Phora is one of those artists that lets the music speak for itself. Go to any of his live shows, and you’ll see exactly what I mean. The Anaheim, California native boasts one of the most dedicated fanbases of our generation, selling out every and any show he puts on — regardless of location.
In fact, he recently shut down stages all across the country, putting on FREE shows as a thank you gift to his fans for supporting him all these years.
Phora’s story is not one to be overlooked. At 28 years old, Phora has been through his own share of traumatic hardships, including being stabbed at age 15 and even shot on the freeway at age 21. Regardless of what he’s going through, Phora always pours his heart and soul into the music…and it’s his vulnerability that fans gravitate towards most.
On a happier tip, Phora is a gentleman and hopeless romantic, which turns his love songs into long-lasting memories and soundtracks. His current girlfriend, Skye, is featured on two songs from his newest project titled The Butterfly Effect, and you can hear the love within both records.
On the 49th episode of Shirley’s Temple, I sat with Phora to discuss his new project, touring with G-Eazy and Trippie Redd, doing tattoos, mental health struggles, checking himself into rehab, how he met his girlfriend Skye, and more!
AllHipHop: You just dropped The Butterfly Effect album, how are you feeling?
Phora: I’m feeling great. Dropping these albums and these songs, it’s a lot easier independent. Most importantly, I just have a lot more creativity to do what I want to do, and not do what I don’t want to do. When I do these interviews, I can pick who I want to do the interviews with. [laughs]
A lot of artists, dropping an album for them is stressful, because they have to do a bunch of s### they don’t want to do. For me, look. Let’s put the music, let’s go with the flow and make everything natural. Let’s make sure we work hard, but we don’t do things we’re against. It makes me comfortable, it makes me have a lot of respect for myself. It makes me have respect for my team. I just feel like me, to be honest.
AllHipHop: Was it inspired by the movie?
Phora: I seen the movie a long time ago, I love the movie. It’s more of The Butterfly Effect as a meaning in itself, as a phrase. Every little thing you do can have a huge impact.
AllHipHop: You just did an appreciation tour, doing free shows all over the country.
Phora: Those were crazy!
AllHipHop: What prompted you to do this? Because even $5 tickets, you could make some revenue.
Phora: I do it because I’m a fan of music too. If someone has a free show for me, I think to even before I started making music. Someone had a free show, I’m going! Especially these days, shows are $35, $50 a ticket. You might not want to go. You gotta drive there, you can’t go alone. You gotta bring two or three friends, it starts to get expensive.
You know what, let’s do it free. Let’s give people an experience where “yo, I had an amazing time at this free show, more than I had at shows I paid for. Festivals I went to.” I really wanted to do something, I didn’t think about making money or anything. I just wanted to be out there, outside in the easiest way possible. Putting up ticket links and all that, I didn’t even want people to go through that. I just want them to show up, have a great time.
I envisioned in my head one day, then it was super crazy.
AllHipHop: I feel like that always happens at your shows!
Phora: Because it’s a lot of young people, a lot of females going crazy. It’s more of a cult following thing where they go crazy and they’re so excited. It’s fun.
AllHipHop: When did you realize you had such an international fanbase, beyond SoCal?
Phora: Ever since I started doing shows outside, like Texas, Atlanta shows a lot of love. I’ve got a lot of love from Florida, New York too. A lot of the East Coast. It started happening slowly. It wasn’t really a time where I’m like whoa, what’s going on? It’s a brick by brick kind of thing.
AllHipHop: I was a fan of your music first, but when I witnessed your show in LA, wow! You pack it out, the fans know every single word.
Phora: It’s a beautiful thing. Especially doing those songs, performing for an hour, there’s people who know every single song. Man, how do you guys know? I barely know all these songs! I’m sure I could do 20 more songs and they would know them. How do you guys know all these songs? I could barely remember the words, but they know them word for word.
AllHipHop: I had G-Eazy on my show, you went on tour with him and Trippie Redd. Wildest city?
Phora: I think maybe because it’s where G-Eazy’s from, shout out to the Bay. Y’all got some of the most loyal, amazing, dedicated people. The Bay really has a culture, they have love and respect for the people that came out of the Bay. When you do a show and perform in the Bay, if they f### with you, they f### with you. If they don’t f### with you, they don’t f### with you.
