WBEZ Chicago

WBEZ's critically-acclaimed bio-podcast series explores how an icon is made. Providing an unmatched view from the beginning, all the way to the their rise to the top.

  • 39 minutes 50 seconds
    Making Toni Morrison
    Toni Morrison is widely considered one of America’s greatest writers. She published 11 novels and is the recipient of a Pulitzer, a Nobel and a Presidential Medal of Freedom. The Bluest Eye, Song of Solomon, Tar Baby, Sula and Beloved are just a few of her works that are considered great American classics. Before she was a celebrated author, she was a pioneering editor at Random House, opening doors for a whole generation of Black writers, including Angela Davis, Huey P. Newton and Gayl Jones. Her editorship assembled a strong network of the most prominent Black intellectuals of the 20th century. But Toni Morrison’s road to success was not a straight shot. She only published her first novel around 40 years old. And when she found her footing, she changed the face of American literature. On the Making season finale, host Brandon Pope sits down with leading Toni Morrison scholars, including Dana Williams, Carolyn Denard, Autumn Womack and Courtney Thorsson, to unpack the trajectory of an American literary hero. Making tells the story of a different, iconic figure every episode. Subscribe now.
    21 March 2024, 7:00 am
  • 42 minutes 43 seconds
    Making Fred Hampton
    “I don’t believe I’m going to die slipping on a piece of ice. I don’t believe I’m going to die because I got a bad heart…I believe that I will be able to die as a revolutionary in the international revolutionary proletarian struggle.” - Fred Hampton, 1969 Fred Hampton became the Chairman of the Illinois Chapter of the Black Panther Party when he was just years out of high school. His oratory talent and intellectual grasp on leftist literature quickly shot him to stardom in activist circles. But, his leadership did not last long. In 1969, when he was just 21 years old, he was assassinated during a raid on his home orchestrated by the Cook County State’s Attorney’s Office, the Chicago Police Department and the FBI. “He knew the power and potential of Fred Hampton,” former Congressman Bobby Rush said of the FBI Director at the time. “So I’m telling you, the man was nothing but greatness.” Today, in a special Black History Month episode of Making, in collaboration with The Rundown podcast, we tell the story of iconic Chicago liberation activist, Fred Hampton. Our hosts Brandon Pope and Erin Allen sat down with original members of the Black Panther Party, attorneys who fought his post-assassination lawsuits in the 1960s and family members who carry on his legacy. Making tells the story of a different, iconic figure every episode. Subscribe now.
    29 February 2024, 8:00 am
  • 34 minutes 39 seconds
    Maya Angelou: Going from Strength to Strength
    In just 86 years Maya Angelou lived dozens of lives. Perhaps best known for her seminal autobiography I Know Why The Caged Bird Sings, Maya Angelou is one of the most celebrated literary minds in history, whose poetry and prose has touched generations of readers. But before Caged Bird, Angelou danced and sang on and off Broadway, earned the moniker “Miss Calypso” in the 1950s, called dozens of American cities and African nations home, and even became the first Black woman to work as a cable car conductor in San Francisco. On this episode of Making, host Brandon Pope sits down with Rita Coburn, co-director of the Peabody-Award-winning PBS documentary Maya Angelou: And Still I Rise; Randal Jelks, professor of African and African American studies and American studies at the University of Kansas; and Dr. Maxine Mimms, the founder of the Tacoma Campus of Evergreen State College and a longtime friend of Angelou. “Her main word was courage,” Dr. Mimms said, “The courage to love, the courage to walk, the courage to move.” Making tells the story of a different, iconic figure every episode. Subscribe now.
    18 January 2024, 8:00 am
  • 42 minutes 53 seconds
    Making Derrick Rose
    “Why can’t I be MVP of the league?” Derrick Rose said. With unimpressive statistics and an unselfish playing style, sports media did not take the third-year point guard seriously. Eight months after those famous words, he became the youngest MVP in NBA history. Derrick Rose was Chicago’s pride and joy. Fans and journalists alike called him the next Michael Jordan. Some thought he would be the greatest of all time. When an ACL tear took him out of the game, those high hopes turned to high scrutiny. On this episode of Making, host Brandon Pope explores the years before Derrick Rose changed the NBA. He grew up in the South Side neighborhood of Englewood, raised by a loving mother and three protective older brothers. By his sophomore year of high school, his talent and name was known across the city. We chatted with his high school coach who shaped his rise, veteran Chicago journalists who traced his steps, and Bulls insiders who witnessed his history-making. “He'll forever be one of the greatest basketball players to come out of the city,” NBC Chicago host Jason Goff said. “I make no bones about it.” Making tells the story of a different, iconic figure every episode. Subscribe now.
    14 December 2023, 8:00 am
  • 39 minutes 6 seconds
    Rihanna: Mother and Mogul
    With 36 billion streams on Spotify, 14 No. 1 hits and 9 Grammys, Rihanna is regarded as one of the most well-known artists of the 21st Century. But she also spent the last decade changing the fashion world, launching brands that transformed her from music star to business mogul and billionaire. Her illustrious career began 20 years ago, when she was just a 15-year-old in Barbados. She performed Destiny’s Child songs in a trio with her friends. Soon, an American record producer visited the island, saw her audition and launched her to stardom. This week on Making, hear the tale of Rihanna’s come-up from record producer Evan Rogers, music journalist Bill Werde and head of British Vogue Chioma Nnadi, featuring exclusive archival tape of Rihanna’s early rehearsals.
