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Phor talks ‘Self Love’ project, being a mental health advocate, Chicago protests and “Black Ink Crew”

REVOLT caught up with Phor to discuss his newly released project Self Love, how his upbringing in Chicago influenced his mental health, and much more. Read here!

Phor SugarMilk | Haley Scott

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Tattoo and recording artist Phor Brumfield is truly multi-dimensional in every sense of the word. And earlier this month, Phor gave fans the opportunity to go deeper into his mind with his latest project, Self Love.

Following his public battle with depression and suicidal thoughts, Phor used his platform to advocate for mental health and self-love in the Black community. Through his music, the southside Chicago native takes listeners on a journey, as he opens up about his inner thoughts. From his lead single “Cardio” to follow-up track “Comfy,” Self Love sparks a conversation about the importance of the mind, especially for Black men.

REVOLT caught up with Phor to discuss his newly released project Self Love, how his upbringing in Chicago influenced his mental health, and how he’s breaking barriers as a mental health advocate. Read below.

How has your mental health been holding up considering everything that’s been happening in the Black community, as of late?

Honestly, I got to the point where I literally had to create my own world to live in because there’s so much going on. Just being in Chicago and seeing how the communities and the neighborhoods that I grew up in, all of the protests going on, and seeing the whole Black Lives Matter situation and still watching my own people tear each other down — that alone is just devastating. I had to create my own peace because you will get wrapped up in it and it can bring you down.

How have you seen Chicago really progress in the Black Lives Matter movement?

I was actually in Dallas when all of the looting and everything was taking place. I was just watching from the news and Instagram how they were tearing up everything [and] at one point, I understood it. Then, it got to the point where I was watching us tear up our own communities at the same time. You have mothers that have babies and kids out here, and now they [can’t] find where to get diapers at and small stuff like that because they’re tearing up their own neighborhood. Some people kind of missed the point of looting and some people took this whole situation as a come up like, “Let’s just take everything for free.” They looked at it like an opportunity to just take a lot of free stuff, but you’re tearing up your own community at the same time.

It hurts because I’m watching my own neighborhood where I grew up just getting torn down, people are getting robbed and people are just doing anything right now. It’s like monkey-see, monkey-do versus people really knowing the calls of the action. It became more, for me and how I witnessed it, about themselves versus the George Floyd situation. For the people that did react because of that situation, I know it was just a build up of a lot of cases and situations of the police killing Black people, and a buildup where we’re tired... We helped build this place that we’ve lived in and we are steadily getting the disrespect and not treated as equal...

How has your upbringing in Chicago impacted your mental health journey?

Growing up in my time when I was younger versus now, it’s a whole different type of generation. For me, it was a little more respect. There was still a lot of gang activity going on, but when I was younger, people would more so fight and nowadays people are shooting people for no reason and people are dying for no reason. Women are getting killed, babies are getting killed, and it’s just no real structure [like] how it used to be. There’s no people to look up to and these shorties are just out here doing anything for the wrong reasons because they’re trying to prove something. I feel like the only way to stop it is when they get old enough to realize that they’re just tired and they have to grow up out of it. It’s hard to try to tell people what’s right or what’s wrong when all they know is their environment and the block they grew up on. It’s very depressing, but I try not to get too far sunken into it because my goal is always to pray for the better and hope it gets better than where it is today.

I still have a goal and that’s to always inspire and want to see better for my city because Chicago is a beautiful city, but it’s a mindset... Living here and where I grew up in the southside of Chicago, it’s going down and there’s no secret about it. It’s happening out here [and] the other day, they just shot up a funeral. Like I’m saying, there’s no respect right now. People are just killing each other for whatever the reason and it’s “kill or be killed” here. It’s sad because it’s such a negative community and it’s hard to stay positive. How can you be positive in a negative environment? You have to be around positive people in order to uplift yourself [and] I still try to shed that light and that energy to people who don’t necessarily see that on a day-to-day basis because they’re so wrapped around and focused on the wrong things.

