“Have You Heard George’s Podcast” brings dream psychology, neuroscience, and social commentary to life
October 25, 2021
Many people, when looking to lose themselves in a storyline, will choose to watch the latest top-of-the-box-office thriller or stream the latest Netflix rom-com on their home TV. However, lesser known for immersive entertainment is the magic of the podcast.
Have You Heard George’s Podcast? creates this magic. Created in 2018 by poet and rapper George Mpanga (known as George the Poet), the podcast combines a retelling of George’s personal experiences, including anecdotes, dreams, and life stories, with analysis on what these stories mean for George and our society.
Each episode, in short, is a snapshot of what’s going on in George’s mind.
For instance, in “Episode 9: Sabrina’s Boy,” George discusses his recent inner thoughts on growing up as a Black man in London. He connects his life experiences to the life of a famous rapper, emphasizing the influence of Blaxploitation and the drug industry on the upbringing of children in New York City—but he intentionally doesn’t reveal the celebrity’s identity until the end. This technique leads to an in-depth spotlight on the unnamed protagonist and a drug-ridden city.
Not all of his stories are like this, though. (As an easily bored person, I love this about HYHGP). To vary his storytelling mediums, George, in some episodes, illustrates his introspective experiences in metaphors, as he switches in and out of real life and his personal mindscape.
Such an example is found in “Episode 11: Writer’s Block.” George begins by telling his girlfriend a story that was actually a dream of his, where his girlfriend became trapped in a car plastered with George’s poetry, a metaphor he explicitly points out as his words being a “vehicle” for change. The dream, however, gets complicated when he finds himself on “Writer’s Block,” asking a therapist-like figure for help and food, only to accidentally travel 10 years in the future and see visions of his future self…
I know, crazy, right? But that’s what makes the podcast so interesting. I always achieved a satisfying feeling after I deciphered the meaning behind George’s dreams.
In other episodes, George focuses on the more tangible hard sciences, particularly in the world of neuroscience. He often drops terms one would certainly hear in my psychology class—amygdala, melatonin, thalamus—and he does a great job at explaining the terms at an accessible level.
How would these fancy terms fit into his complex storylines, though? “Episode 12: A Night to REMember” reveals how George’s genius interweaves engaging stories with educational value. Specifically, in the episode, workers of a corporate-like atmosphere are employed in George’s brain to control his dreams, as two characters venture through his brain’s organs and cortexes like Hansel and Gretel wandering a forest, locating structures such as the hippocampus and the pineal gland. Just like every brain structure has a function, every new character has a specific job—all a part of George’s genius.
But George’s podcast is not only a well-developed educational dream journal. His meticulously written scripts (all of which rhyme, to my ears’ satisfaction) are tied together with co-producer Benbrick’s sound editing, which blends together relevant clips from the media, natural sound effects like creaking doors, and a diverse array of music that spans from smooth R&B to dramatic film scores.
Listening to the podcast for the first time, I can safely say there were times when I laughed, times when I almost cried, times when my jaw was on the floor—it was as if my earbuds transported me to an entirely different world.
Though HYHGP masters a variety of storytelling techniques, much like my favorite Netflix TV shows, what makes George’s podcast so special is its adherence to a crucial element of narration: the art of telling a good story. And throughout every season, every episode, every minute, George is always telling a story worth listening to.