Podcast News

12 hidden gem podcasts you don't want to miss

We asked top industry creators to highlight podcasts from 2020 you might have missed.

As curated by industry experts

A collection of podcast suggestions from industry experts, curated by CBC Podcasts. (Alexis Eke; Zach Mack; Lucy Peach; C13 Originals, Tenderfoot TV; Cited Media; Yhane Smith; KCRW)

While the events of this year seriously derailed our social plans, it had perhaps the opposite effect on our content consumption. 

In the podcast world, there were more shows and conversations about our health and the Black Lives Matter movement, released in response to two of the year's biggest topics. We also saw an increase in escapist shows, from nostalgic travel podcasts to period fiction.

While there's been no shortage of great content in 2020, CBC Podcasts reached out to industry experts to recommend hidden gem podcasts that stood out to them. 

Here are their suggestions.

1. Welcome to LA 


Show description: Los Angeles is a city carved out of the desert—a conjured image of paradise. Award-winning journalist David Weinberg returns with stories of people who learn what lies beyond the dream. 

"Welcome to LA was stunning. I took a long bath on a Friday night and listened to David Weinberg's elegy to Friday nights of the past."- Avery Trufelman, The Cut

2. Greetings From Somewhere

(Zach Mack)

Show description: Zach Mack takes listeners on a journey to better understand America's love affair with road trips.

"I had never heard a travel podcast until Greetings from Somewhere, and you can't help but appreciate the show's timing. Just as the holidays are approaching and health departments are advising millions of stir crazy people to stay put, a show debuts to indulge our wanderlust with travel adventures from the beforetimes." - Sean Rameswaram, Today, Explained 

3. Harlem Queen 

(Yhane Smith)

Show description: Harlem Queen is an audio drama based on the life and times of 'Numbers Queen' Madame Stephanie St. Clair during the Harlem Renaissance of the 1920s.

"Created by Yhane Smith, and her research on the life of the real Stephanie St. Clair, a numbers queen and activist in the Harlem Renaissance, Harlem Queen brings all the glamour, drama, and insight into the pervasive issues faced by Black communities." - Sean Howard, Fable and Folly 

4. Period Queen

(Lucy Peach)

Show description: Lucy Peach, author of Period Queen is a period preacher blowing the lid off shame and empowering people to have their greatest period ever. With science, stories, songs and special guests, learn how you can life hack your cycle for creativity, productivity, connection and self-love.

"Period Queen is a cute, short series about that thing half the planet does hundreds of times in their life: menstruate. Musician, author and sex educator Lucy Peach takes you on a deep dive into your cycle and why paying attention to it vital. There's no howling at the moon, just fun and honest conversations about what happens across that weird and unpredictable 28 days (give or take a few weeks)!" - Kellie Riordan, Deadset Studios 

5. Constellation Prize

(The Believer)

Show description: Constellation Prize, a podcast from The Believer magazine, talks to subjects about their daily existential problems—how art, God, and loneliness fit in their lives.

"Bianca Giaever made a series that reminded me why I love this medium, and that it's possible to take on the ~big~ questions with humor, weirdness, and grace." - Jody Avirgan, This Day in Esoteric Political History

6. Crackdown 

(Cited Media)

Show description: Crackdown is a new, monthly podcast about drugs, drug policy and the drug war led by drug user activists and supported by research.

"Crackdown for me shows the power of podcasting—an ongoing series about drugs, drug policy and the war on drugs, made by people who are directly affected. Old school media would kill the mic on this production model, but Crackdown shows why the best people to tell the story are often the folks who are right in the centre of it." - Arif Noorani, CBC Podcasts 

7. This is not Drake Podcast

(Alexis Eke)

Show description: Hosted by Ty Harper, This is not a Drake Podcast breaks down seminal moments in Drake's career to explore the history and evolution of hip-hop, R&B, gender dynamics, and Black culture. 

"I really enjoyed [this] podcast. I think we desperately need more Canadian journalists covering our cultural, music and arts scenes and this podcast is proof positive of the importance of our stories right here at home." - Ryan McMahon, Makoons Media Group 

8. Once Upon A Time...In The Valley

(C13 Originals)

Show description: In the 1980s, porn star Traci Lords reigned supreme. Only, it turned out, the biggest star in Adult, wasn't one. Traci Lords was really Nora Kuzma, who entered the industry as a 15-year-old high school sophomore. But what if the victim here was also the villain; the villain, also the victim?

"I really enjoyed Once Upon A time.... In The Valley, the story of porn star Traci Lords. They managed to get interviews from all sides of the scandal that was Traci and in the end, it's really up to the listener to decide what really went down. - Kaniehtiio Horn, Coffee With My Ma 

9. California Love 


Show description: Walter Thompson-Hernandez invites listeners to join him in his family home, on horseback through the streets of Compton, and up into the sky to examine belonging. 

"One show I listened to and really enjoyed this year was California Love—a sort of audio memoir by Walter Thompson-Hernandez. The whole thing felt like a love letter to LA , except it was filled with the sort of private, complicated, vulnerable thoughts we all normally keep to ourselves about where we're from." - Emmanuel Dzotsi, Reply All 

10. Whistleblower

(Tenderfoot TV)

Show description: In 2007, NBA referee Tim Donaghy was arrested for betting on games he officiated. It was the biggest scandal in American sports history, but it quickly faded from the headlines. This is a story about money, and a conspiracy that spans far beyond one referee. 

"Even for someone who doesn't follow the NBA, sports journalist Tim Livingston's show was mesmerizing. It foregoes focusing on the story's more salacious elements to paint a broader, and vastly more insightful, picture." - David McManus, The Atlantic

11. Deep Cover: The Drug Wars 


Show description: Deep Cover: The Drug Wars is the true story of an FBI agent in Detroit who goes undercover in an outlaw motorcycle gang and makes a series of bizarre discoveries that inadvertently lead to the U.S. invasion of a foreign country.

"I loved Pushkin's Deep Cover. It's a bingeable crime series that's almost too outlandish to be true. The music, the cast of characters (and accompanying sketch portraits), and Walton Goggins' voiceovers were all pretty perfect. And there are emotional moments too, like interviews discussing how undercover police work can ruin a family. Highly recommend." - Maggie Taylor, Slate 

12. Hotboxin'


Show description: Listen as Mike Tyson, the baddest man on the planet, pours his soul into conversations with fascinating minds, celebrities and athletes in a studio full of smoke.

"Iron Mike and the gang rock surprisingly great interviews, even while they indulge in various cannabis products." - Glynn Washington, Snap Judgment Studios 

This article was edited for length and clarity. Written and produced by Glory Omotayo.

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