How important is advocacy in mental health and community building to you?

It’s very important. I would have people who hit me up daily, even when we had the quarantine for so long, on social media [who] may send me a message for some advice or some type of help with whatever they’re going through. They don’t have an outlet or anything like that, so I just still try to give them some type of hope because they need it.

What’s the inspiration behind your project Self Love?

I have my own personal experience, but I feel like as a whole, people don’t love themselves enough and that’s where I was at. I was giving so much love to everyone else [to the point] where I forgot about myself and I almost just let it all go. I had to hit the reset button and realize my worth, recharge, take a different path and let a lot of things go even as far as people, friendships and relationships. I had to find a place where I could be happy. My thing used to be making everybody else happy, but it means nothing if you’re not taking care of yourself first. You have to love yourself and I literally hit rock bottom being there for everybody else and when it was time for me to have my own back, I pretty much collapsed. A lot of people weren’t there for me at times when I was there for them the most and I learned that a lot of people only love you when they need you. You’ve gotta protect yourself no matter what and that’s honestly what this quarantine has shown me.

We had to sit in the house for ninety days or something like that, and when the whole pandemic first happened, I kind of panicked and I didn’t think I was ever going to get through it. Quarantine is going to make two kinds of people: people [who] are going to better themselves and people [who] are going to fall all the way off the map of the earth. It gave me a lot of time to focus on myself and it was a blessing in disguise because it took away a lot of distractions. I was able to save a lot more money and realize the things that didn’t matter, and I started to focus more on bettering myself, learning new things and making more time for myself because I had it. We couldn’t do anything but sit in the house.

What was the inspiration behind your single “Get Up,” and what’s the story that you’re telling?

It’s basically just that I’m focused. I used to just not know my worth and I had to always realize that no one else is going to do it for you. I needed that snapback because when you’re so depressed and you don’t see it, you can become a couch potato. Sometimes you have to get up and make it happen because no one is gonna do it for you. Some of the friends I see and the things and stories I hear, [it seems] everybody now is looking for the quick dollar. Some people don’t have the hustle, some people don’t have the ambition, some people don’t have the drive and I watch that daily in my city. Even with some of the youth and the things you see on social media, I feel like it was a real song that needed to be put out to motivate people and make them take a chance. You can’t fail until you try. Who’s gonna do it for you? You’re gonna look back on all these years on what you could’ve done, so why not just get up and do it? That was my whole push for it — to make people get active. I have a song called “Cardio,” and it’s the same mindset and pretty much saying to get up, get active and let’s get to it.

How are you continuing to spread these positive messages through your music?

Me and my team have started this Self Love series and what we’re doing is having people sign up to get on-board. We’re letting people know what we’re doing this week and how to meet up with us. [A few weeks ago], I did a two mile run and I had 30 people meet up with me to come run with me. Not all 30 people pulled up, but we still had enough people to come out and support the cause. We have another event coming up next week and we give people things to do with self-care, taking care of yourself and shining a light on things that get overlooked. We get so distracted by things that don’t matter and now we’re taking the time and having people intake on what does matter and that’s health. Health is wealth and taking care of yourself. We’re doing things like that in a positive way and the people are rocking with it.

When you came forward about your battle with depression and suicidality on “Black Ink Crew” that was a pivotal moment. What made you feel comfortable enough to share that?

To be honest with you, it wasn’t anything that I was looking to film or put out. I was feeling what I was feeling and I knew I wasn’t feeling well. Even [when] getting on the plane and heading to Vegas, I knew I wasn’t in the right mindset, but I also knew that I had a show that we had to finish up so I was just trying to go out there and do my job. I just wasn’t feeling it and I had a mental breakdown. I was trying to get away from the cameras, honestly, and there’s a lot of stuff that they didn’t show because I got as far away as I could. I took three months away from filming and just got away from everything because I needed time for myself to reset via that or the coffin. I took the time to go get help and started going to therapy. I never want to do therapy like that.

