Hustled his way to hip hop journalism

By Andrea Stephanie McPherson

Pharoh Martin, the online editor of Radio One, survived the economic downturn by quickly making the Giant leap from print to Internet.

Major New York entertainment publications have been suffering the brunt of the economic decline and the transition in popularity from print to online media. Despite this downswing, writer Pharoh Martin has found success and stability with his career and continues to write and edit for Giant’s blossoming online entities.

Originally from Garden Grove, California, his Filipino-Polynesian-Chinese and African American mixture has provided him with a wide net of experiences and interests which helped to mold his career in journalism.

While attending Washington, D.C.’s prestigious HBCU Howard University, Pharoh applied and got an internship at urban music Giant. A native Californian, Pharoh always believed he belonged to the hustle, bustle and grind of the East Coast, specifically New York City.

“Even though I was born and raised in California, I always knew that the East Coast had more in store for me,” he said. “I was just tired of getting and staying in trouble.”

While growing up in California, Pharoh found that he could always use his smarts to figure his way out of any predicament. “I love being from California,” he explained. “It’s shaped who I am, but I don’t want to go back the same way I left.”

Even though he was a bit of a troublemaker, he always knew he was smart. His grades didn’t necessarily reflect this, but it didn’t diminish his desire to attend college. So while his friends were dropping out of school, he joined the Army. “I wanted to travel the world and pay for college. The recruiter had a really good pitch for me, so I was convinced.”

The Army provided Pharoh with the structure and discipline he had been lacking at home.

“My sister was kind of wild and both of my parents were on drugs,” he confessed. “I was into stealing cars and running the streets. The Army provided values and structure.”

Fresh out of the Army, Pharoh decided to begin his career as a college student at age 21. Howard University would become his alma mater for about six years after he first enrolled and he would always equate Howard’s hallowed halls to his success.

“There are some high-profile and influential people who have graduated from Howard University,” said the proud alum. “Howard is known for producing hustlers who imbedded their legacy into our culture.”

While a student at Howard, Pharoh decided to try his luck at an internship at Giant Magazine. This was a bit of a challenge, as Giant’s offices were in New York, but he didn’t let the commute or distance prevent him from applying and securing the internship.

“If I wanted something I would just go out and get it,” Pharoh said of his attitude. “Things like that always came easy to me.”

Over a six-month period, Pharoh would travel back and forth, staying in New York and working at Giant for three days and working in DC for another two days of the week. Slowly, Pharoh gained credibility in the magazine, and his work began to speak for itself. As Giant was owned by Radio One broadcasting network, Pharoh’s internship granted him access to one of the first online entertainment conglomerates. The transition from DC to New York was natural.

“I got used to the change of pace,” he said. “There are definitely more go-getters in the New York area and it’s easy to catch that bug and want to do big things.”

When Radio One opened up some digital properties including the online entity of Giant, Pharoh worked with new media after his internship ended, while still working on the print publication. Pharoh said he owes the success of his career to his experience with Giant. “My time at Giant was and is crucial to where I am now.”

Once at a stable position with the Giant enterprise, Pharoh knew that if he produced consistent features and stayed loyal to his managing editors, he could basically get hired at any publication.

“It was always about timing,” he said. “My timing was always good and I always stayed loyal to the people that hired me.”

His allegiance to his editor at Giant was what kept him out of hot water when print publications weren’t able to survive the new drive toward online news. After 9/11 when the country’s economy began to fold in on itself, major publications started closing down and Pharoh knew something was happening because the Giant budget was getting cut as well as the staff.

“My boss was even let go,” he said.

But he was still able to stay with the company because of his new media work. “When I got word the Giant was shutting down, I saw that the only jobs being saved were online.”

Things have remained on level ground for Pharoh. He’s still writing for Giant and its web-based entities and has even started his own online blog, The Smugger, a lifestyle publication for business-minded young men and includes postings on fashion, relationships, dating, sports and politics to name a few.

For any young man born into racial and familial diversity, ascending so quickly up the career ladder has proved to require discipline, smarts and drive. For this 29-year-old there are still more things to learn and work to be done.

“I hustled hard because I didn’t want to become a failure, fear of returning back to the life that I had,” he said. “It’s fly or die.”

Caught between the worlds of art and literature, Manhattan native and freelance journalist Andrea Stephanie McPherson is of Filipino, black and Chinese descent. A Hawaii resident, she works behind the scenes for the CBS series “Hawaii 5-0.” She has a special interest in the positive effects that the arts can have on youths in urban communities.

Leave a Reply