Ear Hustle is unlike any podcast we’ve heard before.
Within the first few seconds of its debut episode, we’re dropped into the middle of San Quentin, one of America’s most notorious prisons.
We’re taken on a journey through the tiny cells where the inmates live, we hear their voices and learn about their backstories, their habits, their grudges.
The term ‘Ear Hustle‘ is prison slang for eavesdropping, and that’s exactly what this 10 part series from Radiotopia, allows us to do.
It shows us a different side to true crime – what happens to criminals once they’re convicted of the crime and sent to serve out their time behind bars.
The podcast is produced by San Quentin inmates Earlonne Woods and Antwan Williams, and Nigel Poor – a visual artist who has been working with the prisoners for the past five years.
Everything from the sound design to editing the interviews, is done within the prison walls.
“You got all these TV shows, like Prison Break, Orange Is the New Black. They bullshit though! Prison ain’t really like that. We just living life, like everybody else,” Woods and Williams say.
Woods is serving 31 years to life, and Williams is serving 15, both for armed robbery.
The first episode ‘Cellies’ is about cellmates – how the prisoners choose their cellmate and what happens when cellmates clash.
Woods leads the narration in this episode, explaining that each cell measures four feet by nine, and accommodates a toilet, a sink, two lockers and bunk beds.
Some cellies learn to live together, others tell humorous stories about what went wrong, while a few had experiences which were downright scary.
My sister, the killer. Post continues…
We’re introduced to an inmate who was terrorised by his cellie for the entire six months they lived together.
“I would sleep with my back to the wall and one eye open, if you can call that sleeping,” he says.
And we meet two brother cellies who fell out over a soap opera, and an inmate who insists on regular hand washing in his cell.
Ear Hustle isn’t your typical true crime podcast – it’s gritty, heartbreaking and ultimately, eye-opening.
The stories, and the voices of the inmates, will stick with you long after you’ve finished listening.