Full Name: Faris Mousa
Hometown: Chicago, Illinois
Height: 5’11”, 6” with shoes on.
Growing up in Chicago, Illinois. Faris Mousa, now known as Phay, started his path in a concerned, sheltered home. His mother saw the danger in their environment and set tight limits for him as a child. One of the fonder memories of living here included being fortunate enough to be close neighbors with the only kid on the block to get a Nintendo64 when they came out. They would sit on his kitchen floor playing Super Smash Bros or WCW Wrestling until it got dark or his mother kicked them out. (Phay was a Kirby main, by the way)
Early musical influences from this time period include TLC, P. Diddy, Mase, Cam’Ron, Jay- Z, R. Kelly, and classical Arabic music such as Oum Kalthoum, Fairuz, and Abdel Halim that his mother would play around their home. Although he enjoyed music all his life, a young Faris would have never imagined the path he’d be on today.
“I never thought I would be an artist. I don’t have a story like “Oh I used to play piano when I was 3, and came up with crazy melodies when I was 5 years old” I wasn’t really musically inclined at all, like I didn’t show any potential when I was a kid if that makes sense. I wouldn’t beatbox, or like beat on the tables, I never played the drums, or try to play any instruments. I didn’t sing, I wasn’t a performer; music was just a part of my life as a listener, as a consumer.”
“When I first moved to Atlanta, I wasn’t really fond of it. Back in Chicago we always had this negative connotation toward people from the south, especially with the Civil War and confederates. As well as the stigma of hillbillies and stuff like that. I was still real young when I moved, Southern Hospitality by Ludacris had just dropped to give you a time-frame, and I wanted nothing to do with the culture of Atlanta or Southern culture as a whole. I just rejected it at first, you know this music really wasn’t for me. I was more of a Dipset fan and a Kanye West fan because he was the Chicago hometown hero. It took about 3 or 4 years before I actually started embracing the culture and Southern culture in general. The music, the food, the strong influence of the church. Now, I hate leaving Atlanta. Where I first moved to was super country compared to Chicago, and then I moved to Decatur, which is East Atlanta. Which is where 21 Savage, Gucci Mane, and 6lack are from, and I’ve been here for about 11 years now; and the blend of cultures here is amazing.
Before there was ever Phay, there was Pharoh.
Faris’ first musical personality was spawned as a simple middle eastern gimmick with a debatably appropriate mixtape titled “Jungle Fever.”
“Which in retrospect was absolutely trash if I’m being honest” says the artist previously known as Pharoh. Nothing produced under this alias can be found anywhere online, and seemingly for the better. Phay’s entrance into the music world was one of power, grace, and dueness. His first steps with ‘Mama’ and ‘E & Phay’ do much more for the consumer than impress, they translate relevant emotions we’ve all felt to portray an image of the artist, as well as ourselves.
Phay’s re-entrance into music was more or less an outlet for him at the time. After taking a few year break from music as a whole after college, he found himself unhappy and facing depression in his everyday life. Though working a good job with good pay, there was still something missing. His album ‘Mama’ is a depiction of his consciousness and expressions at the time and overall helped him cope with the pain he was facing and eventually to rid himself of it almost entirely.
“There’s some records I can’t listen to off Mama. I was in a dark place when I made that. Just a place of questioning a lot of things and questioning the actual meaning of life. I mean, I wasn’t suicidal in any way but I was just sad. I was making a lot of money at a good job but I just wasn’t happy. I quit music, there was about two years that I wasn’t making any music and I got back into it and it started working as a form of therapy. I had no idea I’d be dropping records as prolifically as I am now, you know every week after week, week, week, week. Let alone ever drop anything ever again. It started out as therapy and I started becoming happier. And MAMA is that process of reaching contentment and euphoria in a way.”
Whether you realize it or not when listening, Phay’s music evokes emotion and reflection, which is his intent with every song he makes. His sound itself is active, his instrumentals follow a disciplined music theory and come together as their own work of art. His energy in each song is unique and dedicated to the mood and message. His flow stands out as one of the freshest and best in the game today yet reminiscent in its own way of old-school Ludacris and others like him.
“My music has graduated to a feeling rather than just content if that makes sense. I’m more interested in evoking some sort of feeling or emotion within the listener. Whether it be something I say, a certain chord, an 808 hitting a certain way, or the melody, I want to connect with the listener and them remember that, and associate it with a positive moment in their life so they come back and experience that over and over again. I have two producers who are classically trained pianists. Chords that are in major provoke a certain response in humans, I try to have all my beats and chords in major format instead of minor. A lot of stuff you hear nowadays is darker with the Tory Lanez,Travis Scott, and 6lack. I think that’s just the wave we’re on as a collective. Even the echoes and the effects on the autotune is all just darker. So even on records where I’m talking about darker stuff, like in my song Peace, which is about gun violence, the song as a whole comes off happier than it’s content because its in major.
Phay’s top 3 songs on Spotify alone amass over 1.5 million streams. His total Spotify plays yield over 2 million. His soundcloud presence is over a million streams, and his iTunes numbers grow daily. Though he himself would never brag about it due to his humble nature, Faris is pleased by these numbers being a completely self funded and independent artist, with every reason to be. Being featured on Discover Weekly brought him fans from all over. His fan mail has started branching out and he receives messages from the UK and Greece begging him to tour their way. As far as the next move, Phay just dropped two singles before 2017 ended titled ‘Wallahi’ and ‘West Coast Bopton’, both very solid works with high replayability.