I love the Bay, one of the most memorable cities. That tour was crazy, I learned so much. It was my only support tour I ever went on. G-Eazy said “yeah f### it, come on tour with me. Let’s go.” Then I found out Trippie was going to be on the tour, which was even better. It’s pretty much a tour with all homies, instead of being on tour with someone random. It was pretty dope, I have so many memories.
AllHipHop: G-Eazy simmered down a lot. He doesn’t really party now, but I know he used to.
Phora: Yeah, he’s wild!
AllHipHop: Were y’all partying after the shows?
Phora: Of course. They had the Stillhouse little thing. In every venue, they set up a bar. You got the show, then you got a club inside the venue. It would be dim lights, red lights, alcohol everywhere. Industry people, but also girls, guys. Just a bunch of stuff going on. Every night was an all night partying kind of night, but it was fun. It was more good vibes.
I can’t even remember anything weird happening on that tour. It was straight through, straight shot tour. Everyone had fun. Everyone turned up. We didn’t even really have to go to the outside clubs. The internal, inside of the tour was one f###### traveling club. [laughs] It was cool, I had a great time.
AllHipHop: Trippie Redd was my second ever Shirley’s Temple episode, I have so much love for Trippie.
Phora: He’s a good dude man, I love Trippie.
AllHipHop: “Love Is Hell” is one of my favorite songs of yours, that video was so perfect. That and “To The Moon,” obviously.
Phora: Thank you. Both of those videos, I really put in a lot of thinking. I wanted those videos to be really colorful and just different from the stereotypical. I like a lot of my videos to be like that.
AllHipHop: How’d you and Trippie link up? Did he reach out to you to work?
Phora: No, G-Eazy hit me up. He was one of the first people ever in my career, that was a superstar to hit me up. Me and Trippie had met somewhere, we exchanged numbers. I asked him to be on the song.
AllHipHop: He sounds so good on it!
Phora: You know where we met at? We met at Day N Night Festival in Anaheim. Me and Trippie, we’re homies. I went to his house, he’s been to my house.
AllHipHop: Growing up, what were you envisioning for yourself then? When you were in that one bedroom apartment.
Phora: Getting the f### out. Getting out, getting out of that whole environment. Getting out of everywhere. I had a vision of me on a beach somewhere far, far away, and not having to deal with all the s### I was dealing with when I was a kid. I know so many people out there feel the same way they feel.
I felt trapped. I felt confined. I felt like I was in this box, and there were all these other people out there living these lives that they love and they’re so happy with. Man, my biggest vision was getting out and being free. Finding myself and being me, that pushed me for so many years. It still pushes me to this day. I still think back to that kid, how would he feel?
AllHipHop: You were tattooing, making $1,500 a week?
Phora: More than that, it depends on how it went. I was 14, 15 years old, doing tattoos. $40, $50 tattoos, but all day, all night. Till 3am, 4am. It was a hustle. I just love and respect art. I started out drawing Dragon Ball Z and Pokemon characters when I was 5, 6, 7. I’ve always loved art, started getting into that. Doing tattoos and stuff like that.
AllHipHop: What was your first tattoo ever?
Phora: This California outline right here, just the outline. I got it when I was 13. Back then, getting a tattoo was the craziest thing ever. [laughs] People were not tatted up.
AllHipHop: I just remember listening to Wiz Khalifa’s “Ink My Whole Body.”
Phora: He was the first rapper that was all tatted. Everyone’s like, “this is insane!” This dude has so many tattoos. Wiz Khalifa, ink my whole body I don’t give a m#########! It was the coolest thing. Even Wiz inspired me. Dude, this is so cool. It’s so artistic. It looks dope. I’m sure behind all his tattoos, he has his stories. Some obviously mean more than others, but it’s lit.
AllHipHop: Do you have a most meaningful tattoo?
Phora: I have a lot. On my hand says “forgive me mother,” that was a special one.
AllHipHop: How did she receive that?
Phora: She loves it. I’ve put my mom through a lot, especially as a teenager. It’s a small thing to always remind myself too, how much my mom has done for me and how much I owe her for having my back and showing me so much love growing up. That’s a special one. I have a lot of special ones, but they all have stories.
AllHipHop: A huge part of the show is mental health. How are you doing?
Phora: That’s a good question, how am I doing? I think I need a new therapist. I’m good. I put a lot of my pain, a lot of the stuff that I go through into music. A lot of people could say, “yeah, a lot of your songs are sad.” But making those sad songs makes me not so sad anymore, because I get it out. It’s like talking to someone about your problems.
