You may be familiar with Jude “Rude Jude” Angelini from his popular program The All-Out Show on SiriusXM’s Shade45 station, but if you think he is a run of the mill shock jockey, you are quite mistaken. I had been a fan of the show and regular listener for some time when his new book Hummingbird fell, seemingly out of thin air, into my lap. Hummingbird is a collection of stories from the Detroit native’s life, ranging from pivotal childhood memories to insane drug experiences and sexual exploits. The book touched me on a very personal level, and the raw, candid anecdotes within elevated my opinion of Jude more than I could have imagined.
A follow up to his first book Hyena (which has been described by critics as a “mix of Charles Bukowski and Hunter S. Thompson”), Hummingbird gives a strong, uncensored voice to anyone who has ever used sex, drugs, or social disruption to try to fill a hole in their heart. So when The Hundreds presented me with an opportunity to interview him about the work, I jumped. We met at The Dresden in Los Feliz where we were joined by his friend Emma, and Jude allowed me to pick his brain about my favorite stories from the book. We touched on “science drugs,” how he structured Hyena off the tracklists of classic albums, his writing process, and raising children in today’s America. If the interview below touches you at all, be sure to read Hummingbird the first chance you get.
OLD MAN: So basically, you just released your book Hummingbird and it sold out?
JUDE ANGELINI: It did sell out and now it’s back in stock. Well, the thing is we printed a shit ton, the way the book business works, which I didn’t know, which is why I’m explaining is: we print, then a distributor sells to Barnes & Noble, small book stores, Amazon. And Amazon didn’t buy enough books to begin with, and that’s why they sold out so quickly. They didn’t think I had enough in me to sell more. They was like, “Welp, that was it.” And I was like, “Yo dude, it’s only been four days.”
That’s pretty strong, and I’ve noticed through social media too that your following, like—people who probably don’t buy books and don’t read—are copping it and reading it and hitting you up about it.
Yeah man, I realize I’m not selling a book, I’m selling me. They listen to the show, they fuck with me; this is the one thing I have to sell, therefore they buy it. The good news is they connect with the fuckin’ book, after the fact they fuck with the book.
Yeah honestly, it’s awesome. It’s awesome getting people reading. Reading’s the best, it keeps your brain healthy, to help different demographics get into that is awesome.
Yeah because, we—look man, we take in our information passively for the most part. I’m one of ‘em. I listen to music, I listen to podcasts, I listen to radio, I sit back and passively take in things. Reading, you have to be proactive in your taking in the information and then you break it down differently, you process it differently.
You might get something different from my book than I meant for you to get out of the fucking book. Then the other thing: you get is a lot of these cats, they haven’t been in a bookstore in forever, these are blue collar dudes, these are street dudes, and I think everyone wants to think of themselves as being smart, and what better than to read a fuckin’ book to feel smart
I don’t how many times I walk into a bookstore and I don’t know where to begin. Myself, I don’t know where to look, I don’t know what to ask for, it’s kinda daunting I’m trying to encourage them to read and I’m trying to encourage them to write—to write their story.
Yeah, that’s major. So, your first book was called Hyena. One thing I’ve been really curious about is, is having two different animal names intentional? Is that part of a premeditated theme that uses that symbolism in specific ways? Or were they just words that fit—the word selection on both names?
I was high on ketamine both days. The first book I was gonna call like, Desperado, like the fuckin’ Eagles song. I was like, What the fuck you doin? That’s awful! One of the chapters in the book is called “Desperado,” but I was like, nah bro.
I was really high on ketamine, and I saw a picture on my wall of a hyena and it just clicked. That’s the name of the book, because hyenas are these misunderstood animals. They actually have a really high kill rate. People think of them as scavengers. When you say it, it gives you this really visceral feeling. Hyena. It gives you this feeling. I kind of wanted to approach it like, these are these misunderstood animals, which I think we all feel like. Nobody feels totally understood, and the other reason was is ‘cause it’s like laughing at the grisliness of life ‘cause like hyenas have this laugh.
Yeah, they got that big dog smile—the cackling hyena—but they usually got blood dripping from the maw at the same time.
