A native of New York City, Charnas graduated with honors from Boston University in 1989 with a bachelor's degree in communications. In 2007, Charnas earned a master's degree from the Columbia University Graduate School of Journalism. His master's thesis was titled Shocked: Birthright Unplugged challenges Birthright Israel in an epic battle for the hearts and minds of American Jews.
As a radio personality, Charnas hosted a segment on KPWR on the first hip-hop show in Los Angeles. As a journalist he was a writer for the hip-hop magazine The Source. He became a talent scout for Profile Records and later ran the rap division of American Recordings in a joint venture with Warner Bros. Records.
- "GRADUATION: 2007 Award Winners". The Daily Plan-it / Dean of Students Blog, Columbia J-school. Columbia University School of Journalism. Archived from the original on October 16, 2007. Retrieved April 30, 2017.
- "About Dan Charnas". DanCharnas.com. Retrieved April 30, 2017.
- Faraone, Chris (October 24, 2012). "In the Early Days of Rap Music, One COM Student Fanned a Cultural Spark that Caught Fire Campus-wide". Boston University. Retrieved April 30, 2017.
- "Journalism Library: 2007 Master's Projects". Columbia University Library. Retrieved April 30, 2017.
- Global Grind staff (January 5, 2011). "Dan Charnas On The Biggest Deals In Hip-Hop History, & Why Drake Could've Done Better". Global Grind.
- Aaron Leitko (January 16, 2011). "The brains behind the bling-bling". Washington Post.