During the beginning of his interview with actor, comedian, producer and director Brian Hooks, Zylo Hefferan, the host of the “Contrast Uncut” podcast, quotes Denzel Washington: “You pray for rain, you gotta deal with the mud too. That’s a part of it,” then asks Hooks to explain what that quote means to him.
This perspective check is something that 32-year-old Hefferan does often with his guests: quoting Maya Angelou, Kobe Bryant, Nipsey Hussle, John Singleton and others to better glean an understanding of the people he’s interviewing.
“I try to do what’s related in the field of what they do or something that speaks to me based on their history,” Hefferan said.
When interviewing actress, singer and internet celebrity Hana Giraldo, Hefferan mentioned that, “It’s important to ‘pass the flowers’ when it’s needed, ’cause sometimes people will silence themselves when they’re living a life that’s happy. It’s important to embrace it and say something about it.”
What does that mean to him? That dedicated people — especially parents — deserve their flowers, even if they’re metaphorical.
“It’s important to ‘give people their flowers.’ It’s important to embrace people when they reflect on what they’ve done and what they’re trying to do,” Hefferan said.
The running theme behind "Contrast Uncut" is in using “personal testimonies of success stories to supplement a blueprint for people’s lives to excel.”
The name of the podcast comes from Hefferan’s youth: “I was raised in a multicultural home and my skin color is white so I was always the ‘contrast’ and I have no filter, so that’s where the ‘uncut’ comes in.”
Hefferan, who has a background in radio and whose DJ name is Wondollas as in “I won ...,” debuted “Contrast Uncut” independently in December after some rough starts and a fair deal of rejection. Hefferan, along with producer Kev King, had the rough task of figuring out how to do it all on their own.
A turning point for the podcast came after an interview with veteran music promoter Bobby Dee, who was so impressed that he signed them to Uncle Snoops Army, the upstart entertainment management company he co-founded with rapper Snoop Dogg. This gave the fledgling podcast and its crew some high-powered clout in its second season.
The guests on “Contrast Uncut” run the gamut: athletes, musicians, actors, artists, activists and, like Brian Hooks and Hefferan, Bakersfield natives. Hefferan films the podcast out of his Bakersfield residence with a whiplash-inducing frequency, with most of the 30-minute-or-so episodes airing multiple times a week. The current season — its third, ending in November — is dropping episodes every Monday, Wednesday, Friday and Sunday.
(Hefferan graduated from South High in 2005 and was described as “an unlikely hero” for persevering through the overwhelming challenges that affected his childhood in an article by Californian columnist Robert Price that May.)
“I’m proud I’m able to do all these interviews from Bakersfield from my room,” Hefferan said. “That gives me a lot of pride because I can always remember that in my house and my studio I was able to interview all of these big people on my way up.”
That kind of work ethic only solidifies Hefferan’s commitment and drive to being the very kind of success that he’s been engaging with for years. He was recently on "The Mike and Donny Show" on Fox Soul where he plans to develop some potential projects with the new “live and interactive streaming channel dedicated to the African American viewer."
The discussions on “Contrast Uncut” turn frank — listener discretion is advised — with Hefferan and his guests making each episode personal and conversational.
Even if you might not be familiar with who the guests might be — I certainly wasn’t — you get a better sense of who they are and their own journeys than an interview following the typical roll call of topics from their publicists. Not every question he asks is serious, but he does his research, which usually helps listeners gain a better perspective of who Hefferan is interviewing.
They talk about various topics including parenthood (Hefferan is a father of two), their personal experiences with discrimination (social awareness is a point in every episode and Hefferan is in an interracial marriage), their communities and maneuvering through ups and downs of their relative industries.
What are the ups? For Hefferan, that one’s easy: “Relationships. Relationships will get you places money cannot.”
The podcast does what good podcasts should: engage, educate, illuminate and entertain. It’s an enjoyable meditation on the philosophy of success. For Hefferan, success is what you make of it.
“You gotta trust the process,” Hefferan said. “Essentially, no one has the blueprint for success, but if you hear other people’s stories, trials, tribulations, the potholes, the speed bumps in the ground to success, if you hear how they went through it, then you sort of know how to maneuver through it. Everyone who’s been on the show has faced some type of adversity, overcame and succeeded.”
“You have to go through trials and tribulations but the No. 1 thing is stay consistent, stay persistent to the goals and you can do it.”
For those of you wanting to know where to start — which is understandable given the number of episodes available — watch the ones featuring Giraldo (fun fact: she’s rock singer Pat Benatar's daughter) Rhymefest and Brian Hooks, or season two, episodes 25, 12 and 18, respectively.
The podcast can be found on all major streaming platforms. Friday’s episode will feature the influential radio personality and programmer Adrian “AD” Scott, founder of the “Krush Groove” and “How The West Was Won” radio programs on 93.5 KDAY-FM in Los Angeles.