Aliya S. King’s True Hip-Hop Stories: That Time I Lied My Way Into A Job With The Source » VSB

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Aliya S. King’s True Hip-Hop Stories: That Time I Lied My Way Into A Job With The Source

In the late ‘90s, I sat in the bookstore, flipping through magazines I could not afford to buy. I froze when I read the masthead of The Source. Marcus Reeves, who had graduated a few years before me at Rutgers University, was now the News Editor. I can’t even begin to explain what a big deal this was. There was a person who had infiltrated The Source who actually knew my name! Someone I could actually call and say hello to!

As much as I’d wanted to, I hadn’t majored in journalism in college. There was that refrain I kept hearing from friends and family: writers don’t make money. It’s not a viable career option.

I went into teaching instead and wistfully read every magazine on the newsstand. Finally, after two years of teaching, I jumped ship to see if I could make it as a writer. Six months later, I’m sorting mail, fetching coffee and writing the table of contents each week at Billboard. I’m still checking the masthead of all the magazines I wanted to write for and Marcus was still at The Source.

I finally get the nerve to call him up. I get straight to the point.

Me: Hey Marcus! I’m at Billboard now.

Marcus: That’s hot!

Me: Yes. So Um. I have a question.

Marcus: What’s up.

Me: Can I write something for you?

Marcus. Nah.

Me: But I’m working really hard here and I’ve got some clips building up and—

Marcus: Aliya. You can’t call me talking about “Can I write something for you?” You call me and say, I have a story FOR you.

Me: Oh.

Marcus: You work at Billboard. What’s going on in the music industry that The Source readers need to know?

Me: Well. Um. So.

Marcus: Figure it out. Good talking to you.

**click**

Over the next few weeks, I did what Marcus told me to do and kept my eyes and ears open. Since Billboard was a weekly, we got information really fast and our fax machines, (yes, fax machines), were consistently spitting out press releases.

One day I got a package in the mail. It was a black and white headscarf with the logo of a new record label called Ruff Ryders. Seemed interesting. I read up on it. Talked to the PR folks. Seemed like a good news story. Time to call Marcus!

Me: I have a story for you.

Marcus: What’s up.

Me: There’s a new label coming out. They’re called the Ruff Ryders. And I think—

Marcus: We covered that three months ago.

Me: Oh.

Marcus: This is The Source Aliya. You have to try a little harder to get me something I don’t already know.

**click**

This continued for several months. I would find something I thought seemed newsworthy, do some quick research and hit up Marcus. He would either yawn, admonish me for pitching something the magazine had already covered or just flat out say no.

And then. I got a press release about Wyclef’s annual benefit for Haiti in Miami. Lots of great acts lined up, (including a new group I liked called Destiny’s Child). How could Marcus not cover this? I took a deep breath and called him—again.

Me: Wyclef’s annual concert to benefit Haiti is coming up. How could you NOT cover that? And it’s a few weeks from now so I know you haven’t covered it yet.

Marcus: Hmmm… Who’s going to be there?

Me: XYZ! And ABC! And 123! [don’t remember the actual names. But they were big.]

Marcus: Word?

Me: Yup.

Marcus:  Nah. It’s in Miami. I can’t send a writer for that. It’s a small story.

Me: Didn’t I tell you? I’m going to be IN Miami that weekend! You don’t have to pay for me to go. [Of course, I was not going to be in Miami that weekend until that exact moment.]

Marcus: Oh word? You’ll be there anyway? Then, let’s do it. Just 500 words on the concert and interview as many celebs as you can.

Me: YES SIR!

Marcus: Actually, you know what? I don’t have a lot of room in that issue. Just make it 250 words.

Me: No problem!

Now, I needed to figure out how I was getting to Miami. I made $18,000 a year at Billboard. (After leaving my 35k a year teaching job. Ouch.) I had three roommates in a very tiny apartment in Fort Greene. I called my friend D. His sister worked for an airline. I begged him to get me a buddy pass to Miami. He said he would try. A week later, Marcus calls me back.

Marcus: Hey. Gotta kill that story.

Me: Why?

Marcus: Don’t want to use random photos. And we’re not sending a photographer down there.

Me: Didn’t I tell you I was going down there with my best friend D who is a well-known photographer published in grumble-grumble and mumble-mumble?

Marcus: Wait. Did you tell me that?

Me: I thought for sure I did.

Marcus: Can he get a couple of exclusive shots for us?

Me: Of course!

Marcus: Great. Story’s back on.

