High school nerd and sportsman turned 5FM radio DJ Phind’Gcobe Madubela, better known by his stage name pH, is the new kid on the hip-hop club block, hosting parties and mingling with the exclusive Jozi crews.
However, life has not always been so peachy for this disk jockey.
Born and bred in the Eastern Cape and the youngest of four children, Madubela, 29, has always had to look after himself.
“My oldest brother is 10 years older than me, my sister is five years older and my other brother is three years older.
“Safe to say when I hit puberty, they were mostly out of the house, which helped build my personality.
“I am actually a loner. I used to come home and fend for myself from the age of 12,” says the humble Xhosa-bred DJ.
Touching on his days at school, pH shares how colourful his life was as he attended a boys only school and was a late bloomer among his peers.
However being a sportsman and playing rugby, tennis and swimming while still finding time to be the class captain, gained little Madubela the respect of his schoolmates.
“I used to breakdance back in high school, and we had a DJ in the crew, DJ Damage.
“One day he couldn’t practise with us and because I had developed a slight interest in his skill and he had shown me which buttons to press, I stepped in.
“That’s where my love for DJing developed,” admits Madubela.
The young and passionate breakdancer turned disk jockey recalls a moment back in 2005 when he witnessed his mentor, DJ Fresh, play at a local club during the Grahamstown Arts Festival.
“I stood and watched Fresh play for five to six hours.
“I didn’t move from behind him and probably only went to the bathroom when he went to the bathroom.”
However, for pH, becoming a DJ was never what he anticipated doing for a living as he went on to study marketing at the Cape Peninsula University of Technology.
At first his days on campus were no different from those in high school as he still kept to himself.
Then a friend from high school referred him to a mutual contact who needed a DJ for his party. This marked the debut of DJ pH into the “cool kids’ corner”.
“I was thrown into the deep end, having come from a boys only school to having girls sitting next to me in class.
“It was the typical ‘Jimmy goes to Jozi’ story only I was in Cape Town.
“From being a loner in high school to being the campus cool guy, I was a spin agent and the student village agent too,” says Madubela.
Uncertain on how to handle the newly acquired fame, the young DJ chose to focus on his studies together with his craft in the hope that the two would later bear fruit.
As luck would have it, that dream became a reality.
Having completed his tertiary qualification in marketing, Madubela started working at an agency called Anything Goes in Cape Town while moonlighting as the resident DJ in clubs and lounges around the city.
Becoming the party master for brand parties like Jamieson Soul Session, Madubela started flirting with the idea of moving to Joburg.
He finally made the move as a 24-year-old, seeking refuge on his sister’s couch and having to start afresh.
“I left comfort. I got sold a dream by Joburg, I started on my sister’s couch, I will forever be indebted to her.
“I slowly started building contacts,” he says.
Determined to make it in the big city, pH interned at the national radio station 5FM and even took part in the DJ search competition twice, both times coming second.
Nonetheless, his passion and resilience wouldn’t allow him to give up.
Having done all he could to land a slot at the station, pH chose a different approach which saw him playing at the hottest parties with the coolest celebrities.
Thanks to the use of social media, this marketing enthusiast used the platforms to brand himself as a hip-hop DJ.
This resulted in the now popular club DJ receiving a call on his birthday in 2016 to join the 5FM crew.
His show airs every Saturday between 7 and 10pm, and is a party show which keeps him on his toes, having to juggle being booked to play all around the country and still be able to be on air.