Ear Hustle: The Men Behind the Hit San Quentin Podcast

Ear Hustle: The Men Behind the Hit San Quentin Podcast


– [Man] Where is he at, man? (seagulls crying) – Oh, there you go, I’m
gonna go grab Shane. – [Woman] Okay, go get him. – [Man #2] Grab Shane. – [Man] Lemme grab Shane. I see some dudes. – [Jamilah] San Quentin is one of America’s most infamous prisons. It opened in 1852 and houses California’s only death row. But the majority of inmates who
live here are not condemned. They’re serving sentences that range from a few years, to a few decades. The prison is located
near politically liberal San Francisco and because of that, it’s also home to some of
the most unique programming inside of California’s penal system, programming that includes the production of a podcast called Ear Hustle. – I have two questions. One you may wanna answer,
one you may not wanna answer. One is: what was your first
fight in prison like? – Uh, my first day in prison… – First fight. – My first day in prison… (laughing) – That was the second question. First day, all right. – [Jamilah] Against all odds, San Quentin’s podcast became
one of 2017’s most popular. – I’m Earlonne Woods. – [Nigel] Earlonne is serving a 31-year to life sentence for attempted
second degree robbery, and he’s the co-host and
co-producer of Ear Hustle. – [Jamilah] I wanted to
visit the prison to see how the producers were prepping for 2018 and the second season of the show. We’re trying to get to San Quentin prison. Do you— – Where? – San Quentin Prison,
straight? Okay cool, thanks. To get to San Quentin Prison from the highway, you drive through San Quentin village, a long, bay-side road flanked by quaint, single family homes where middle-class white
folks walk their dogs. The cul-de-sac ends at the
penitentiary’s perimeter gate. – Are you guys gonna be
doing filming or something? – Yes. – Okay. – Alright, so here we go. We are here to visit the folks who make the podcast ‘Ear Hustle.’ It’s produced entirely by inmates
behind the prison’s gates, in collaboration with
volunteer, Nigel Poor. – It’s really shocking when you walk in here because the garden is so lovely and it’s taken care of by
Frankie and a couple other guys. But when we start walking, you turn right, you go down a hill and then the turn in will come into the yard. – Get my good side, but let me comb my hair real quick! (laughs) How y’all doing today? – [Jamilah] There are lots of things that are made inside
of prisons these days. Furniture, license plates, American flags, even dentures, but you might not expect a podcast to be among them. Ear Hustle doesn’t rely
on reporters like me to tell its stories,
everything is made inside, including the music and sound design. And what’s most striking about
the show is its intimacy. – [Podcast] I like animals
because I communicate with them better than I can people. The first critter I had… – [Podcast] And he
was laying on the floor and he was like, “I’m all right”. Excuse me, I’m sorry, I don’t
know if I can finish this. – [Podcast] I knew
as a child growing up my family nickname for me was “Ugly.” – [Podcast] I’ve had
some sexual experiences, but it’s been a big gap from 19 to 43. – [Lyrics] Big up all
my niggas in the grave, RIP Little Reg, at least
you in a better place, man. Think about my young niggas gone. Damn I wish heaven had a
phone forever, forever… – [Jamilah] The show’s been covered in dozens of national news outlets. It’s been the focus of specials, and it even reached number one on iTunes, just a month after its debut. But I was curious about what producing the show meant for the
participants who were still behind bars with an
audience in the free world. – All right. All good. – [Nigel] The thing I
wanted to talk to you about was your first visit with your mom. The first time your mom
visited you in prison. – Oof. I haven’t hugged someone
in a long time, right? So I didn’t know if my hand goes around her shoulders or her neck. I didn’t know if it went like diagonally like two 45 degree
angles, so I didn’t know. Like, this is my mom, and I
don’t know how to hug my mom. – How long had it been
since you seen your mom? – 13 years. – I grew up in a household where talking wasn’t encouraged, so when I started dealing with
the things that I dealt with that lead me to prison, I
didn’t have nobody to turn to. I didn’t even know how to
actually express myself. I didn’t even know how to open up and, you know, let somebody into my world because—I was afraid of judgment, of being neglected, not
being taken seriously. – I personally would
like for the young guys to listen to these
stories, because you know when I was growing up, people
used to glamorize prison, it was just part of the culture. It wasn’t like, oh, don’t go to jail! It was like you’re seeing
guys get out of prison, they was looking like Lee Haney you know, it was like, wow! – I hope that when people hear this, that it makes it easier for people to have conversations
about the harder things you know, dealing with bullying, dealing with abuse, dealing with grief. Even, the birds and the
bees, like you know, it’s the things that we believe that the world will teach us, we don’t have to learn the hard way, and
prison is the hard way. – [Jamilah] Antwan has about five years left on his sentence, and Earlonne has at least ten before he
is eligible for parole. I wanted to see how the media lab work stayed with people once
they got out of prison, so I met up with Troy Williams. – A little over a year ago I was serving a life sentence, with many of
the men in the room today… – [Jamilah] Troy was instrumental in building up San Quentin’s media lab. – It helped me understand a purpose. It made my incarceration mean something. Because, everybody else
is always trying to tell the story of the black man or the black person’s story, and it’s like I need to tell my own
story, because every time somebody else tells my story,
they never get it right. They never send the message
that I want to send, and the message that I want
to send is never received by the people that need to hear it. And so if that’s the case,
how does that empower us? What does that do for our community? – [Jamilah] It’s clear that Troy, like Earlonne and Antwan,
hopes that these stories can actually reach the
communities of color that need to hear them most. But podcasting is a new
and quickly evolving medium and it’s not exactly clear who’s listening and who’s benefiting. Meanwhile, Antwan and Earlonne are still in the media lab, hoping to reach people whose stories
are still being written. – [Antwan] You know we get postcards, or Nigel tells us like “we
hit this many downloads!” So it’s real, but it’s unreal because we’re still in here, like our day-to-day lives haven’t changed. We have to just continue to work. We have to just be okay
with being in here, (camera click) but still producing something that a lot of people actually enjoy. It’s overwhelming at times,
but I think it’s worth it. – The world only knows what it’s been taught who I am, right? And the world has been
taught to think about us inside of this little
box, and I desperately want to expand that
box, but not necessarily just for the world, not just for like white America, like I want
to speak to my people. – [Earlonne] Do you remember
what was going through your mind when you first
learned of your sentence? – [Interview subject] Pain, hurt
and pain… I cried. – [Interview subject] I couldn’t critically think, I couldn’t process anything, I was just overwhelmed for like a
year and a half later. – [Interview subject] At first I was in denial. I was thinking no there’s no way they’re going to give me a life sentence of 21. And when the judge slammed
the gavel down and said…

13 thoughts on “Ear Hustle: The Men Behind the Hit San Quentin Podcast

  1. Is this the SNY yard? I dont think gen pop inmates are ever allowed to talk to media. Because the homie in the back said so.

  2. Just finished listing to “bird baths and lock boxes” of season 3. I was looking for the song at the end of the episode ‘lost in time’ and came across this vid. Loved it. Great to put faces to voices

  3. I just started listening to the podcast! Just finished the ep about Rauch and his animals while incarcerated! So interesting!

  4. Earlonne's sentence was just commuted. A thousand congratulations to my favorite podcast host. You will be home for Christmas.

  5. They need black people to hear this wonderful message. White people are listening. This was a great podcast. I hope this helps our culture.

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