When I don’t have someone to talk to, I write it down and that helps me a lot. As of right now, one thing that stresses me out is I don’t have too much time for music. I’m handling a lot of personal stuff, life stuff, family stuff. Getting back into music is very important for me, mental health-wise.
Having something or doing something that you love is important for mental health, so you’re not basking in your sadness and your depression all day in your room. I’ve been there before. I sat there for days and days and days on end, not knowing where to go, not knowing what to do.
Having someone you love, having something you love, anything you love, finding a hobby that you’re passionate about, that you could put that negative energy and f###### turn that into positive energy, it’s super important. Thank God, because that’s what music is for me. Music for me is not just I get on the mic and make a hot track. That’s not what it is for me, it’s something much deeper for myself.
AllHipHop: My photographer was saying earlier: “man, his music’s deep!”
Phora: [laughs] I don’t have a problem with being vulnerable and open, showing what I go through. That’s me, that’s who I am. Just like I wear these tattoos on my arms, I wear my f###### heart on my sleeve and my music. I don’t have a problem with it.
A lot of people who can’t talk about s### and aren’t open, when they listen to that music, I know a lot of m############ who connect with that s###. Out in the open, out in public, they’re some of the toughest, coolest m############. They pull me to the side like “look man, your music helped…” You would have never guessed, you would never think, but I’ve been pulled to the side a million times.
AllHipHop: The amount of times… you probably lost count.
Phora: It’s a beautiful thing because it’s bigger than me. It’s bigger than music. It’s about people being able to relate and people knowing we’re all human. We go through s###. I could get super deep. [laughs] That’s an important part of music, it’s supposed to make you feel something. Music is also supposed to make you feel happy, too. Music is supposed to make you feel happy, but I have my purpose in this music thing and I found it.
AllHipHop: What happened that led you to rehab?
Phora: We were talking two days ago about this, in Vegas drunk as hell. [laughs] Rehab came up, funny enough. We all go through our things and at that time, I was going through a lot. I was going through a public break up, I had internal things and then music things I was stressed about. I really was doing all the wrong things to help fix those things, it all made it worse.
You go into a downward spiral. I had a vision of where I’m going, because I’m a forward thinker, and I had a vision of me being dead. Yeah, that’s not what I’m trying to do. That’s not where I’m trying to go, so I need to stop making these choices. I need to do something that I don’t want to do, to help myself be where I want to be. It was a lot of bad stuff, but it’s all in the music.
I don’t have anything to hide, but rehab helped me. I’m a different person since then, in certain aspects of my life. It was very eye-opening and very helpful.
AllHipHop: Do you mind if I ask where you went?
Phora: I forgot what the name of it was, but it was in Santa Monica. I was there for less than 30 days.
AllHipHop: I was going to ask if it was nearby home or away, because they tell you not to be by home.
Phora: It was here, it was close. I was there for less than 30 days, I ended up bouncing out. [laughs] I ended up running away, but I had learned a lot. I paid for it myself.
AllHipHop: That s### is expensive!
Phora: I know, my insurance didn’t cover anything. Look, if I’m spending this much money, I gotta leave with some newer knowledge of myself and of life. I have to learn something at least, so I felt like I did. I met a lot of people, I listened. The one thing that really helped me was I listened to a lot of people’s stories in there, and they didn’t know who the f### I was.
It’s one thing listening to someone’s story, them looking at you and talking to you like “your music helped me so much.” It’s another thing being there, not really existing to this person. It’s two different experiences, they’re both important. I heard so many people’s stories and so much of what they went through, wow. I learned how selfish I was, how ungrateful I was.
AllHipHop: Everyone’s journey is different, but I feel you.
Phora: I learned how much I did have, versus crying and complaining about how much I didn’t have. I learned a lot of things about myself that helped me with who I am now. I try to look at things: what I’m grateful for now, instead of what I’m so stressed about what I don’t have. I learned so much, it was super helpful.
AllHipHop: Did you check yourself in?
AllHipHop: A lot of people be doing interventions…
Phora: It was getting there. Especially with artists, people don’t want to step on toes and pull artists to the side. It could be an offensive thing. You never know how someone’s going to react. You never know if I’m going to be like f### you guys, you’re all fired! It never got to that point, it was me having a self-realization.
