“Ear Hustle brings you stories of life inside prison, shared and produced by those living in it. The podcast is a partnership between Earlonne Woods and Antwan Williams, currently incarcerated at San Quentin State Prison, and Nigel Poor, a Bay Area artist. The team words in San Quentin’s media lab to produce stories that are sometimes difficult, often funny and always honest, offering a nuanced view of people living within the American prison system.”
I’m not exactly proud of this, but the concept of incarceration has always fascinated me on a deep level. On a voyeuristic level. It fascinates me in the way that only obscure subcultures, cults, tribalism, and the taboo can fascinate me: they’re all at least a step removed from mainstream culture, and so if and when we’re exposed to them it’s like looking in on another world through a spyhole we’re not supposed to have access to. It’s not something we’re able to participate in, but rather something we must look on passively. Still, if the popularity of such television shows as Locked Up or Oz are any indicator, I’m definitely not alone.
If you, like me, are looking for this window into another world, whether for voyeuristic pleasure or otherwise, look no further than the newest podcast to join the Radiotopia collective: Ear Hustle. Ear Hustle, as its description states, takes us deep into a place most of us would never want to visit, at least not physically: the infamous San Quentin State Prison. Continuing with the theme of voyeurism, the title “Ear Hustle” refers, as mentioned in the first episode of the podcast, to eavesdropping on information you’re not really supposed to hear. Obviously, it’s a perfect title and it plays on both feelings we get when we overhear gossip or otherwise private conversations: a ready pleasure mixed with a slight tinge of guilt.
Although at the time of this review Ear Hustle has only its debut episode, “Cellies”, on offer, I can pretty confidently say that this is a podcast to watch out for and a must-subscribe. If you thought living with roommates in the city was unpleasant, give this first episode, which delves deep into what it really means to share a space of merely four feet wide by nine feet long with another human being, a listen. It’s hard to find a good roommate, but finding a good cellie can be the difference not just of comfort and discomfort, but of life and death.
That’s why this podcast is so good, though. At least so far. It’s a window into the strange subculture of prison life, where the preconceived notions of the order of what life should be break down into their most primal basic parts. In this broken-down order, everything becomes life or death, black or white, strong or weak. In a lot of ways, it’s life simplified. But in a lot of ways, it’s life with the reintroduction of the threat of daily horror and violence. These topics and more are what I anticipate Ear Hustle will tackle, and despite the darkness (and humor in the midst of darkness) of the first episode, what’s to come will likely be far darker.
I have to give a lot of credit to the producers of Ear Hustle, particularly Earlonne and Antwan. To be able to produce such a flowing, cohesive piece of culture for a society that has deemed you not worthy to live in its midst is almost astonishing, and I’m very grateful for it.
Even with only one episode, I have very, very high hopes for this podcast.
Overall Score: 9.0/10
If you like this podcast, you’ll probably like:
It’s hard to say, but here are some that are tangentially related:
- The Last Podcast on the Left