Exactly, that’s exactly it. And then Hummingbird, at that time, I had written a few stories, I wasn’t gonna write another book and then all this shit started happening that kinda pushed me to write more. Like there was a couple drug overdoses with my homies and I was getting in some weird situations and I was like, Ah, I should start writing.
“[Hummingbirds] work really hard just to float.”
It wasn’t like, Let me do weird shit and I’ll write about it. I was doing weird shit and was like, I should write about it, process it. And I was really high on the couch and I didn’t know what direction I wanted to go with this book. I didn’t want it to be like Hyena II, so it just hit me: “hummingbird” is like the symbol of joy, and we all strive for joy in our lives, but then when you look at them, they work really hard just to float and they’re kinda stagnant at times, so they’re working really hard just to stay in the same place, just to eat.
I read the books in reverse order, and in the same week. And I’m glad I did because you ended Hyena on a really dark note—you had just “overdone it” with PCP. If I hadn’t read Hummingbird first, I would have probably left the book with a much darker feeling in my heart. You basically left it with the question, “Yo, is my brain broken? Is my personality broken, did I ruin it?” But when you come back to Hummingbird, you can tell you’ve grown as a writer. It feels a little bit more intentional. Hyena is a little more like, punchlines, shock value; Hummingbird has a more smooth rhythm to it and a sort of a more literary feel, so I was really curious what went down between Hyena and Hummingbird.
In Hummingbird, it really seems like your brain’s fixed, so what was that process of getting back to yourself like?
The crazy shit is, I don’t think it did get fixed. I think I did just get used to it, I think I did lose a piece of myself from that. I can’t remember things as well, I can’t organize thoughts in my brain, I was better at debating five years ago—it just took a piece of me. That being said, you do adjust—the brain’s resilient. You do adjust, you learn to live with what you have, and then that becomes the normal. The writing just got better because I got older, you know, the more you do things, the better you get.
Look, Hummingbird was a hard book to write. It was way more personal, way more personal. And Hyena was personal, Hyena was a personal book, but Hummingbird is even more personal, and I wouldn’t have been able to get that personal if I didn’t write Hyena first. Also like, yo dude, I keep in mind who my core audience is and I didn’t want to alienate them on my first. A lot of those stories, through all the punchlines, there’s meaning to them.
One of the things I appreciated the most about both your books is just how candid you are… it takes some fucking courage to put yourself down on the paper like that, and honestly, I’m a grown man and I’m cool with myself, but we all take our little bumps in life where we get a little bit better. Your books gave me a good bump, man, because I’m like, here’s a dude out here, who’s successful, who’s seizing life, but who has no problem discussing what his core personality issues are. And it has helped me with my own self-acceptance and I think it probably helped a lot of your readers with their self-acceptance. Were there any books or writers or stories that helped you develop that, that self-acceptance?
Nope. There was no books. That’s the weird thing. You know what really helped me was my grandma, after she raised her six kids, she put herself back in school and she studied to be a therapist. She was the woman I write about at the end of the book, she was one of the few mentors that I had. That’s where I learned that, that’s where I learned self-acceptance. I was lucky enough to have this strong woman in my life... she’s savage. I mean, I don’t want to give away the book but you saw the way she did me growing up. There was a lot of shit like, fuckin’ tough love, tough love.
Yeah, and it’s weird because growing up you see the person issuing tough love and you kinda resent them for it, but when you look back as an adult, you’re like, “Man, I probably could have used more of that.”
That’s right, and look what we got now. We got all these grown ups that wanna be friends with their kids and they’re raising little assholes.
“We’re so open-minded, we lost our mind.”
Isn’t that what you were talking about on the show yesterday?
Talking about choices, and giving them all these choices they haven’t earned.
No, you were talking about trick-or-treaters and how the California kids come up hella ungrateful, asking for gluten-free candy bars and not even saying trick-or-treat, and how one thing was out in Tennessee there were actual manners right?
Yeah, I couldn’t believe that. It was really cool.
It’s funny how these supposedly, like, progressive states and places we’re almost regressing by being so “progressive” we don’t even instill values.
It’s like we’re so open-minded, we lost our mind.
