When the name of the game is nostalgia, there’s a delicate balance between reverence and levity.
“We just want to talk about stuff that we’re obsessed with,” Tracy Clayton, co-host of Pineapple Street’s Studio’s new podcast, Back Issue, told The Root. “We want to talk about reality TV shows that never got the same cultural critique and attention that The Bachelor gets. There are so many articles about The Bachelor. Where are the articles about Flavor of Love?”
Anchored by Clayton, who’s blessed us time and time again with indelible shows like Netflix’s Strong Black Lead and Buzzfeed’s Another Round, and her co-host Josh Gwynn—a force of nature in his own right—Back Issue brings every pop culture junkie’s fantasies to life.
“It’s us looking back at our favorite pop culture moments,” Clayton said. “Like when Beyoncé gave Taylor Swift her moment at the Country Music Awards, but also that time that J. Lo wore that dress that cut all the way down to her yah’m sayin’ was a moment. In Living Color in its entirety was a moment. So we’re using the phrase ‘moment’ loosely and just diving into our favorite Black things.”
Those favorite Black things are likely some of yours as well, or at the very least are trips down memory lane that helped define your own childhood—like the yesteryear scrap between Brandy and Monica, that whole Tyra Banks/blackface fiasco and heaping praise upon one of Mariah Carey’s most notorious missteps, Glitter.
But aside from being entertaining as hell, Back Issue is also therapeutic. This year has taken a tremendous toll on almost every single one of us, and this podcast provides a much-needed paradise in the midst of madness.
“Usually I’m the type of person who consumes a lot of things,” Gwynn told The Root. “And this year I’m like, ‘I haven’t been listening or watching many new things. [Back Issue] takes me back to a moment when things felt better. The nostalgia feels like a way of making it through the bullshit that’s happening right now.”
Foraging through the past can also be a bit uncomfortable, as hindsight grants a new perspective.
“A lot of people are talking about Moesha right now and all of the fat-shaming,” Clayton said. “The jokes didn’t age well. And that’s the thing about comedy is that the world changes while the comedy stays the same. And so being able to watch Moesha now and look at it like, ‘Oh, that was actually really messed up.’ It helps us to confront our own shortcomings of the past. [...] Looking back, we can learn so much more about where we are now.”
Back Issue also serves as Gwynn’s debut behind the mic. After years of toiling away behind the scenes on popular shows like The New York Times’ Still Processing, Never Before With Janet Mock and Essence’s Yes, Girl!, the time has finally come for the king to take his throne.
“I started at Pineapple Street Studios as an intern,” he said. “I pitched this idea of focusing on formative pop cultural moments and thinking about how they informed the zeitgeist today. That was before I met Tracy.”
Once Clayton joined the fray and they worked on a string of shows together with him serving as her producer, it was only a matter of time before the inevitable occurred.
“We just seemed to have the same reference points when it came to pop culture,” Gwynn said. “So we were like, ‘We should do a show together’.”
“I think what a lot of people don’t know is that with Strong Black Lead, in particular, people are like, ‘When you said this thing, when you did this thing, it was so hilarious!’” Clayton said. “And I want to be like, ‘It was all Josh’s idea. I am only a vessel for all the ridiculousness that you hear.”
And with Pineapple Street Studio’s backing, it’s a family affair.
“I’ve known them for years and like we’ve got the kind of dynamic where like like nobody questions me and Josh’s creative direction. They’re all pretty much like, ‘You know what? We trust you,’” Clayton said. “It feels like family. Everybody that I work with at Pineapple has seen me in a bonnet.”
Gwynn and Clayton also realize that by commanding creative control on this endeavor, that they’re creating similar opportunities for other Black creators.
“It definitely furthers the tradition of not having to ask permission to be your own Black-ass self and tell your own Black-ass stories,” Clayton said. “It’s so important that people know that we don’t have to ask white editors permission to tell our stories anymore.”
Back Issue is available now on Apple Podcasts, Spotify or wherever you get your fix for podcasts.