I call D. back and let him know I need him to get two buddy passes. Because although he was in law school and preparing for the bar, he was going to have to take a break from studying and pretend to be a well-known photographer so I could get this story. D almost had a heart-attack. But he got the buddy passes. The day before we’re set to leave, I call D and double check to make sure he has everything he needs.

“Yeah,” he says. “Just need a camera.”

[insert screams here]

Twenty minutes later, I’m in a camera shop in midtown Manhattan and some dude is trying to show me how to use a zoom lens. My experience with cameras stopped at Polaroids. I used my grocery money AND my rent money to rent the biggest, fanciest camera I could.

Camera shop dude: “Are you sure your photographer knows how to use this camera?

Me: Of course he does.

I gave the huge camera case and lenses to D when we got to the airport and if looks could kill, I wouldn’t be here telling you this story. We flew on standby. And for three consecutive flights to Miami, we ain’t do nothing but stand by and watch people board. Finally, we made it onto a flight and got to Miami. We spent the flight trying to figure out how to use the camera. Who knew they didn’t give you film when you rented a camera!

At the venue, I met up with Lesley Pitts, the publicist for the event. Bless this woman’s soul because she knew I was full of crap, (and my bootleg photographer too), but she still gave me the mega-extra-all-access pass so I could roll up to whoever and get my interview.

“Interview anyone you can get,” Lesley said. “But not Wyclef. He has a full day of interviews with large outlets.”

“Yes ma’am.”

I hit that backstage area like a ninja assassin. Is that Destiny’s Child over there? Oh yeah. I stuck my recorder in the lead singer’s face. She was super prim and proper as she talked about the importance of giving back to the community and supporting Wyclef’s charity event. And then she made sure to slip in that their new single was called Bills Bills Bills and they would be performing it later on. (They got booed.)

For an hour, I ran up on every celeb I could find, with D trailing behind me, trying to keep up and not look insane with this ridiculous camera that he didn’t know how to work. At one point, a publicist snatched him up and told him to go into the area with the other photographers. I just saw his mouth open; calling my name, while a sea of real photographers who were snapping the show swallowed him up. Sorry dude. Gotta get these interviews.

Finally, I see Wyclef. And I’m thinking, this is big. He’s the orchestrator of the entire event. But Lesley said don’t talk to him. But. He’s just standing there chilling with some random people. What’s the harm? Marcus would be really impressed if I came back with quotes from Clef. I eased over to where Wyclef stood, talking to another guy. I interrupted.

Me: Excuse me, Clef? Can I ask you a few questions for The Source?

Clef: You’re from The Source?

Me: Yes, I am. Name’s Aliya S. King. Nice to meet you.

Clef: I didn’t know The Source was sending anyone down.

Me: Well they did sir. Can I ask a few questions?

Clef: What kind of story is this?

Me: A big one. Very important.

Clef: Ha. Is it a cover story?

Me: I have no idea. I don’t make those decisions.

Clef: Okay. What are your questions?

I ask my questions. Go way overboard. Skip from charity concert to the current political climate in Port Au Prince. After a few minutes, Clef politely ended the interview.

As I turn to walk away, the man he had been talking to taps me on the shoulder.

Man: Did you say you were from The Source?

(I’m thinking, wow! My first story for The Source and already folks are sweating me. Just saying the name rings bells baby. Mama I made it!)

Me: Yes. I’m from The Source. Can I help you?

Man: Which editor are you writing for?

Me: His name is Marcus Reeves. He’s the News Editor. [so take THAT I say to myself]

Man: Yes, I know Marcus. What kind of story is this you’re working on?

Me: It’s a story on the concert and on Clef. It’s multi-faceted.

Man: Right. I could tell from the questions you were asking him that it definitely wasn’t just a short news item about this concert. Dude stuck out his hand and smiled at me.

Man: My name is Selwyn Seyfu Hinds. I’m the editor-in-chief of The Source.

Me:…………………………………………

Selwyn: Did Marcus pay for you to fly down here?

Me: No sir.

Him: Did he send a photographer down here?

Me. No sir.

Him: So how are you getting photos for this?

Me. I brought a friend who is a photographer.

Him: Where is he?

I point. D is trying to reload the camera. Another photographer who looks hella frustrated is trying to help him. D looks insanely inept.

Selwyn: So you two flew down here on your own?

Me: Yes.

Selwyn. How long is the story?

Me. 250 words.

Selwyn: Right. So definitely not a cover story.

I turn crimson at this point. Wyclef is nearby. Chuckling.

Me: No. Definitely not a cover story.

Selwyn shakes his head from side to side. Then he pulls a business card out and puts it in my hand.

Selwyn: As soon as you get back to New York, call my assistant and set up a meeting. If there’s a reporter out there flying herself to Miami on her own dime and running up on celebrities like this, I think I need to sit down with her.

