. And for myself, being in the music industry, it’s more than just being on the radio. That’s a part of it, but it’s also doing so many other things, whether it’s learning to be a producer, learning to be a DJ and or learning how to invest and how to market myself, how to keep your name out there, how to be relevant. Those were a lot of the conversations that me and Fonzworth Bentley had [with the fellows].

 On HBCU Impact

For myself, in this crazy world [and] that’s one thing I didn’t have to worry about [in college]. I didn’t have to worry about somebody judging me because of my skin color or where I’m from or anything like that. I could go to school and just be myself. We were all there together and we were all there to try to uplift each other, and that’s what I thought was dope. I have five kids. Hopefully, one of my kids decides to go to an HBCU. I won’t force them, but I would definitely recommend it. I actually took my daughter on a college tour. We went to seven schools, and five of them were HBCU’s, so we’ll see where she goes. She’s a senior this year. But that’s what I want her to do. I think she will be appreciated and respected more at an HBCU.

On Supporting HBCU’s

I talk about this all the time, but just imagine if one pro-athlete decided not to go to a Duke or decided not to go to USC or University of Miami and decided to go to an HBCU. That would change the landscape of everything. Just imagine if Zion [Williamson], who just got drafted number one and went to the Pelicans, went to Hampton or went to Howard. Or imagine if Kobe Bryant or Lebron James went to an HBCU. It would bring so much money into those schools. 

On His Contribution to Discover the Unexpected

I’m what they took away from me is that hard work will get you to a position. You need talent, but hard work is just as important. And I’m sure they see how much I work because I went from The Breakfast Club to get on the airplane, to mentoring, to doing a show right after, to flying back and being on the radio the next morning. Work hard. You can never just be stagnant. It’s about pushing yourself to get to that next level.