Interview: Phora Reveals The Elements Behind His Debut Album, 'Yours Truly Forever'

The artist is one of rap’s latest newcomers that isn’t afraid to break down the levels of male masculinity through adversity and heartache.

Marco Archer, known to his fans as Phora, carried an upbeat aura as he walked through VIBE’s offices last month. The California native didn’t hold back his appreciation for the hip-hop space he now occupies.

A member of his crew finds perfect angles to capture Phora’s excitement over our enlarged Outkast VIBE cover from September 2000. With his Polaroid camera, Phora’s pal snaps away, holding a piece of the rapper’s joy in a simple photograph.

Phora may carry a blissful smile during our encounter, but his music holds something much deeper. The artist is one of rap’s latest newcomers that isn’t afraid to break down the levels of male masculinity through adversity and heartache. Combined with the brooding and melodic sounds of longtime collaborator Anthro Beats, he paints emotional and thought-provoking pictures of his personal story and the world around him.

“I talk about being vulnerable and just being a human being instead of glorifying everything,” Phora explains about his major debut album, Yours Truly Forever. “Typically in hip-hop, the idea is to act like you’re better than everyone else, to act like you’re larger than life. I feel like in my music, I try to bring myself down to earth and eye to eye with the listener. In my music like to humble myself and really relate to people, especially people out there that’s really going through things.”

My debut album 'Yours Truly Forever' out now.... link in bio.

A post shared by Phora (@phoraone) on

After years of being independent since his 2012 debut Still A Kid, the Anaheim rapper has finally signed a deal with Warner Bros for his 16-track project which includes the heavy hitting “Sinner Pt. 2” and the smooth and beautifully written ode to the love of his life, “Loyalty”.

Over the past five years, the former tattoo artist has developed his own style of emotional lyricism that captures fans by the heartstrings. His biggest influences to this day are J. Cole, 2Pac, and Hopsin as he tells his stories primarily without features or any outside producers. He especially stays true this on his new album.

Many of his songs have garnered a huge cult following like the standout track from his previous album, With Love, “Sinner”. The Anthro Beats-produced song easily earns such a reputation as it's one of his most personal songs he’s ever recorded. It is a full display of cathartic lyrics and a heart wrenching delivery over a dark and somber soundscape.

“I started recording that around five in the morning and I started writing it a few hours earlier. And it was at a time when I was dealing with so much anxiety, depression, [and] anger,” said Phora. “I was going through so many at that time in my life and I was like a bottle that was shaken up for years and years and years and I had so much pent up inside me. And I feel like it was just me letting out all this aggression, anger, and me just expressing myself. Obviously, the production was amazing and that’s what led me to be even to be able to express myself on that.”

The song came a few months after Phora was shot at the 210 freeway in Pasadena where he wrestled with a great deal of paranoia and anger after the incident.

On Aug. 25, 2015, Phora and his girlfriend Destiny were on their way home when a car pulled up beside them and shot three rounds into his back and his neck, barely missing his vertebra. Ironically, he survived to release his new album exactly one week prior to the date where he, as he explains, celebrate the victory of overcoming the near tragedies he’s been through as well as his longevity as an artist thus far.

Thankfully, it isn’t all gunshots and gloom.Another factor in his rabid fanbase is his love towards women. Whether he’s expressing what kind of women he prefers on “Nobody But You” or paying homage to his queen on “Loyalty,” he creates a distinct capability of making sincere songs for the ladies which stems from his single parent household.

“I think a lot of it is driven by being raised by a single mother and just seeing the beauty in everything women got to deal with,” explained Phora. “In this day and age, there’s not enough credit given to women in general and I feel as if there’s no enough respect given to women in general.”

He added, “I’ve been through my share of relationships good and bad ups and downs and I feel like that’s a way of me coping with it. Writing music based on relationships is something that I’m very good at doing and something that just makes me feel a way and I know people can relate to it.”

As the 22-year-old storyteller begins to make his mark on such a grand stage with such a solid album, filled with authentic storytelling from a compassionate perspective, it wouldn’t be surprising to see that his star will continue to shine in the years to come.

Phora’s Warner Bros. debut, Truly Yours Forever is now available on iTunes, Spotify, and all other streaming services and digital markets.

Get to know Phora in the a little game of "This of That" above.

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A$AP Rocky Returns To New York, Brings Out 50 Cent And Swae Lee At Rolling Loud

A$AP Rocky is late. At any other rap show, this would annoy people who waited hours standing in cramped spaces to see their favorite artist perform. At Citi Field in Queens – the home of the first edition of Rolling Loud in New York, a two-day hip-hop festival held this past weekend (Oct. 12-13) – it becomes a game time decision on how you want to end your night. As flocks of attendees made their way to the Fashion Nova Stage, you can already hear Lil Uzi Vert performing at the nearby Dryp Stage. Rocky fans who secured a spot at the guard rails next to me kept looking back, maybe contemplating giving up their position to rage with Lil Uzi. Wisely, they stay.

About 10 minutes have gone by since Rocky’s scheduled 9:00 p.m. performance, and it's starting to feel like this is all on purpose, to build a dramatic opening for the Babushka Boi, who finally returns home after a highly-publicized stint in a Swedish jail for allegedly attacking two men outside of a hamburger restaurant in central Stockholm over the summer.

Suddenly, without warning, someone screams “yeahhhh!” in the mic. That same person wearing a red puffy coat runs through center stage, screaming “yeahhhh!” again before returning to the main stage. Backed by a sizeable group wearing white Testing-esque ski masks, the wait is over. Get ready to mosh because Rocky is here.