We’re so open-minded, we lost our mind. Boundaries are cool—especially as a child, you need boundaries, you need to know what you can and can’t do. You need to know that, like, some things make you a fucking asshole. Don’t do it. Some of these kids are fucking assholes. Look, and I been a fucking asshole, who hasn’t? But I can look back and I can say, “Alright, I was an asshole here, I was a dick there.” You know you just claim that shit, you own it.
Kids are dicks and they need to be checked. Not only are you ruining it for your child, you’re ruining it for me because I’m going to have to deal with him out on the streets.
So Hyena started as a blog?
Hyena did start as a blog and people were kinda critical of it when I stopped because the stories were funny. They were these funny stories. The woman I talk about through, well there was two women in my life that I loved, one was Julie, the other one was Gabby, and when I broke up with julie for like the 50th fucking time, I started writing about it, and people were criticizing my writing saying I wasn’t funny.
Shit like, maybe I’m not trying to be funny, motherfucker.
And that was it, like I’m not trying to be funny. Fuck you, I’m writing a book, and I took everything down and the reason why I said, “Fuck it, I’m writing a book,” is because, look man, people don’t appreciate shit when you give it to them for free. People don’t appreciate shit in a blog form. It cheapens it. You put it in a book, suddenly it has this different packaging, it has a different weight to it. Look, can’t even get the PDF of that fuckin shit right now because a tree has to die for Hummingbird. Like a tree’s gotta die. I put too much work into it for you to swipe through it on your phone like you would swipe through Tinder.
Fuckin’ A. And hey, I tell you what, man, books are fucking magic. I have a Kindle app because usually it’s if I’m reading a series and I need the next fucking book like fucking now.
Yeah, yeah you want it right there.
But nah just like the smell, the feel, the texture, it’s a special human experience.
The other thing you said. You need it now, like look, we live in a now generation. Gimme, gimme, gimme. Consume, throw away, consume, throw away. Like, I wanted people to have to wait, I wanted people to have to leave their house and go to a store, or order it and wait for it to come there. I wanted you to open up the package, I wanted you to feel it; there’s something tactile to it. It’s a certain size, I wanted you to hold it in your hands, I wanted you to see the illustrations, I wanted you to see the cover of the book. Everything I did was thought out, there was a reason behind everything, there’s an art to it, whether you get it or not, I know it’s there. Like, look man, who the fuck makes a book with no words on the cover? I do that. There’s a reason why I did that. It’s called Hummingbird—say what you see. Everything I did, there’s a purpose to it, there’s a method behind all that. With the Kindle and things, yeah, I can get it to more people, but will they appreciate it? I don’t know. and the writing is so easy, it’s so easy to read.
Yeah, man, it’s like drinking a glass of water. I read it in two sittings and that’s not a testament to me being some power reader. I read it because it was so good that I sat down at nine and read ‘til my eyelids were heavy. I think it’s great, all the attention to detail. You also mention that you modeled the flow of the stories off of albums?
Yeah, that’s right, Hyena especially, because it started as this blog. I pulled all these stories down, I tightened them up, I added stories to it, so now I got all of these fucking stories floating around—what do you do with them? How do you figure out the order? I have this idea in my head of how the stories should flow, beginning, middle, end. Then I studied classic albums. Scarface The Diary, OutKast Aquemini, Fleetwood Mac Rumors, Beach Boys fucking Pet Sounds, the second side of Abbey Road, Thin Lizzy Vagabonds of the Western World, Eagles fucking Hotel California, just to name a few. Ghostface Killah Ironman. So these are albums that I really listened to, studied, watched the flow. Like if you read Hyena, the first part of Hyena I’m ripping off Fleetwood Mac Rumors, it starts off with a mid-tempo, it goes to a slower thing, it builds back up again. It’s basically “Second Hand News,” into “Dreams,” into fucking “Never Going Back Again.” That’s just how I did it. Hummingbird was a bit different in that I was writing real time as I followed myself going through this ketamine bender.
That’s actually great. That’s one of the things I wanted to ask you about. Your writing is anecdotal, I know a lot of authors that write non-fiction or autobiographically keep a journal and a lot of their writing gets extracted straight from that. Do you keep a journal?
Okay, this is all done from a more recollected point of view when you go back to write the stories?