Fun Fact: Faris has a condition called Synesthesia, which is the body experiencing the impression of one sense through the stimulation of another. In his scenario, he hears colors, yes he hears colors… When listening to a song, he can feel and hear the color associated with the melody and mood of the song, like being a walking mood ring for your playlist. Phay says this has only helped him better represent himself and his music visually as seen in the eccentric and appealing video for his song ‘PEACE’
- Hol’ Up (Intro)
- Humble (feat. Kelechi, Fat Trel)
E & Phay
- 32 Flavors
I Still Luh You…
- Ooh Lala (feat. Milu)
- No Temptations
Q: Lemon Pepper wings… You shout them out in 32 Flavors, are they that good?
A: They’re amazing, bro. If you come to Atlanta, you go to any wing spot you gotta say “10-piece Lemon Pepper Hot” a lot of people like them hot I get them mild but any hot sauce with Lemon-Pepper is just like, the greatest combination in the world.
Q: What are some of the hobbies you go to inbetween music?
A: Not much has changed from the Nintendo64 days except my TV is in my room now. I like to play 2k. I love playing basketball at LA Fitness as well, I’m very competitive by nature. I smoke hookah a lot, I like to kick back and smoke to unwind. The usual Netflix and whatever, I usually fall asleep to it but yeah. I like to pay attention to certain camera angles or shots and every now and then I’ll find something that inspires me.
Q: Tell me more about the limited edition clothing you’ve been giving away on social media
A: Waww, I’m going to do it every week. I like doing 1 of 1 stuff with the Mama brand. That’s like all I wear, if you see me I’m wearing the Mama hat. One kid bought it off my head and wore it around for Halloween and the security guard at the bar he went to said “Oh that’s funny who’re you supposed to be, Phay?” so like it became a local costume type of thing. If you see me I usually have some track pants on with a Mama hoodie and a Mama hat everywhere. So sometimes I’ll get bored and think “Yo this Mama patch would look dope on this denim jacket, or the Wallahi artwork would look cool on this sweatshirt” and I’ll go out and spend the 20 bucks or whatever it costs and get the fans engaged with me online. Say something like “1 of 1 the most creative comment wins what’s your favorite record” and have the fans pitch in and know that they can reach out to me and I am accessible, and if you read the comments my fans are amazing, like, they’re hilarious. They use the same terminology as me and act real goofy and it’s awesome. My first giveaway was supposed to be a fun, lighthearted one and it ended up going to Casey(@thekiller365casey). When he messaged me in the DM’s I was like shit, I gotta do this every week. He really wanted people to know his story, I didn’t intend on posting it but he insisted. We give back to the community like we do backpack drives or feed the homeless that has been sponsored by Mama but it’s never been documented because I feel like helping people for likes and exposing that is corny. But in his situation he really wanted to get the story out about his condition and how to get the proper treatment if it does happen to you or a loved one. So I went over there to give it to him and he told me he didn’t have much longer to live which was super sad, like he looked me dead in the face and I didn’t know how to react. But we kicked it for a while, gave him the hoodie, and he was real excited and told him any time he wants to kick it i’ll just come over he was like 15 minutes from me. From that, a few friends of mine did a show the next day and invited him out, gave him a hoodie, honored him on stage and he got to talk about his situation. I’m really glad it got some exposure because people are really starting to reach out to him, he just wants people to talk to him, he just wants their time. He doesn’t care about this material shit. He really put life into perspective for me and now a lot of people are really spending a lot of quality time with him, so I’m glad something so good came from the first one and it inspired me to keep doing it week by week.
Q:What’s one of the struggles you face as a rising artist?
A: People not really taking me serious, or thinking they can take advantage of me or use me for so and so. I’ve had a lot of people and I don’t want to mention labels or anything but they’ll come to me and say “your stuff is really good, but you could make a lot of money just writing for people.” which is kind of backhanded and them saying they don’t want to build you as an artist. I was talking to a big label the other day because I’ve been sending them songs and they were like “Yo we really wanna fly you out so you can work with so and so, like I’ve been doing this for 17 years and you’re special, we don’t know too much about the urban market but…” basically like they dont give a f*** about me but they want to make me a pop-star.
Q: What is your advice for a beginning artist of any kind trying to make their way into the world?
A: First off, your heart has to be completely in it and you have to have the will to get better. Put your ego to the side and listen, even if you learn nothing just listen. Also, investing time and money are two big things. If it’s not only your money going into it make sure the other person really believes in you and your journey. Surround you with people who believe in you and don’t get bored when it gets slow, find people who take initiative without being asked to, basically a strong support system is key. Invest in yourself, time and money. Nobody’s ever got on without money, money is always put somewhere. I don’t want to make it sound like everything revolves around money but it’s a lubricant and gets things moving. Plus, if you invest money it shows people you’re serious.
Q:What is your opinion on the XXL freshman list this past year?
A: I think Carti had one of the best songs of 2017 with Magnolia. I think Amine is very creative, I love his visual representation, especially with the video for Red Mercedes, Caroline was an amazing record, plus he’s East African too so he’s sort of a pioneer in his own right. XXXTENTACION is a little weird obviously, with his allegations, but he’s talented in his own way. I have nothing bad to say, I don’t consider them mumble rappers. I don’t care if mumble on a record or if you s*** on a record, if it’s hot, I’m gonna like it.
Q:Any rising artists you know that we should be on the lookout for?
A: Kelechi, definitely. He’s a real good guy, very talented, he does a lot of my producing, he’s an artist. He won that Mt. Dew contest the other year and was awarded some money to put towards his project.
Q:Now’s your chance to get a direct message to say whatever you want to the viewer
A: Your neck work is your net worth.
(Screenshot from Phay’s “No Temptations” music video)