Phora talks going independent, idolizing Nipsey Hussle, leaving a legacy and more
The rapper sat down exclusively with REVOLT TV to chat about his new album, love and making music with Scott Storch. Check out the conversation here!
The views expressed in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the official policy or position of any other agency, organization, employer or company.
Phora has been dubbed this generation’s J. Cole, a comparison that makes sense once you hear his music. The Anaheim, California native is known to spit (and sing) nothing but the real; putting his deepest, darkest thoughts and feelings at the forefront of his lyrics. This isn’t just a kid who’s been through some struggles. Phora is a recording artist who wears his heart on his sleeve, while consistently releasing music for his growing fanbase.
The first time I heard “To The Moon” (off of his Yours Truly Forever album), I immediately fell in love. It was the combination of both old school R&B and hip hop elements that drew me in, which reminded me that love does exist even in our darkest times. Born Marco Anthony Archer, Phora recently split with his major label to return to the independent route he initially took off in. Not to say the rapper and his ex-label ended on bad terms, but Phora is a superstar on his own, as there was no need for an outside push or enhancing studio techniques for his material because his music speaks for itself.
Most recently, Phora unleashed his project Bury Me With Dead Roses, which is the follow-up to last year’s Love Is Hell. This time around, the 24-year-old arrives older, wiser, and hungrier than ever. With the success of his “Yours Truly” clothing line and the unwavering dedication and love from his fans, it was no surprise that his forthcoming tour sold out within 30 minutes.
From being shot in 2015 on the freeway to now shutting down stages around the world, Phora is an inspiration to anyone with a dream who’s struggling to push through adversity. REVOLT TV sat down with the rapper to talk about his recent split from Warner Records, now being managed by Roc Nation, linking with Scott Storch, and the legacy he hopes to leave.
You say you’re a normal kid from Anaheim who’s just trying to get his story out. What is that story?
A kid who came into this world and didn’t have much, but made it through all the trials and tribulations. The ups and the downs. [I want to tell the story] of my entire journey in a world of people who doubted, tried to bring a kid down — just making it through and seeing success and growth in life.
You have evolved a lot. How would you describe your sound now?
It’s a little hip hop mixed with modern. A little bit of R&B, but keeping it true to my hip hop roots.
Could you talk about parting ways with your major label?
I got a whole lot to say (chuckles). I signed to Warner in 2017. Now in 2019, I’m independent. Been independent for a few months. In the beginning… it was all fun, but I was signed to Warner Bros. and… they got a new CEO, new everything. When people leave and new people come in, everything starts to change. But, it’s always all love with the people… Going independent and going back to my roots, the biggest difference is there’s no one in my ear telling me who I should be, who I should sound like, what I should do. I can truly be myself, be the person I want to be and convey that message to the world without any obstacles standing in the way of that.
What worked and what didn’t work?
With the major label, I couldn’t tell you what worked. They never provided any of those features, any of the production — it was all me. At heart… I’ve always been independent. When I was at Warner Bros., I was even funding the majority of my own music videos… Even on tours, they didn’t fund anything. I traveled, paid for my own travel and toured on my own. I’ve always been independent at heart. I signed with a label in hopes I’d have that stamp and things would change — get radio [play] and all these big things. I hoped that things would just come, but I realized that in major labels, you [still] gotta work for it.
What advice do you have for aspiring artists in the industry who are debating between signing or remaining independent?
Organically grow a fanbase. Be yourself, and just put music out. Be consistent… Talk to the people who care about you. Talk to them, respond to their DMs, respond to their comments… That’s the most important thing. Those are the people who are [going to] support you and hold you down.
You shut down Hollywood Blvd with your Shoe Palace event. What is it that the fans love about Phora?
The Shoe Palace thing was crazy, shout out to the fans. It’s really the connection. It’s really me being an open person and wearing my heart on my sleeve. People can relate. People can look at me and [say], ‘Look, here’s a person I can relate to because I know he went through this… I went through some of those things, too, so I can relate to him. I’m not the only person in this world… That’s why I like this guy.’ When you put that connection into music that sounds good, everything comes full circle.
What is it about the ‘Yours Truly’ brand/clothing line that fans love?
It’s genuine. Independent-owned by me, no investors. I own ‘Yours Truly’ as a clothing brand. Especially in our hip hop culture, it’s a brand that represents unity and diversity. L.A. is so diverse and that’s where ‘Yours Truly’ was brought up. It’s about being diverse, but spreading love in all cultures.
Let’s talk about joining Roc Nation on the management side.
Shout out Roc Nation. I know it sounds like a big label [situation], but it’s really just management. I’ve been managed myself all the way up until then. Shout out Nima, shout out Dominique Brown. Super good people… Obviously, I’m continuing to be me… and be who I am. They’re just helping build the vision.
You being independent this whole time, why’d you feel you needed them?
I just needed people because I’m growing to a level where it’s hard for me to do everything. I needed them to help keep everything together… They help facilitate.
Congrats on the release of your new album, Bury Me With Dead Roses. Let’s talk about shutting down Fairfax on its release day.
Fairfax is the spot! That’s where my ‘Yours Truly’ flagship store is… We shut it down. Fans came through, did a little performance… It’s always dope to be there, look in the fans’ eyes and see that connection. See how much the music means to them… It’s crazy to see how much this music means to people.