During that time, the network flew me to New York to show me the footage and they asked me, “Are you okay with us putting this out?” At the time, when I saw it, it was unedited and straight raw, I felt good about it, and I was like, “Yeah, you can put it out.” When it aired, it broke me right back down again and it hit hard because now you have so many people that know now and it’s like now the pressure’s on, and so many people are reaching out. I wasn’t necessarily even looking for a reaction, but it was something where it was what it was... I was feeling alone, but once I saw the response of so many people that go through the same thing, overtime, I became more [upfront] about it.

I’ve become more of an advocate [for] it because I’m noticing the people who hit me up for advice... Just giving them a little bit would help them out a lot.

There are a lot of negative stigmas around therapy. Why is it important for you to break them for Black men, especially as a public figure?

Hell yeah. In the Black community, it gets swept under the rug. Our community, our people, our kind, people of color don’t monitor until something happens. The moment something happens and obviously it’s too late, now people are reaching out and now everyone is emotional. But, sometimes you have to react before the action takes place. Some people would just overlook it like, “You’ll be okay,” or “Nah, man, you’re just tweaking,” and when something happens, now everyone is panicking. You have to be there and check on your strong friends. A lot of people that go through that are a lot of people that you see smiling and happy all the time, but the whole time you don’t know what they’re dealing with mentally. I was one of those people where my whole thing was [to] be there, be the shoulder for everyone else to cry on, help out when people need it and that was always my thing until I realized, “Damn, what about myself?”

How do you believe your status as a celebrity has impacted your mental health both negatively and positively?

It’s a whole lot everyday and even earlier today. It doesn’t leave my mind ever because you get reminded all the time of the positive and of the negative. Someone’s always got something to say, some people don’t know how to let things go and some people are always going to remind you of whatever it is that you’re trying to get over. Some wounds don’t heal, but you have to learn how to put a bandaid on it and keep it moving. Some people forget that we are human, too... We have feelings, we have emotions, and we go through things. Being a public figure, they always think you’re supposed to be peaches and cream, and everything is supposed to be the perfect world, but no. You have all of this pressure on you on top of what you deal with in your own personal life. It’s a lot and it can be overwhelming sometimes. You can get so much love [to] where you start getting crazy and you have to look at yourself like, “Who am I?” You do have to humble yourself because sometimes you can get lost in the sauce where the wrong energy can trigger something negative out of you.

I’ve just been very overprotective of my circle, my energy and who I give it to. I have associates, but it’s a very small circle of friends I have around and people who I allow in my personal life and my business because I try to keep certain people out of it. You never know what people’s intentions are anymore. I’m a nice guy and a good person, so I’m always showing love. But, now I have to find different ways of doing it where I’m still keeping my guard up because you don’t know people’s intentions nowadays. Some people get close just to expose whatever that you’re dealing with for some type of clout or just to run to a blog. It’s crazy what people will do and it’s like you can’t even be human and just vent.

That was part of me also being hesitant about therapy. I know people’s jobs are to connect with you and be on your side, but you don’t know what they’re going to do once they leave that office or who they’re going to talk to like, “Guess who I had come in today?” You don’t know who’s running their mouth. It can get scary sometimes and it’s only going to get worse. The bigger you are, the bigger the demon.

How should reality shows and the entertainment industry as a whole protect the mental health of talent?

When my breakdown happened, it was so crazy. Viacom (now ViacomCBS) hit me and told me that day of the episode, the mental health hotline got 30,000 calls that night. They said that’s never happened and that was a record for them. For me, that was never my concern. A lot of people were happy about the response that so many people reached out for help, but I wasn’t necessarily looking at it like that. I guess it was cool that people smartened up and took the courage to go get help, but that wasn’t the response I was even looking for. It was just what I was going through and we rolled with it, and took it for what it was. Now I have to be that voice for people who don’t have one. That’s why this project Self Love is for me, where I hit the reset and update people where I’m at mentally. I owe that to the people and I owe it to myself. I think the project is actually phenomenal start to finish and there’s something on there for everybody.

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