AllHipHop: People who experience a shooting are likely to be affected by long term psychological effects of the traumatic event, typically experiencing intense feelings of helplessness, anxiety and fear. You were stabbed at 15, what was your living environment like?
Phora: I was just out a lot, didn’t want to be home. Trying to figure something out. I had a lot of lost, hopelessness feeling. I hung around older people. I didn’t really get along with the people that were in high school and in sports, more of an outcast. Hated being home for other reasons. I was out, doing s###, lost. Trying to f###### figure out who I was.
AllHipHop: You were shot too. How did you process these and how did you cope?
Phora: It’s really weird to be honest. That question still now till this day, I don’t even really know. A lot of it is subconscious stuff that happens naturally. You do good things and bad things because of certain things that have happened in the past. A lot of times, you do them without noticing that you’re doing them. Like coping mechanisms, how to cope with certain traumas from the past.
A lot of us have trauma, I’m not the only one. But coping mechanisms are a big thing. Whether it’s freaking out, hiding in your bedroom for weeks at a time. Whether it’s drinking, hating everyone and not ever trusting anyone, we all have different ways to cope. I don’t know how I deal with this. Music helps. Listening to music helps, writing music helps. That helps me with almost everything. It’s hard to deal with it, some people live with it for the rest of their lives.
AllHipHop: I was going to commend you, because a lot of people that would have gone through that couldn’t do what you’re doing today.
Phora: It’s a blessing. I thank God for where I’m at. Even being able to breathe and walk, I realized how ungrateful I’ve been in the past. Being able to walk is a blessing. Not everyone has that blessing. Being able to talk to people, communicate is a blessing. Some people don’t have that. For everything that I do have and everything that comes is a bonus, bonus, bonus. I’m already living on bonus time anyways. Every day that I get to live is an extra day that I’ve been blessed with above.
AllHipHop: I saw you were diagnosed with depression, anxiety. Did they prescribe you anything?
Phora: Oh yeah, but I don’t like medications. I have, but for some people it works really well for them. For some people, it doesn’t. The problem with me is that I like to feel pain sometimes. It’s good. Pain, stress, it motivates me to push harder. It motivates me to push to be better. I don’t want to feel numb to everything. There’s times where yeah, I can’t take this s###. I do want to feel numb, but I don’t want to feel numb completely.
I still want that pain. I still want that frustration. I could put it into music, it’s bigger than me. If I’m numb all the time, can’t really write songs. Can’t really write music, just so I feel better? I put into my music things that would help people. I don’t want to take that away from myself, but I have before. I just didn’t like it. At the end of the day, I don’t feel happy with myself. I’d rather go through it, get through it. But I’m in the middle.
AllHipHop: I’ve been on Zoloft. In those down bad moments, those rock bottoms, do you think that medication would have made a difference?
Phora: It would have helped for sure, but everyone’s different. That’s why you talk to therapists, that’s why you talk to a doctor. That’s why you talk to people that love you. At the end of the day, you make that decision for yourself, obviously.
AllHipHop: I saw you say therapy didn’t work for you.
Phora: You’re talking to someone that may or may not get who the f### you are, what the f### you’re going through. A lot of times, they’re a lot older than you. They come from a whole different background, a whole different time in history. You might get what I’m saying, but I don’t think you get in here. [taps heart] Sometimes they give you the look in the face like, “yeah, I don’t get what you’re saying.”
No one’s going to understand having millions of dollars and wanting to not be here anymore. No one’s going to understand having the whole world say how much they love you and how much you’ve done so much for them, you being like, f###, I don’t feel like I’ve done anything with my life. Once you start getting down deep into it, they’re like “oh, but you got all these people that follow you.” Only because they’re trying to understand.
It might be a wiring in the brain or something. I know a lot of people out there could probably relate. Sometimes, you think you got your brains wired a little bit wrong. I feel like that. Dude, you should be happy right now. Especially in certain times, big moments in my life. I’ve had huge album releases where my album just came out. I’m having this crazy party, so many people are here. Everyone’s praising me, everyone loves me.
I just don’t want to be here. I don’t want to do this. I don’t know why I feel like this. I don’t know why I’m on the brink of flipping out, walking down the street without anyone. Being in the dark and sitting on a random f###### sidewalk behind a car, but that’s what I feel like doing right now. There’s no explanation. I’ve been there, never had no explanation for it. F###, maybe my brain is wired a little f##### up, and that’s okay. I know a lot of people out there feel like that.
