Phor is an artist with something to say, whether he’s creating music, tattooing, working out, or using his platform to promote positivity and self-love. For any individual growing up in the South Side of Chicago, the battle is triumphing through the hardships of the neighborhood and doing whatever it takes to make something of yourself.
You may have seen Phor on VH1’sreality television show Black Ink Chicago, which speaks volumes to his love and passion for his city. While he fell into tattooing by accident nearly a decade ago, the “Cardio” rapper is a walking testament that you don’t have to be boxed into one career, but rather a multidimensional creative in its truest form.
Phor’s biggest hit to date includes 2017’s “Chi-Town,” which he describes as an anthem for his city similar to “Welcome To Atlanta” by Jermain Dupri. It later received a standout remix from Chicago legends BumpJ, Twista and Lil Durk.
Most recently, Phor released his new single “Comfy” inspired directly by quarantine and the mandated lockdown due to COVID-19. The record currently holds fans over until the arrival of his forthcoming project titled Self-Love — raising awareness for mental health while speaking volumes to the current state of the world.
Flaunt caught up with Phor via Instagram Live to discuss the importance of mental health, how he fell into tattooing, biggest musical influences, new single “Comfy,” his fitness routine, and more!
For those who don’t know, who is Phor?
Expect the unexpected. Most importantly, somebody with a good heart. I look at myself as an inspiration. Motivator, I like to give people that type of energy. Think of a positive person, somebody who wants to see you win.
Hailing from Chicago’s South Side, what was the household like growing up?
I was raised with all women, so I have a lot of respect for the ladies. I’ve always been a giving person. My father wasn't in my life so I had to be the man of the house. I had to do what I had to do, step up and make sure they were straight. I was a little boy taking care of a grown man's responsibility.
You started doing music at 14 years old. What was Phor like then?
I was clearly outside with my neighborhood friends. My homeboy was really good at freestyling about anything in front of him. I was inspired, I thought that was the craziest thing. I took that home with me. I used to write stuff down, try to focus on rhythm, flow, making sense of what I'm saying with metaphors and punchlines. He happened to become a producer, so I started working with him real close on music on the come up. I was in a group at the time called UNDAHOOD. I started taking it series my first year in high school. It's been a wild ride.
Have you been tattooing the entire time?
Hell nah, tattooing came 9 or 10 years ago. I stumbled across it, nothing I was looking to do. I had a lot of friends who were tattoo artists, I was getting a lot of tattoos. I played around with it one day, I was bored. On New Years, my brother said "man, do a tattoo on me." He played basketball. Back then, everybody wanted to be tattooed on the court.
He literally said “try on me?” That’s crazy!
Yeah, he was with it. I did that, it's been up from there. There was a response of course, my clientele grew. Before I was tattooing, I was customizing shoes for Nike. I always had a clientele, and I was making shirts. I converted my audience over to what I was doing.
Growing up, who were the artists you looked up to?
Nas, DMX, Jay-Z, Timbaland and Magoo back then. It was lit, I was inspired by the energy to express. It became therapy for me, it became an outlet tool for me. You know when you're talking to somebody, they hear you but they’re not really listening? It goes in one ear and out the other. Music is my way of getting things off my chest, but people don't really understand. That's my journal, that's my diary.
"Chi Town" was a big record for you. What did that do for your career?
It was a crazy time when I made the song. I remember I made it on Memorial Day weekend in 2018. Originally, it was going to be a whole different type of song. I changed some of the words and "Chi Town" came at the end. I’m like “alright, this is what it is.” I didn't write it down, I did it on the spot. I record music on the spot, I like natural vibes. That's what fits the mood these days. I knew what I had, I set up a meeting with the radio station. "Chi-Town" was the last song I played them. I wanted to get everything else out the way first because I already knew what they’re going to say. Chicago never had a real city anthem like how Atlanta has "Welcome to Atlanta" or how New York has "I’m from New York.” Chicago never really had that Chicago record, so it worked.
You have Chicago legends on the remix! Twista, Lil Durk, and Bump J.
I fuck with Durk. I fuck with all them guys, they’re all solid. It was dope. What's crazy is the remix was gonna be a lot bigger but the way Chicago’s set up, some artists can't be on certain songs with other artists due to street shit.
Your new single "Comfy,” was this inspired by quarantine?