I couldn’t speak. So I just nodded. I called Selwyn’s office FROM A PAYPHONE AT NEWARK AIRPORT precisely five minutes after we landed. I made an appointment and pulled a week of all-nighters putting together an issue plan and a series of story ideas, section ideas and column ideas that would work for the magazine and outlining in detail why he needed to hire me as a staff writer, a position that did not exist. I knew I belonged there. I had been grateful to get my foot in the board with the 18K job at Billboard. But it was time to move up—and maybe make enough money to actually eat. This was my shot. And I wasn’t about to blow it.

I met with Selwyn. I carefully laid out all my paperwork on the coffee table in his office. I spread out the last six issues, marked up with Post-It notes with my thoughts and suggestions. I handed him my packets and explained my proposal. He smiled and nodded and said he’d be in touch. He called weeks later. According to my journal, these were his exact words:

“Aliya, you are a very talented writer. And besides that, you’re hungry and tenacious. I looked over your story ideas and you are exactly what we need here at The Source. I’m pleased to formally offer you a position as a staff writer with a salary of $33,000 per year. Welcome to The Source.”

Aliya S. King

Aliya S. King is the author of two novels and three nonfiction books, including the New York Times bestseller Keep the Faith, written with recording artist Faith Evans. Right here, she wants to add something pithy and quirky about pancakes or something like in Damon’s bio. But she’s just not that witty. It would feel forced.

  • PhlyyPhree

    I. LOVE. This. Series.
    First of all, I love the intimate, behind the curtain view you give into that world. I used to read the Source cover to cover and still have a hefty assortment of physical copies to attest to this fact, so these stories are amazing to me.

    Secondly,
    This was a really inspirational story. I was literally just texting my friend in regards to my job hunt and current situation and trying not to cry from frustration. Then I read this. I feel like I can take over the world now. Thanks

    • Quirlygirly

      Hi Phree!!

      Was gonna ask where you been but I kinda got my question answered. Wishing you the best in your current situation. *sending posiitve thoughts and vibes your way

      • PhlyyPhree

        Hiiiiiii.
        I’m here. I’ve been here. I’ve been actually working at work AND trying to figure out how to move back home so I haven’t been commenting much. All is as well as can be though. Thanks for the positive thoughts.

    • Pinks

      Be encouraged, sister! I find myself on the verge of tears at least once a week due to my job situation, but I’m here, alive and being paid, so I will keep pushing until the wall breaks. Hang in there!

      *e-hug*

      • PhlyyPhree

        Thank you darlin. WE are alive and being paid so WE are going to keep pushing until something changes. It’s going to get better for both of us.

        • Pinks

          Yaassss! *does rain dance for good luck*

          • PhlyyPhree

            LOL. I immediately wanted to “clear it out” after you let it rain. Ha!

            • Pinks

              Lessgidditlessgedditlessgedditlessgiddit

    • miss t-lee

      Hang in chick.
      It’s gonna get better.
      Most definitely been there.

      • PhlyyPhree

        Thank you.
        I really appreciate the encouragment. I know it will, but patience has never been my virtue, so I’m ready to lose it over here.

        • miss t-lee

          Hopefully you get a moment like I did where you get to cuss out the person who made your time there so sh*tty on the way out.

          Trust me, it’s freakin’ glorious.

          Don’t lose hope, it’s coming!

          • PhlyyPhree

            Lmaoooo. That’s the thing, no one here has made my time shi tty. I actually like this job. It’s decent(ish) paying, there have been several managers who have pushed me and encouraged me and put me in some rooms EYE didn’t think I should have been in…. but it’s not home. If this job was in DC? I’d NEVER leave. EVER. And it’s a “family” business, so I don’t think they’d ever make me leave unless I made an egregious fuck up. But it’s middle bubblefuck and I LOATHE living in middle bubblefuck, and I can’t stay at work 24 hours so here I am.

            • miss t-lee

              Gotcha.
              I hope you find a situation that’s perfect for you. Name it and claim it.

    • cry it out. sometimes you have to do that. but never stop working :)

      http://www.p2918.com

      • PhlyyPhree

        You riiighhttttt.
        Thank you

    • Hey bew. Sorry your work situation no es bueno, I’ve been there it’s the worst. Hopefully you stay persistent and withstand the what not. Schlemiel!! Schlemazel!!!

      • PhlyyPhree

        Thank you love. I’m good. Life could be worse. I’m just frustrated tis all. I’ll be alright.

        • I know you will. But you keep a list of people need me to lay crazy eyes on, etc. I give good crazy eye. Also, if you’re looking to move, might I suggest Philly? We got Meek and Amber Rose. So… we’re doin somethin right?

