One of the many enjoyable aspects of Phora’s artistry is the meticulous approach to his songs. They’re crafted with care and an understanding of the emotional burden they carry, both for himself and the awaiting listener who relates to his creations. Let it be known that these bodies of work aren’t emotional dumps that leave his fans overwhelmed and sprinting towards the nearest source of happiness. Instead, you’re slowly reeled into the Anaheim native’s works of art thanks to his patience with delivering his pain at a digestible rate.
This pain is derived from both Phora’s past and present, becoming a foundational piece to his music. Every year for the past eight years, he’s returned with a new project that finds him depicting his world for fans, one filled with ailments caused by love, the natural bane of the world, and more. Replicating the concept he put forth on his 2016 project, With Love, Phora makes his mark in a new decade with its sequel.
Prior to the release of With Love in 2016, Phora sent a message to fans on Twitter, which read in part, “Guaranteed to get u through what ur going thru, and let u know I’m with u.” This olive branch of support and comfort is once again offered on With Love 2 and it doesn’t take him long to deliver it on the new album. With support from rap newcomer Toosii, he and Phora allude to the triggers they suffer from following traumatic experiences in their lives. “Traumatized from the past and the pain is the only thing I run from,” Phora says on the song’s chorus. Shortly after, he adds a brief message of perseverance singing, “But I’m ten toes down, and I won’t let it break me.” Rather than drown in these struggles, the Anaheim native thugs it out knowing that his success will motivate someone else’s.
The uplifting reminders continue all throughout the album. “This Weekend” with Ty Dolla Sign offers a moment of relaxation and intimacy that only two lovebirds can indulge in when their respective guards are down. “Stars In The Sky” with Jhene Aiko and “Love Yourself 2” are additional tracks that present Phora as a man who has momentarily broken out the thick webs of depression, anxiety, and trauma — topics he has often mentioned in his work over the years. The latter track boasts a comforting pair of lines that says, “Music reminds me that pain is temporary / Flowers remind me that rain is necessary.” The vibrant beauties of Phora’s world helped him realize that the gloomy clouds that frequently sat above him were nothing more than temporary.
While an optimistic view towards life is certainly part of the goal on With Love 2, it’s not approached in a way that is blind or ignorant to Phora’s struggles and ill moments. From the pain that haunts him after the love of his life departs on “Destiny’s Song” to the suicidal thoughts that takeover his mind on “Sinner Pt. 4,” Phora is oftentimes staring over a cliff’s edge on the project. Every flight has a landing and unfortunately for him, these landings tend to err on the rough side of things. Despite this, Phora’s moment to take off and return to the highs of life is just around the corner. For the time being, however, all he can do is tend to the present and push through it in preparation for the future.
“I learned that it’s not over when you lose, it’s only over when you quit.” These lines on “Love Yourself 2” aren’t delivered in a championing sentiment that allows Phora to pat himself on the back after defeating his demons. No, it’s for you the listener who drowns in the heavy and overwhelming pile of bullsh*t that life has to offer. French novelist Gustave Flaubert once said, “One can be the master of what one does, but never of what one feels,” and Phora’s new album embodies that quote to a T. Attempting to control these outside forces is like trying to grab air with your bare hands; no matter how many times you try, your attempts will always come up empty-handed. Phora has no power over the things, good or bad, that come his way. Instead of trying to gain this power, he puts his energy towards the people around him who experience his struggle. The Anaheim native tries day in and day out to conquer his demons, just like the rest of us, and it’s a comforting thing to know this battle isn’t a solo effort.
With Love 2 is out now. Get it here.