Pittsburgh-based writer Damon Young releases new podcast on Spotify | Pittsburgh City Paper

Pittsburgh-based writer Damon Young releases new podcast on Spotify

click to enlarge Pittsburgh-based writer Damon Young releases new podcast on Spotify
CP Photo: Jared Wickerham
Damon Young
Pittsburgh-based writer and culture critic Damon Young has had a lot of success over the years, including with his acclaimed memoir What Doesn’t Kill You Makes You Blacker. And now he has one more highly anticipated project under his belt.

Young has announced the release of Stuck with Damon Young, a new Spotify exclusive podcast about being Black, having money, and the everyday decisions and tense conversations that come along with both of those things.

Young launched the podcast with Crooked Media, a network that plays host to many popular podcasts like Keep It! and Lovett or Leave It.

Young told Pittsburgh City Paper he was first approached by Crooked in 2018 after he hosted a show in Downtown Pittsburgh. Crooked wanted him to do a podcast with basketball star Carmelo Anthony. That podcast didn’t take off, but Stuck with Damon Young was the next project they approached him about.

Interviews for the podcast began in 2020 but, like many things, the pandemic put its release on hold. Initial interviews were done with Jason Reynolds, Samantha Irby, and Nikole Hannah-Jones.

Young says that, initially, a podcast didn’t interest him.

“The idea of doing a podcast wasn’t appealing. People have been asking me about that and I've been thinking about it for years, but it never was a thing that felt very interesting to me. Because I know the work that's involved with that, right,” says Young. “I mean, it takes so much editing and so much reading and researching and making sure that you land the right tone. And I have some anxiety about that because with writing you have more control.”

In the first interview, Young talks with Hannah-Jones about schools, specifically the debate on where to send your Black children to school: a school that may be a better educational experience (usually private schools with majority white students) or send them to a school with more kids who will look like them.

In the episode, Young also talks with his father about his own educational history in an attempt to shake out some ideas on where to send his kids to school. He says he had already made up his mind by the time the conversation with Hannah-Jones rolled around, but the talk was still valuable.

These kinds of topics are no stranger to Young, as his career stems from exploring his own experiences with racism in his hometown. He regularly wrote about the topic on platforms like Very Smart Brothas, the blog co-founded with fellow writer, Panama Jackson. Young left VSB in May 2021 after helping to run it for 10 years.

Another episode delves deep into the topic of sex and sexual anxieties. In this episode, Young is his usual candid, funny self, while still balancing the seriousness of the topic. He says that sharing his own experience with others helps everyone involved feel like less of an island.

“When I give myself the space to be uncomfortable and to explore some of this really deep self-consciousness and anxieties, then other people start to raise their hands, like, ‘Holy shit, I felt that way too. I experienced that too,'” he says. “And there's way more of us who have felt that in some capacity than there are people who it has just been easy breezy the entire time, their entire sexually active life. So the validation from that vulnerability does matter. It does have an effect.”

The two episodes were sharp, funny, and complicated. They didn’t shy away from saying the awkward things. It’s an incredibly vulnerable project that I can’t wait to hear more of.

Who would be Young’s dream podcast guest? His late mother, who has been the subject of essays he's written for publications like Esquire.

“That would mean that she was still alive, right?" says Young. "Then also, I would just ask her things about parenting and school choice and the decisions you make as a parent."

Stuck with Damon Young will officially release Tue., March 22 on Spotify.