          • PhlyyPhree

            LMAOOOOO. Nope. Meek destroys any goodwill built up by Amber. Nice place to visit though. If, excuse me WHEN I finally get this job and house in the District, I’ll come visit. Or you can come to me and I’ll take you to Bon Chon. Whichever.

            • Yes! ‘Cause if memory serves you owe me male stripper funtimes. Oh, and bon chon needs to happen in either city : )

    • Aye Bee

      I love this series too. Hang on in there!!! I most def have been there. The job I had before the one I have now had gotten so bad I was almost crying every day because I was so frustrated. They literally tried to break me. I just kept on praying and working hard. I would literally pray in the middle of meetings. So much so that one of the managers asked ” I haven’t quite figured out what you are doing when you look up over there” to which I responded “praying”. I think he thought about how often I looked up there and realized how much I had to be praying. That job introduced me to a person that helped lead me to my current position that I absolutely LOVE and is the career of my dreams. During my struggle, my relationship with God most def got closer even though it was meant to break me. Now I cry bc I am so happy with where I am. In the near future, you will look back and see how far you have come. Just hang on in there and be strong!!! :-)

      • PhlyyPhree

        I’m glad it worked out for you. It’s coming for me. I’m just working on my patience. Thank you for the encouragement though.

    • JanuaryBabe

      Hang in there! Don’t get frustrated…..expand your territory….change up your game plan …….look at things thru a different lense! Get creative! You will be amazed at what you can make happen if you reconfigure things.

      • PhlyyPhree

        Thank you. I really appreciate the advice and encouragement.

  • Jocelyn

    I love every minute of these rogue reporter stories. Aliya is great!

  • I’ve really enjoyed this series and getting an inside perspective on the grind and drive it takes to make it and be successful as a music journalist (a female, at that, covering hip hop!). Lots of people want to write, they just don’t commit themselves even when getting the story seems impossible.

    Chile you sure do end up in a lot of awkward situations, lol! What’s interesting is that Wyclef didn’t immediately call you out (he let your “boss” do it). Mad that they booed DC, but at least you got to interview to Beyonce Knowles before she became Beyonce, lol!

    • aliyasking

      Wyclef was SO wrong for that. He knew I was full of crap! But he took his cues from Selwyn, I think. When Selwyn didn’t call me out right away, he decided to let me dig my own grave.

    • PhlyyPhree

      I remember seeing DC back when Toya and Latavia were still in the group. They came to Dayton to perform at the Flyy City Music Festival (which was like our version of Summer Jam; HUGE). Everyone was sort of excited to see them because we all knew “No, no no” by that point. Then Beyonce came out and said “What’s up Cincinnati?!?!”
      *Crickets*
      And then boos. And I ended up walking off until Next came up to perform. Lol

      • Quirlygirly

        Nothing worst than saying what’s up to the wrong city. Instant boos

      • Damn, Bey! Honestly, I’m not sure how singers keep it all straight, I’d be lost over what city I was in too as much as they travel on tour

        • PhlyyPhree

          RIGHT???
          I mean, I understood it, but it was HILARIOUS. And Dayton is a …rough town. The crowds weren’t forgiving At AWL

          • Epsilonicus

            Baltimore is the same way. You liable to get jumped if you call us the wrong city.

        • miss t-lee

          I’ll never forget seeing Bahamadia back in the day–as she finishes her last song, she shouts out, “THANK YOU HOUSTON!!!!”

          Except, we were in Austin.

          *cackles*

      • camilleblu

        that’s like that time DC performed at the all star game in philly and got booed bc their dumb azzez wore lakers gear to perform

        • fxd8424

          I love DC, but in Philly, they lucky all they got was booed.

          • miss t-lee

            If Philly will boo and throw batteries at Santa, everyone is fair game.

            • Quirlygirly

              Wait- they threw batteries at Santa!!!-BOL!! That is some ill mess right there

              • miss t-lee

                Might be combining stories, but both have definitely happened.

              • Epsilonicus

                Philly fans are terrible.

            • KB

              Not a defender of philly fans (because in general they do have a pretty horrible reputation) but in their defense the santa that they boo’d and threw batteries at showed up drunk, staggering and barely was able to keep his pants up as he walked the field.

      • cakes_and_pies

        I saw them in in 2000 at a rinky-dink bootleg water park in Valdosta, Ga. They were booed there too.

        • Ari

          Wait they came to Wild Adventures?! I was their biggest fan how did I not know that???

          • cakes_and_pies

            Yep. All the White people actively ignored them and sneered while the Black people sang along with them.