Well, no. When I write, I write, and when I’m selling, I sell, and I don’t know how to do both at the same time. Right now, I’m trying to sell these motherfuckers. Whoever’s reading this, I’m trying to sell you a fucking book, so buy it. When it’s time for me to like, create, that’s when I write, and a lot of that stuff I’m writing within, like, ten minutes of it happening.
“When in doubt, just tell the fucking truth.”
Okay, so it is like a journal in a sense, it’s just not with the same routine that a journal is kept.
Yeah, exactly, precisely. Like with Hyena, I was high on PCP as I wrote the first story. I was still going through it as I was writing about overdosing on PCP—like, I was still on PCP as I wrote about it. So yeah, you could say it’s kind of like a journal, but without that discipline.
One of the things I actually wanted to ask you about as someone who follows you on a few mediums is “science drugs.”
I hang out with some computer nerds from Chicago. I met them when I was doing the Jenny Jones show, and they were like these engineers from Purdue, and now it’s 20 years later and they’re millionaires doing crazy fucking tech shit for the stock market. But they still fuck with all these weird science drugs.
What’s like your definition of a “science drug”? So like the 2CE and GHB, and 4deee aaaaa?
5-MeO-DALT, that’s another science drug. There’s a name for them are they, synthetic or... test drugs…
Yeah, research chemicals.
The 5-MeO-DALT, you can go and buy it online as research chemical and it just disclaims that it’s for research purposes only.
Yeah, like, “Yo, don’t eat this shit.”
Yeah, and so we see at the end of Hyena, you’ve done some damage to your brain with these drugs and I was wondering, are you familiar with nootropics?
Yeah, I’ve used that, I was using that during the whole ketamine bender. I went to liftmode.com and just bought a bunch of their shit and i was stackin’ them in different orders and basically those drugs kinda got me back to 80% ‘cause I’d be fucked. I was doing a gram of ketamine a day. Which is a lot, you know, it’s kind of a lot… It’s not like, “Oh, I did a gram let me chill out or like a week.” It was like one day, next day, next day it’s stacked on top of each other, so doing the nootropics... doing those I was able to function on the show on a day-to-day basis.
It helps me with my shit-talking, it helps me talk shit really well. My shit-talking pill.
Do you have any aspirations to write fiction?
I don’t know how to make shit up. It’s something that I need to learn how to do because I don’t know if I can sustain that type of lifestyle. Like, I’m writing about all this crazy shit, like it will fucking kill you after a while, so I don’t know how many more Hyena Hummingbird-esque books I got left in me where I’m just going fucking off the rail. It would be nice to Emma and I—Emma who just sat down—we’re talking about doing some young adult screenplays and shit like that.
Oh yeah, Hyena was going to be optioned for a show at one point right? Is that still in the works?
No, it got passed on, but I gotta take it around again.
Yeah, you’re developing more and more of a following all the time so it definitely is worth revisiting.
Yeah, and it was like, a nice feather in my cap to be like, “HBO wanted this, HBO bought this.” They ain’t do shit with it, but they bought it.
I was lurking your IG in preparation of the interview and I saw a specific post where someone was asking you what you read and you said, “I like wizards and cowboys so I read a lot of shit about that.” So have you read Stephen King’s Dark Tower series?
No, I haven’t, is it good?
It’s literally about cowboy wizards.
Oh, for real?
Basically man, it’s about this dude that’s like a cowboy, but what Stephen King did is adapt the entire concept of the Knights of the Round Table and turned them kinda into cowboys and then put them in a post-apocalyptic world with magic.
That sounds good to me, man.
I might just have to send you a copy of book one, when you said “wizards and cowboys,” I was like, oh, oh shit, I have to talk to this man about Dark Tower.
I’m not even hip, man, that’s the thing, man. Look, everything I do is to leave this fucking world. You know? Like I do fucking psychedelics to not be here. I do ketamine to not be here. As a child, shit was so fucking heavy growing up, I would like climb into a box and just hope that I could go to another place, and I’m still doing that to this fucking day. So yeah, that’s why I like wizards.
I don’t know how you connected with this book because it’s like the opposite of wizards.
For me, part of why I was personally able to relate to your books is because you have a juxtaposition of interests and qualities that’s uncommon that I relate to, like having a street background, having roots within hip-hop communities, having a more like urban vibe to the way you speak but then being like, “I go home and read about wizards and take science drugs.” Like, you’re a rare fucking bird.