 

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Thank you for a great close to night two Flacko! @asaprocky 🎥 @evanhammerman

A post shared by Rolling Loud (@rollingloud) on Oct 13, 2019 at 9:47pm PDT

For New Yorkers, A$AP Rocky has created plenty of hometown moments in his rap career. Depending on your age, you were probably there when he and the A$AP Mob invaded Santos Party House in 2011 to do a defiant performance of “Pesos.” Or in 2012 when he brought his Long. Live. A$AP Tour to Roseland Ballroom with some help from his good friends ScHoolboy Q and Danny Brown. The inaugural Yams Day, initially held at Terminal 5 in 2016, has become an institution for the Harlem crew, promising a lifetime of homages to the late A$AP Yams by holding one every year, to increasingly bigger crowds and venues.

Rocky at Rolling Loud wasn’t just another Rocky show. It had more significance. Technically, Rocky already had his big U.S. comeback when he hit the stage at Real Street Festival in Anaheim, California on Aug. 11, telling the crowd, “I just want to say what I experienced was so crazy. I'm so happy to be here right now. That was a scary, humbling experience but I'm here right now. God is good.” He was later found guilty by a Swedish court but avoided further jail time.

No, this was different because Rocky came back to where it all began. The imagery of Testing, his latest album released in May of last year, was in full effect – the crash test dummies aesthetic, the smiley faces, the vehicles hanging on the rafters like ceiling fans. After sending his squad to stage dive, Rocky took off the fall appropriate outerwear, dressed in a Rick Owens long sleeve and all-white mid Uptowns, to keep the party going. “Praise the Lord,” “Telephone Calls,” and “Babushka Boi” already had this crowd wanting more turn up.

Rocky was in the zone. He took to the skies, standing on the hood of one of his suspended cars to rap “Gunz N Butter” and “OG Beeper.” As it lowered to the ground, he followed with a freestyle filled with that Pretty Flacko talk: “Look at me, get what you see, envision me/Brazen chains, is he Pusha-T or Mr. T?”

“We in fucking New York City right now,” he said after. “This is the home of the A$AP Mob, are you shitting me?”

Our first special guest: A$AP Ferg.

The pair have one of the best chemistries in hip-hop, shown in their buddy-buddy attitude and how seamlessly they work off one another. No matter how many times you’ve heard “Plain Jane” and “Work,” the songs still go off. When these come on, New York definitely doesn’t know how to be quiet.

“Ferg, you crazy if you think I’ma let you leave. You’re crazy,” Rocky said.

“Welcome home, Flacko!” Ferg replied, continuing with “Floor Seats.”

Ferg gave a special shout to day-one fans who have been with the Mob since their early singles, listing “Peso,” “Purple Swag,” “Get High,” and “Shabba.” Later, after Rocky brought out AWGE affiliates Smooky Margielaa and G4 Boyz, he playfully nodded to having no type after showing off his collection of bras he got from women who threw theirs on stage earlier. It was a tongue-in-cheek lead-in to the second major guest, Swae Lee, who performed “No Type” to the surprise of many. Rocky, who continued to hold his bras with delicate care, likened tonight’s show as a hip-hop Woodstock and he, the rock star.

“I don’t know about y’all, but when it comes to this New York City shit, this shit shaped and changed my whole fucking life,” he said, explaining how much he respects the OGs that came before him.

Born and raised in Harlem, Rocky started off with The Diplomats’ “Dipset Anthem,” with Juelz Santana’s verse causing a ruckus. Rocky wanted to move on to play more legendary New York classics, but his DJ, Lou Banga, threw off the vibe by accidentally playing songs by Bobby Shmurda and Pop Smoke. Modern classics, sure, but Rocky emphasized “legendary New York shit” from Queens.

Our third and final special guest: 50 Cent.

 

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First year in New York was legendary. @asaprocky @50cent

A post shared by Rolling Loud (@rollingloud) on Oct 14, 2019 at 6:48am PDT

Fif came out to “What Up Gangsta” with Rocky as his hypeman, rapping lines from the song like he was a youth again. It was two generations from two different boroughs reuniting in Queens, where 50 is actually from. Despite hiccups by the NYPD with preemptive cancellations of performances by Pop Smoke, Casanova, 22Gz, Sheff G and Don Q, this was a positive moment for the city and showed two rap eras can coexist. No rap beefs, no violence. Just good energy to help put the city on the map.

Fif stuck around to run through more hits such as “I Get Money” and “Big Rich Town,” but not after asking the audience if they watched Power. Clever promotion from hip-hop’s savvy businessman.

While the show was supposed to end at 10 p.m., Rocky was down to get lit until past curfew. He called on the A$AP Mob for a brief moment of silence for Yams before getting into “Yamborghini High.” Ferg, A$AP Illz, A$AP Twelvyy, and A$AP Nast all appeared to show love to Eastside Stevie.

“My n***a was a New York vet and at the end of the day, his whole vibe was just making sure everybody ate,” Rocky said. “Yams was a good-hearted n***a, trying to put n***as on…He was a good one. We lost a real one.”

The tribute only made the Mob’s performance of “Yamborghini High” that much more meaningful. Rocky and his crew could’ve left Rolling Loud fans with that. But they had one more thing in store, even after the fireworks went off and lights in the parking lot went on.

Tariq Cherif, one of the co-founders of Rolling Loud, presented Rocky with a Rolling Loud chain. After Sunday’s lineup featuring stars like A Boogie Wit Da Hoodie, Lil Tecca, and Young Thug, to give Rocky a chaining day in New York is how you end on a high note. His last song, “Lord Pretty Flacko Jodye 2,” and it's opening lyrics couldn’t have been more perfect.

“Who the jiggy nigga with the gold links?”

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