Hip hop legend Pete Rock expressed his concerns about the state of the genre in a candid interview back in 2016. Speaking to Pigeons & Planes, the producer pulled no punches saying, ‘a lot of these kids, they don’t give a f*** about the culture… You know what they care about? Money.’ It’s a criticism that is often levelled by members of hip hop’s so called golden era towards the rappers of today, but one listen of Phora’s stunning debut Yours Truly Forever should be enough to convince Rock that the integrity of hip hop is in very safe hands.
The road to this debut has been a rocky one for the Californian. Though he has been releasing music independently since 2012, he was only signed by Warner Bros in February this year. But it’s a miracle that he’s here at all. Back in August 2015, the former tattoo artist and his girlfriend Destiny were the victims of a random gun attack on a Pasadena freeway. Three rounds were fired into his back and neck as Phora narrowly avoided paralysis. Released almost two years to the day after those life changing events, Yours Truly Forever is rife with celebratory defiance.
That same defiance was also prevalent in Phora’s influencers. In his 2015 track, The World, he declares that J Cole, 2Pac and Hopsin are the only rappers he likes. The 22 year old has certainly fostered an emotional lyricism and storytelling technique that feels reminiscent of 2Pacalypse Now and 2014 Forest Hills Drive.
With 16 tracks, this is a mammoth first offering, yet one that still feels cohesive and well thought out. The stripped back sample free mixes of long-time collaborator Anthro Beats weave effortlessly into one another and provide the perfect canvas for Phora’s flexible style to dictate the tone. His crackling vocals hit hard on In My Eyes while he executes soulfully smooth melodies on To The Moon and I Come Apart. Sinner Pt. 2 meanwhile is a powerful confessional that perfectly captures the angst and energy that sets this precocious talent apart.
There is a distinct maturity to Yours Truly Forever’s subject matter. This is hip hop that cuts out the bravado that at times trivialises the genre. Instead, Phora’s down to earth style seeks meaningful connections with his audience. He speaks frankly about his experiences of love, drugs and violence, particularly in Numb. Most potent however is his attitude towards women. Tracks like Loyalty and Nobody But You channel Phora’s experiences of a single parent upbringing to highlight his love and admiration for the women in his life.
Yours Truly Forever is an unforgiving storybook of thought and feeling, and a truly phenomenal debut. Its understated mixes clear space for Phora’s eloquent, introspective rap to tackle the personal and public anxieties of this age. I hope you’re listening Pete.