But the thing is, we’re not that rare.
[Jude’s friend Emma says something]
Yeah, that’s it exactly, Emma, there’s no one writing about this, or maybe there was but I don’t know them. It’s just like, dude, like, you know where you’re from, everyone knows where they’re from, people just like—people have friends that are into weird shit. You can’t just paint everybody with this broad thing, like, “Okay, he likes this music, therefore he likes these shoes, therefore he’s gonna watch this kind of movie, therefore he won’t like anything else.” It’s like, we’re deeper than that as people.
“A lot of the time, your special power is what you’re most ashamed of.”
And I think people don’t give themselves enough credit to that depth. And I think that’s part of why I personally appreciate that you’re out here writing these books and out here making it so people have to acquire it as a book. You’re pushing people’s boundaries to make them realize, “Oh, maybe I am deep, maybe I do read.” Honestly, I think more than you even realize, you may be offering a bridge for a lot of people to break into a little more sense of self-examination.
Emma: People were crying to me at the signing, like adult men saying that A. They don’t read, but B. They like reading your books, and especially how relatable it was and made them feel less alone.
And that’s exactly how I felt by the second or third story in Hummingbird. That’s when I realized you were more than a funny guy on the radio, and saw like an elevated perspective of you as like a raw, thoughtful human. In this age, people project this highly polished version of themselves to the world through social media, like with their clothes and their make up and what they choose to post, and we’re probably all guilty of it.
People are products now, you know what i mean? Like, I dont believe JAY-Z and I don’t believe Beyonce and I don’t believe any of these motherfuckers. And that’s cool, like they’re products, they’re bigger than themselves now, they’re a business. I’m not at that point yet. I don’t know if I’ll ever get to that point, I hope to.
Well, if you stay in the business of authenticity, I think you got a pretty good shot.
Well, that’s the thing, my product is authenticity, their product is something different. Like Emma and I went to Bakersfield. We went to Bakersfield because no one went to Bakersfield.
That’s why it’s so hard, because it’s not marketing. My marketing is no marketing, my marketing [is] fucking push push push push push. It’s not slick at all.
Do you have any advice for anyone who’s read your book and/or listens to your show and wants to write something of their own?
You gotta treat writing like a job. Like you know how many people I met that tell me they’re working on a book and I’m like, “Oh really? Tell me about it.” And they don’t got shit. I used to really take people for their word but look, you gotta treat writing like a job. You have to write every fucking day, and then when it’s time to put it out, you have to edit the fuck out of it. When I’m reading what I wrote, I think, “Who the fuck wants to hear this?” And I keep that in the back of my mind and I edit, edit, edit because I don’t want to waste anyone’s time.
But the thing is, everyone’s voice is important. Everyone has a story to tell. Everyone has a point of view, and you just have to be honest with yourself and put that down on paper and just like, don’t lie. Tell the truth. Write and tell the truth, and your first bunches of things are gonna suck, but you just have to do it, and be tough on yourself, but be kind to yourself too. Don’t let self-doubt cripple you and don’t be overly critical to the point where you’re not moving. You have to keep producing, you gotta put it down, and when in doubt, just tell the fucking truth.
Like I’ve touched down on this before and I feel it gets redundant because I have Emma sitting here next to me, but I was extremely self-conscious and felt insecure about my writing because I didn’t go to school. I didn’t know what the fuck I was doing. I don’t even know the rules of grammar, dude, right? But I took all of those—those are all weaknesses—and then you look at your strengths. Okay, my strength is I didn’t go to school; I haven’t been indoctrinated with like a fucking style that some teacher put upon me.
Look, man, yeah it’s like, everyone has a special power, dog. And no one can write Emma’s story like Emma, no one can write my story like me, no one can write your story like you. It’s like, you look at your special power and a lot of the time, your special power is what you’re most embarrassed of. A lot of the time, your special power is what you’re most ashamed of.
This interview has been edited for brevity & clarity. Photos by Audrey Ma.
Jude’s next stop on his Hummingbird tour is at Mysterious Galaxy on January 13 in San Diego.