‘Very Smart Brothas’ Founder Damon Young Talks Mental Health Amid Career Transition

“After 13 years of it being the engine I bled the most fuel into, there’s nothing more I can give it, and nothing more it can give me, that wouldn’t divert bandwidth away from other ways to get better at this.” Damon Young wrote this in a farewell letter to the readers of his long-running column Very Smart Brothas (VSB) in May 2021. Syndicated on TheRoot.com, it was a witty, timely and searingly accurate take on life voiced by two intelligent Black Men: Young and his friend/writing partner Panama Jackson.

They offered their insight on everything from sports and being Black in America to learning how to love healthily in relationships. It ran deep. So, it’s no surprise that post his VSB exodus, he’s diving even deeper.

His latest move is a beautifully crafted podcast Stuck with Damon Young, a Spotify Original from Gimlet and Crooked Media. 

In every episode, he unpacks some of his own neuroses on cultural topics alongside a fellow smart person. They also feature an audible essay and skit to round out each conversation. I’d expect nothing less from Young who’s proven to have a gift for making even the most minute topic immensely interesting.

He describes the show as a collision of self-consciousness and social consciousness.

“There’s a different expectation for cisgender men than there is for cisgender women,” he explains. “There’s a different expectation for even taller people than there is for those who are shorter. And so it just goes on. There are all these thoughts that are scrolling in my head about, okay, this is what I’m supposed to do. This is how I’m supposed to be. This is what I’m supposed to think. This is how I’m supposed to react. But then there’s also this collision of all the behaviors that as a person who tries to be progressive and try to do the right thing. Those thoughts also circulating in my head. And so this podcast is again, it’s about when those two things collide.”

This dual consciousness he describes is applicable even to how the podcast deal came about in the first place.

“This is a collaboration with Spotify and Crooked Media,” he said. “Remember three months ago when there was an issue with Joe Rogan who’s show is also on Spotify where he was in the news and it’d been revealed that he said the N-word multiple times and also sharing anti-vax propaganda on his podcast?”

He explains that after seeing several Black podcasters leave the network following the Rogan controversy, he became conflicted on the long-built deal he brokered with the streaming giant.

“I’ve been working on this for two years,” Young said. “Am I going to just leave Spotify and go to another organization that maybe, if you dig a rabbit hole far enough, you’re going to find like a similar sort of politics, a similar sort of person to see a platform on it? So I made the decision to stay.”

And stay he did. The podcast premiered March 14 and has already featured wide-ranging conversations around sexual dynamics in cishet relationships, daddy issues in men, and the fervent need for therapy in the Black community among others.

“If I were going to do a podcast, it would have to be something like this where I was able to explore these things with some really dope really black, really strange, really smart people also who will challenge me, who will ask questions, who will make me consider things I haven’t thought of before.”

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