There is one podcast that I will always listen to right away, as soon as it comes out, even if I’m in the middle of another show. I’m thrilled that it’s about to come back for a second season. I’m talking about “The Midnight Miracle” on Luminary starring old friends Dave Chappelle, Yasiin Bey (formerly known as Mos Def), and Talib Kweli. The show is fun, brilliant, and sooooo damn Black.
There’s definitely a boys’ clubhouse vibe to it all as these three talk through whatever moves them, but nothing about “The Midnight Miracle” sounds or feels like a normal podcast — it’s carefully edited and beautifully sound designed, so it’s not just three people talking; it’s like a piece of sonic art in and of itself. The three go back and forth telling stories or jokes or rhyming or singing — I don’t always know where they’re going with a given story, but I’d be willing to follow them wherever they want to go. Each episode of the show is different, so it feels more like an anthology TV show where the hosts tackle entirely new ideas each episode. It’s like the show becomes something new each time. Part of the thrill is the surprise in uncovering where each episode goes.
“The Midnight Miracle” isn’t ostensibly about anything, but then again, it’s about Blackness and hip-hop culture and the genius of these three artists and their camaraderie. They’re showing you the path to making an unforgettable podcast — be born with immense talent, spend decades mastering a craft, build deep relationships with a few other people who are also masters of their craft then come together, spit game and have someone spend enough money to edit your conversations into an artful soup. There’s a freeform-ness to the show. It feels like it flows out of whatever’s on their minds, and that’s relaxing even as the direction of the episodes can be perplexing. Is there an arc? How long will it go? We never really know. Who’s going to show up? Maybe David Letterman, maybe Chris Rock, maybe Sada Baby. Who knows? The New York Times said season one felt like “the world’s most interesting dinner party.”
The New Yorker said, “It bears no resemblance to the formulaic shapes that podcasts typically take… The podcast draws on decades of friendships and shared histories on the fringes of Hollywood, drifting from story to story, fading hazily in and out of carefully selected musical interludes. The form allows Chappelle to blend storytelling, insight, and provocation more subtly than in his standup sets, making you feel like you’re eavesdropping on intimate conversations inside a beloved celebrity’s home.”
Chappelle is, of course, the star of the show, the alpha among alphas, and for Chappelle completists who love to consume anything he’s got, this show is a must. But for anyone who’s trying to envision another way of podcasting besides two or more people having an improvised conversation, this is an extraordinary example of how you can approach a crowded genre and do things in a fresh way. Podcasting is filled with celebrity-hosted shows that are like vanity projects where one star has a tepid chat with another star who happens to be their friend, and it’s cute, but you can tell it’s not nearly as good as the convo they’ll have after the show when the mics are off. “The Midnight Miracle,” to me, feels like Chappelle and Bey and Kweli talking the way they talk to each other for real.
I am constantly looking for podcasts to listen to that are unique and fresh and play with the form — podcasting is a free space where you can do almost anything you can imagine. But for the most part, podcasters don’t mess with the form because there’s generally so little money in podcasting that it doesn’t incentivize people to spend lots of time trying to do something unique. But if you’re not worried about money, and/or you have a company like Luminary backing you, then you can do something special. “The Midnight Miracle” is special, and I can’t wait for season two, which we are told will be coming back soon. I don’t have a release date, but I hear that it was recorded around the globe as Chappelle and Black Star toured. They had me at hello.
Touré hosts the podcast “Touré Show” and the podcast docuseries “Who Was Prince?” He is also the author of seven books.
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