    16 November 2023, 8:00 am
  • 37 minutes 9 seconds
    Making Virgil Abloh
    Virgil Abloh changed fashion in the 21st century. His brand Off-White redefined streetwear and youth culture for a notoriously elite and inaccessible industry. And he broke barriers to become the first Black artistic director at a French luxury fashion house. “His whole career is dedicated to opening up the gate for everyone,” said Marc Moran, his long-time friend and collaborator. “And I think that’s what made him such a force to reckon with.” Virgil Abloh passed away from cancer on November 28, 2021 at the age of 41, leaving behind a sprawling legacy. But before he took over an industry, he was a quiet and humble suburban kid who loved soccer, skateboarding, T-shirts and turntables. This week on Making, host Brandon Pope talks with Abloh’s family, friends, critics and collaborators – including his father, his high school soccer coach and the head of British Vogue – to look back at the life of a Chicago icon. Making tells the story of a different, iconic figure every episode. Subscribe now.
    19 October 2023, 7:00 am
  • 3 minutes 5 seconds
    BONUS: Hyphy Kids Got Trauma
    Hyphy Kids Got Trauma is an exploration of a transformative year in Bay Area music history, 2006, through the eyes and ears of Pendarvis Harshaw. A college student and burgeoning journalist at the time, Pendarvis navigates the shifting tides of a culture in transition, all set to the seminal sounds of the Bay Area’s “Hyphy Movement.” an era fueled by uptempo, bass-heavy songs with a free and fun-loving vibe. But 2006 also marked the second highest homicide total Oakland has ever seen. The violence was compounded by drugs, over-policing, the onset of gentrification, and the ongoing War On Terror. The wounds that occurred almost twenty years ago still impact the adults of the Bay Area today. Hyphy kids got trauma, and this is why. Listen to the whole series today on Rightnowish.
    2 October 2023, 12:10 pm
  • 31 minutes 49 seconds
    Serena Williams: The Blueprint
    In early September, 19-year-old Coco Gauff won the U.S. Open. She is the first American teenager to win the tournament since 1999, when 17-year-old Serena Williams took the crown. Gauff has said Serena is the reason she plays tennis. She is her tennis idol, and for good reason. Serena Williams has won 23 Grand Slam titles – more than any player in the Open era. But before becoming a household name, Serena was a girl from Compton with a drive. This week on "Making", Brandon Pope revisits the years before anyone knew Serena’s name. Hear from the people in the room and on the court during her evolution to tennis prodigy, including her sister Isha Price, former tennis pro Chanda Rubin, and childhood coach Rick Macci.
    21 September 2023, 7:00 am
  • 41 minutes 3 seconds
    Making Whoopi Goldberg
    Over the course of her climb to the Hollywood A-List, Whoopi Goldberg has worn many hats: stand-up comedian, Broadway star, screen actress, and daytime television host. But before her breakout role in a Steven Spielberg film, she was a young mom hopping around the country, taking odd jobs and doing avant-garde theater. This week on Making, we chart Whoopi Goldberg’s winding path to stardom, from living off welfare, to landing on Broadway with her one-woman show. Host Brandon Pope chats with her first theater partners, her first director, and her first stage manager to discover who Whoopi was when she was just a wide-eyed talent waiting to be discovered. “The first time I saw her, I knew she was going to make it,” said William Farley, the director for her first on-screen performance. “She was an original. And an original, they become seen.”
    10 August 2023, 7:00 am
  • 38 minutes 28 seconds
    RuPaul: ‘Empress of Drag’
    Since November, dozens of states have introduced legislation that could criminalize drag performances, including Florida, Tennessee and North Carolina. This week on Making, we look at the life of an iconic Black TV creator whose art is at the center of this new political hot button. RuPaul Andre Charles brought drag to America’s main stage and opened doors for queerness. But before his Emmys and Tonys, he was a go-go dancing young person determined to be a star. Host Brandon Pope chats with RuPaul’s close friends, collaborators and mentees, including drag queen Lady Bunny, DJ and songwriter Larry Tee, drag historian Simon Doonan and RuPaul’s Drag Race All Stars winner Shea Coulee. This episode was originally published on Nov 17, 2022. This season of Making covers a different, iconic figure every episode. Subscribe and don’t miss an episode.
    6 July 2023, 7:00 am
  • 39 minutes 3 seconds
    Making Shonda
    Shonda Rhimes has been called TV’s greatest. With groundbreaking shows like Grey’s Anatomy, Scandal and How to Get Away with Murder, she became one of the most powerful showrunners in Hollywood history. But, the battle to Hollywood’s highest echelons wasn’t a joyride for a Black woman from Chicagoland. Hear from mentors, colleagues and cultural commentators on how the queen of television came to be.
    1 June 2023, 8:00 am
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