During the quarantine, I haven't been able to get fresh. Haven’t had to get dressed. I've been having to get comfortable, you feel me? I literally have shorts and house shoes on. I'm comfy. I'm real chill, I'm real relaxed. There’s no club, none of that going on.
Do you miss that shit?
Yeah, for the bookings. For the money. [chuckles] I've never been a big clubber, but it's cool. It's the fact that you don't have the option no more, it's taken away.
What was your creative vision with the “Cardio” visual?
“Cardio” is something that’ll last forever, everyone’s working out around the world. Even if you're not working out, it's more so saying get active. Whatever it is you do, get up. Get off the couch, move around. With the video, I wanted to tie into being obese and getting in shape. Showing my personality a little more. The idea was inspired from the movie The Nutty Professor, because Eddie Murphy’s one of my favorite actors. I wanted to do the Creed effect with The Nutty Professor.
What's your workout regimen, since all the gyms are closed?
I work out early. I got my workout out the way at 7am this morning. I still go to sleep late, I set an alarm at 6am so I can be up. I got a great trainer who’s doing his thing for me, shout out to Big B. I do a lot of cardio. I'm lifting too, but I'm not lifting too heavy. I'm mostly focusing on definition. Of course, meal preps and eating healthy.
What are we eating?
I mainly eat fish. I don't really eat red meat like that. I have my broccoli, sweet potatoes, a little bit of rice. I keep it real simple.
What’s your own journey with mental health?
I didn't know I was dealing with it until I went to a therapist. As humans, we brush things off and keep it pushing. Over time, it builds up so much it erupts. A lot of things I was putting on the backburner with self, giving attention to everybody else and what they needed. That broke me down. I wasn't strong enough to have my own back, caring for everybody else more than yourself. That was the training run, I had to go through the motion of going to therapy. As a kid growing up, I was always dealing with voices. I was never scared to really hurt myself if I had to. It wasn't too far-fetched, but I was smart enough to know that wasn't the right thing to do. I started figuring out why I feel this way, when I know I'm in a great position in life. Also hurting people whose lives I’ve impacted, who have a lot of love for me. I wanted to take advantage of who I was before it was too late.
You have an album called Self Love on the way. What does it mean to focus an entire album on that concept?
I need to let the people know where I'm at. At the time, I had dropped "Help" and it had a big response. I had so many people reaching out, making sure I was okay. I want to let them know now that I am okay. I’m recharged, I hit the reset button. I want to update my people where I'm at right now mentally. I owe it to myself, I never really did a project really for me. I have a lot of music, a lot more projects coming after this. I started with that so I can do it the right way, we can push forward after that.
That's fire, a lot of people will be able to relate to that.
Absolutely. I'm giving them everything: the good, the bad, the ugly. I'm giving them the dark place but at the same time, I'm showing people how to come up out of it. Sometimes you'll see the happiest people, people who are partying, they be going through the worst and you don't know. A lot of people going through the craziest feelings mentally are smiling and happy. They're cheesing ear to ear and probably really going through it. I'm speaking on all that, a good project overall. One of my best projects.
Do you have any features on there?
No, I wanted to do this solo. But I do have some features in the vault releasing soon. This project, I needed the world to hear me so they can know where I'm at. Keep things rocking from there.
I know you’re covered, but what’s your most meaningful tattoo?
This is my new logo [shows face tats]. This says mastermind. This my 9 Mag tattoo, the tattoo shop I work at. This says genius. These are probably my 2 favorite tattoos: you see this one says 3 2 1? And this other one says 1 2 3? That's me and my mother's birthdays. My birthday is 3/21, my mother's birthday is 1/23. That's something special that we share. Randomly we got the same numbers, just backwards.
What does mom think of your music and your tattoo career?
She's happy for me. I try to give her everything she ever gave me, she played mother and father.
Is it ever difficult to balance Black Ink Chicago and your music career?
Yes and no. I have 3 or 4 jobs. I do them all everyday, it’s broken down in different hours. I might film for 5 hours, I might tattoo for 5 hours. When I'm done with that, I go to the studio. I have to get up and go to the gym. I keep my plate full, I stay busy. Keep in mind, Black Ink is tattoo show. I happen to be the only guy who raps on there, so it works in my favor because it’s eliminating other competition. I can promote my shit. Now my song "Chi-Town" is the anthem of the show, so it's a win-win.