      • They stayed getting booed. I remember Philly fans giving them the business at the All Star Game.

    • aliyasking

      Oh! And now, looking back nearly twenty years later, I often ask myself the same thing. HOW is it that you managed to always end up in some awkward madness?! The truth is: because I was (am?) a fearless reporter. I just never cared about looking silly or getting called out.

    • Jennifer

      I saw them in Houston (HOUSTON, y’all!) back in 1999 – 702 and Ideal opened up for them. When DC got up there, folks were bouncing from the auditorium since they had already heard Ideal since their hot single (it was back when “Get Gone” came out). Audience didn’t care.

      • What’s up, H-Town! Yeah, Houston in general was hard on DC for a bit. It took The Writings on the Wall for us to really warm up to them and those soulful outfits!

        • Jennifer

          Hey, H-Town! We were mean at first. I feel like everybody in Houston had a late 90s DC story about their sister or cousin who didn’t get along with Bey when they met her at their uncle’s talent show or something. lol

  • Quirlygirly

    Aliya – Girl- you are bold, brave, intuitive and you will dance around the truth to get your story. I love reading your posts. Your stories inspire me to be a bit more courageous.

  • L8Comer

    =) !!! Yay, I know it’s belated but I feel like saying Congratulations!!! I’m glad you followed your passion – I’m loving your stories.

  • -h.h.h.-
    • Sigma_Since 93

      Why does he look like the Black Red Forman???

      • miss t-lee

        LOL!!!!
        He really does!

      • Omar Vargas

        bwahahahaha yes!!

      • Red Forman was on Agent Carter the other night and I didn’t bother learning his characters name because he’s Red Forman.

        • Julian Green

          Kurtwood Smith.
          Personally, if that was my name, I would just go with Red Forman.

          • Both Kurtwood Smith and Red Forman sound like the names of black men.

  • MissusMaxwell

    These stories are sooooooooo good! Anxiously awaiting the next installment!

    • aliyasking

      Stay tuned.

      • Quirlygirly

        I can hardly wait to read that post!!

        • Jennifer

          You and me both!

      • miss t-lee

        *birdman handrub*

      • Please send out the bat signal when that story drops!

    • miss t-lee

      For real though.
      Especially during the Eminem feud and all.

      • ESPECIALLY during that feud!

        • miss t-lee

          !!!!!!!

      • From Boston…the mean streets of Boston

        • miss t-lee

          That’s the line I always remember…lol
          That and “old men have heart attacks…and I don’t wanna be responsible for that!”

        • aliyasking

          Actually, if I’m not mistake, he’s from Roxbury. Which is a neighborhood in Boston that definitely qualifies as mean streets.

  • camilleblu

    this story makes me want to quit my job at XYZ company and hop a plane to south beach….not to snag a celebrity interview….just to lay my azz on the beach somewhere…lol

    love this series!

    • Amber

      I was on my lunch break reading it thinking that i should just not go back in to work.

    • Sigma_Since 93

      If I can’t leave my job, you can’t leave yours!!!! #weinthistogetha

      • camilleblu

        lol….in the immortal words of that lil white baby girl on youtube…

        #WORRYBOUTYOSELF!!!

        • Sigma_Since 93

          What happened to CMB we’re all we got!!!

  • This series really makes me wish I took more chances when I was a youngin. I’m not sure I’m that good of a hustler, though.

    • Pinks

      My life. I don’t have the hustler spirit in me, unfortunately.

      • I guess we won’t know until we just go for it. (Disclaimer: Don’t quit your job on my advice.)

        • MsSula

          It is very liberating… but that’s if you don’t have responsibilities and sh!t.

          • Who you telling. My wife would kill me.

          • Oluseyi

            Tried it a couple (more) times since I got responsibilities. Flail and fail until the stash is on the verge of not covering rent, then get a new job (thank you, hot NYC mobile software job market!), call up my landlord for a couple weeks’ grace, and re-stack.

            And re-plot my attempt at World Domination.

        • Pinks

          I mean that wasn’t gonna happen, but I get you lol. My thing is I’m too scared to fail, which I assume is a lot of people’s problems. I thjnk my virgo sensibilities are always making me go for what’s safe and practical instead of leaping out on faith.

      • Wild Cougar

        I’m the same, unless it is my own business, I’m not trying that hard. But if its mine? Watch out.

        • Pinks

          I recently started an online business and couldn’t believe how hard I felt like going. I was like “Is this what all those ‘I work while you sleep’ people think makes them such hustlers?”

    • Reading this story, I can spot at least three times where I would have given up and tried to get that teaching job back, lol.

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