AllHipHop: I definitely think part of it is the trauma that you’ve had to endure throughout the years.
Phora: Yeah, part of it. But we all have some sort of trauma, that might be part of it. I remind myself that it’s okay. Sometimes, I felt bad. I felt guilty for not being grateful. I tell myself to be grateful, then I’m like f###! It’s a constant battle, but life is good though.
It’s okay, I talk about it a lot in my music. I talk about it with people. When I’m sitting or talking with someone that’s a fan or someone that’s not a fan, have conversations like this. It’s healthy because you start understanding things a lot more. You start understanding pain a lot more. You start understanding heartbreak, hurt a lot more. What happens with this and why these things happen. When you run from it less and embrace things a little bit more, it’s a lot healthier.
AllHipHop: I had Amber Rose on my show, she was saying how being famous or someone with notoriety and going through a breakup or just dating in general, is much harder than someone that isn’t. You mentioned the public breakup. How much more difficult was it?
Phora: Because you gotta answer the people, then people are judging you. You see this and that. People will literally be like “oh, I don’t f### with them anymore because they went through this breakup.” How do you know we ain’t still cool? We just broke up.
People start getting secondary opinions when they have no clue what’s going on. People start treating you different, acting different. I guess you could compare it to a high school break up if you’re the popular [guy], it’s going to be a big thing. It’s more stressful because you have to deal with more stuff. It’s annoying. It’s like dealing with the breakup and already annoyed at that, then being a lot more annoyed with everything else too. It’s a lot more annoying to be honest.
AllHipHop: Is it harder to date when you’re famous? Because that was her struggle.
Phora: No, I’m having a good time. Me and Skye, ever since we’ve been together, we’ve been having the time of our lives. It’s pretty easy. Aside from my personal opinion on it, maybe it’s harder because you don’t know who’s there for what. Who wants to date you or be with you for what. It might be easier not having any money, not even having a car and being like “she must love me for me because you don’t love me for anything else.”
In that sense, it might be easier because I don’t have all these people all over me. I just have this person that likes me for who I am. I live a simple life, and that’s what it is. Versus I’m so paranoid, traumatized, trust issues, because I’ve had experiences in the past where people want a shout out. People want some fame, people want to see if they can come up on some money.
It’s also who you associate yourself with. If you know how to have a conversation with someone, you know how to get information out of people and see where their heads out and see who they are.But it’s tricky, especially out here in LA. It’s real real tricky. Being famous and dating in LA, it’s probably hard.
AllHipHop: How did you guys meet?
Phora: You want the real story? I hit her up on Twitter. She just appeared, and she rejected me. She ghosted me and everything, I’m like damn.
AllHipHop: What did you first say?
Phora: I have a different type of game. My game is just normal. Yo what’s up? What’s poppin’? I like to be cool with people. My game’s not “hey, let’s go out.” I don’t like to be pushy about anything, I like to be cool. If you got some friends, we’re doing this, this, this. Pull up in a public setting with friends. I don’t really like to do all the one on one stuff. My game’s more normal.
AllHipHop: So first date, you’d rather kick it with friends than one on one?
Phora: Yeah, for both party’s sake. You don’t know if I’m a weirdo, I don’t know if you’re a weirdo.
Realistically. I like for them to get their friends’ opinions, and me to get my friends’ opinion. They’re not weird, cool. Let’s go on a date. My game’s more normal, I like to talk and be cool. I don’t like to do all the extra extra stuff. Maybe that’s why she ghosted me, because I was boring. [laughs] We ended up talking again, we met.
AllHipHop: What happened after she rejected you?
Phora: Tried again, tried to hit her up again. She ignored me, whatever. I hit her up again like yo, I’m doing this. What’s good? Just on some normal s###. Not hey, how come you’re not responding? Nothing weird like that, but more a check in courtesy. I do that with friends. I do that with people. Sometimes, people are busy. She’s working in college, she was doing her own thing. Sometimes, people are doing their own s###. You follow up with people.
AllHipHop: How long were you crushing on her before she responded?
Phora: It wasn’t even really a crush thing. I thought she was good-looking, but it’s more about the way someone talks, presents themselves. There’s so much more than that. Once I got to know her, oh s###. She’s very smart, very articulate, carries herself well. She’s been through a lot. She have a lot of the same things that I have, we just related on that.