Chicago tattoo artist and rapper Phor talks mental health on Self Love | Music Review | Chicago Reader

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Chicago tattoo artist and rapper Phor talks mental health on Self Love


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In October 2015, VH1 launched Black Ink Crew: Chicago, a reality show chronicling the intertwining lives of tattoo artists working at 9 Mag, a Black-owned and -operated tattoo parlor in Pilsen. Black Ink Crew turned the shop’s regulars into celebrities, but cast member Phor Robinson already wanted to make a name for himself as a rapper before the first episode even aired—he’d dropped the full-length Sacrifice in early 2015. Since then, Robinson has put out four more albums as Phor, averaging nearly one a year. The new Self Love (NMOL) mostly concerns mental health, though a few of its 16 tracks focus on demonstrating Robinson’s steely skills. He’s got a knack for powering up the bounce in his cadence by fitting his rubbery lines into the pocket of a song’s beat, and he can make his flow feel simultaneously fluid and hard-edged. On “Mind Over Matter” Robinson marries depressive angst to seesawing verses, delivering his lyrics so gently and thoughtfully that even his shortest lines communicate emotional complexity.   v

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