What’s one thing you want fans to get from this project?
We all go through pain, but there’s a way out of it. There’s a way out of it that doesn’t have to resort in anything violent or ending your own life… It’s by growing through the pain. We all go through pain in short, but you gotta make it through.
Talking about linking with Scott Storch on ‘Blame On Me.’
Scott Storch produced ‘Blame On Me’ (chuckles)… The first time I linked with him, he made that beat from scratch. He’s such an amazing dude. So down to earth, so humble. I looked up to [him] since I was a little kid and even until now. I was starstruck like, ‘Wow this is one of my favorite producers.’ …I didn’t know what to say… I’m like, ‘Yo what do I do?’ … It was dope. He made me feel comfortable just because he was all about the music. Scott, Steve Lobel, their whole team is super dope. Super amazing people.
What was dynamic like in the studio?
He just cooked up the beat, I’m like, ‘This is fire, let’s get it!’ I just got in the booth and started recording. Everything came natural.
Do you freestyle or write your stuff down?
I freestyle. Not like rap battle freestyle… I come up with the melody first (hums melody). I turn it into words from there… I take a moment in my life and put it all together to create the story. Every song I make is a story.
‘Te Necesito’ is impacting radio. What inspired you to do a Spanish record? Is it your first one?
I still don’t consider it a ‘Spanish’ record for me because it’s not full Spanish. But, it’s not my first time making music with Spanish words, it’s my first song with Spanish culture in it. I just felt like it was the right time. I felt it. There’s been times in the past where I tried to do something like this, it didn’t work out. This time it worked out.
*The closing track, ‘The Dream,’ is dedicated to Nipsey Hussle. What was his influence on your own life and career?
Man, I could go on for hours. Nipsey was an amazing person, an amazing entrepreneur, an amazing artist, an amazing rapper, and an amazing role model… He inspired me in so many ways, even when I wasn’t making music. That’s how much of an impact he’s had on my life… He’s had such a cultural influence… So, I wanted to pay my respects and pay my dues in ‘The Dream’ video to honor him and honor his legacy.
In the opening track of the album, ‘On My Way,” are you speaking to your girlfriend Destiny?
Yeah, of course. It’s crazy, man. It’s been about seven years. It’s been a long ride. If anyone out there has been in a longterm relationship, they know. [There’s] a lot of back and forth, a lot of struggle, a lot of pain. But, at the end of the day, there’s always beauty at the end of it. That’s my ride or die.
A lot of your songs are inspired by love. Why is that?
I was born off of love. I was raised with love. Love has always been around me. Love has always been the most powerful thing in my life even when I was surrounded by only hate. Even when I was surrounded by only envy. Even when I was surrounded by only violence, love has always been the thing I felt the most. Through all of the pain I’ve been through, love has always been the thing that really made me who I am.
You’re so nice, it’s hard to imagine someone hating you.
God gives the toughest battles to the strongest people. I don’t know why, either, because I always try to give love everywhere I go. I’ve been around it because — look at Nipsey. Not in any way am I comparing myself to him, but he had such a good energy right? I could never imagine someone hating him. I could never imagine someone wanting to do anything to harm the man. He’s a family man, he’s a businessman, I could never imagine. It’s something about people who have that energy and that aura of love, and something about this world that makes people want to bring people down. I don’t have the answer [as to] why people are like that, but I always try to give love and spread love anywhere I go.
I know artists tend to have their own favorites that aren’t singles. What songs mean the most to you and why?
‘Forgive Me’ is one of the deepest songs as of [right now]… That was the closest thing to me because it was me breaking through. When I was on Warner, I had that song. They didn’t want me to release it, [they said] it wasn’t a hit record. But, when I was independent and I was free, I’m like, ‘This is the song I wanna come out with.’ That was everything I was going through wrapped into one song… That song helped me personally through so much.
You’re known for bringing out the crowd at your shows. Can we expect a tour for this new album?
I announced it a few days ago and it sold out…in 30 minutes. That’s amazing, shout out to the fans… people who have loved me throughout the years. People who have grown with me throughout the whole year. The whole tour is sold out, I’m just super grateful.
What are some goals for yourself at this point in your career?
I just want to keep growing [and] connect with more… fans as much as I can. I want to leave a legacy. I want people to remember me when I’m gone… I’m all about longevity, and my goal is to be here as long as I can. Even if I’m not here physically, I want to leave an impact on the world, the people, and the culture for the rest of eternity. That’s my end goal.
What can we expect next?
The tour is coming… expect more dates. Expect another leg of the tour… I kept it intimate, kept it small. I want to connect up close and personal with the fans. I [also] have new music coming soon.
Already! You gotta stay consistent, you gotta stay working. A couple secret features. I wish I could say, but it ain’t ready yet. I got a couple things in the works.
If you love Los Angeles stars and hip hop, you’ll definitely want to join us and AT&T in L.A. on Oct. 24 – Oct. 26 for our three-day REVOLT Summit, which was created to help rising moguls reach the next level. Head to REVOLTSummit.com for more info and to get your passes now!
More by Shirley Ju: