Though he’s known for how he can handle a tattoo needle, Phor is proving to the world that he’s just as talented behind a mic.
Phor stepped on the scene as one of 9 Mag’s elite tattoo artists on VH1’s Black Ink Crew Chicago; but fans quickly learned his true passion was becoming a successful rapper in the music industry. He became a fan of music during his childhood participating in local musicals and began pursuing his dream of becoming an artist when he was 16.“I just liked how artists were able to express themselves,” Phor said. “Back then there was a lot of lyrical content and it helped me get things off my chest. Music became a diary for me.”
Phor started off in a music group but as the members grew older, the group eventually dismantled resulting in him going solo. Life experiences turned into inspiration and a blueprint for how Phor created music. Telling his life story by hand became his formula in developing his music but on his latest album, Lightning Bug, Phor has created a new way to express himself.“I go with my first mind. I trained myself enough to know how to make the proper format on how to write a song,” said Phor. “I like surprising myself and becoming a fan of my own music versus going to the studio and knowing what I’m going to say already.”
There are several artists Phor looks up to, but says it’s more about the culture of music as a whole that inspires him, rather than any particular artist. He believes it’s all about the sound itself that’s most important and that without music, many things such as clubs and movies wouldn’t exist today. Though music is his first love, Phor has created a hefty clientele for his artistry in the world of tattooing. Being a tattoo artist has helped him provide not only for him but for his family and even assists in his pursuit of becoming a well-known music artists. However, being talented in many avenues can take its toll on anyone and Phor is no different. Through much reflection and a well needed break from the tattoo shop, Phor has now mastered the balance between tattooing and performing. “I stopped tattooing a couple of years ago because I didn’t have time for my music. So I moved away to New York to get back focused. The money and the clientele was good but I wasn’t mentally happy because I didn’t have room for my dream,” Phor continued. “So I left for almost a year and came back figuring it out. I tattoo during the day and I’m in the studio at night. It’s a restless blessing.”
Growing up and living in Chicago can be a struggle. With the rise of violent crimes becoming an everyday news topic, it’s easy to get distracted from your goals or even become a part of the problem. Luckily, Phor is striving to become an advocate for his city in hopes to motivate his generation and beyond to be a positive light during dark times. “I know this city is full of hopes and dreams but also the city kind of hates you and want to localize you. With all the violence going on, instead of being a product of my environment, I would rather speak on it and be something different,” said Phor. “I want to be a change for my city by giving you a different kind of energy and show people you can become more than your city.”
With the success he’s already obtained, many people from Chicago look at Phor as an example of what they want in their lives, and his advice to those wanting more: Believe in yourself and remain focus on your goals.“Believing in yourself is the number one key. You can’t let anything stop you and you have to be able to put the work in. It’s a sacrifice. Even with me as successful as I am, I’m still on the rise. I still have a lot of things I’m trying to accomplish. Just keep your eye on the prize.”
For those who are fans of Black Ink Crew: Chicago, viewers got to see a glimpse of Phor creating a song with Hip Hop legend, Twista. The track titled “Thinking Cap” was an insightful yet positive response to Chicago’s modern day Memorial Day massacre, resulting in the shooting of 69 civilians.“There’s no more love up in my city, can we bring it back…I took a fitted hat, turned it to a thinkin’ cap…oh that’s amazing, I wonder how he think of that…I lost some homies in the street & I can’t bring em back…”
The record spoke to the hearts of many seeking a resolution to end gun violence in Chicago and preventing the massive killings of innocent black men by the hands of police. Although Phor is not a big fan on features, his time spent with Twista has evolved into a brotherhood outside the booth.“With Twista, he’s a legend so it was a great experience. He showed me a lot and we’re working on a video for a song we just did,” Phor said. “He gave me a lot of pointers on how I should move and things he did to stay relevant. He’s like a big brother to me now.”
Though he rather kill beats by himself, there are a few artists Phor wouldn’t mind collaborating with in the future. “There’s two artist that I really want to work with. One is from Chicago named Common and I’ve always been a fan of DMX,” said Phor. “I just like how he attacked the game. He was like a wild dude in the industry doing him and I see myself like that. When people see me, I’m chill but when I get on stage and I get on the mic, I talk that talk.”
Being a reality TV star has its pros and cons and with his new found fame, Phor does all he can to remain focus on his long term goals. Being on Black Ink Crew is just another platform to take him to the next level and even though it might be the end for some, he’s not settling for being just a face on TV.“I’ve never been the type of person to chase fame. I just wanted to be heard,” stated Phor. “Always remember where you’re trying to go. Until I’m able to reach the platform I’m really chasing, I won’t feel as accomplished.” Last year Phor released his first EP ,Sacrifice, and this summer, he released his second, Lightning Bug. Both creatively talented but both coming from two different areas in his life. “With Sacrifice, I was going through a transition where I had to become selfish as far as money and how I was spending it. Being the sacrifice for my family and being the provider was a mindset of focusing on what I was trying to do for me and mine,” Phor continued. “With Lightning Bug, I feel like I found my spark. Its new energy, new formula, new vibe, new me, a better me.”
The green light on a lightning bug is a constant reminder about where Phor is headed and the goals he’s trying to accomplish. And just like a lightning bug, Phor hopes to spark a light with people all over to become better versions of themselves.“When I was kid, that was the first thing that caught my attention, a lightning bug and I thought it was so cool. So I wanted to give something to people that will catch their attention,” Phor stated. “A lightning bug was a bug that came around that didn’t want no problems, just cool enough to hang, and that’s me. I come around with good vibes and positive energy.”
With so much already achieved: creating a fan base through Black Ink Crew, being one of the top tattoo artists in Chicago, and igniting stages all over the world with his music, there are still a few things Phor wants to check off his bucket list.“I want to tour around the world and interact with those who are true Phor fans. I want to connect to people who can relate to my story,” said Phor. “My biggest goal is to crowd surf. I want to get to the point where I can take that leap of faith and believe in my fans so much because they believe in me.” Phor will perform his first show at New York’s SOB’S on December 12th and is currently working on a mixtape. There will be Lightning Bug merchandise available soon and a website launching next year. For more info on Phor, be sure to follow him on social media.
Written By: Kyree Shockley