Phay | Middle Eastern Rapper’s Story of Immigration, Peace, and Family

First generation Americans were likely given a template on what their future should entail, by their parents. The doctor, lawyer, or business professions led these conversations, and only a few have managed to squeeze out from these particular six-figure salary jobs. So why does this sound like a bad thing?

Story | Nico Blitz

All the money in the world can buy you a house, food, clothing, and almost anything your heart desires. But these commodities don’t fill the void of happiness of a person who is silent to their emotional and spiritual necessities.

From the perspective of a Middle Eastern rapper based in Atlanta, Faris Mousa, better known as Phay, tackles his personal desires to fill his void with Hip Hop and looks to reciprocate his peace-seeking actions amongst his listeners.

Phay | The Lunch Table

Born November 14, 1990 in Chicago, Illinois, Phay grew up as the son of two Palestinian refugees determined to make a living in the United States. By 2000, Phay was inspired by his father’s desire to grasp an untapped Mediterranean restaurant market in Atlanta, Georgia. His close proximity to Southern Hip Hop led to Phay’s liking of Chicken N’ Beer Ludacris and Young Dro.

During his time at Georgia State, he and his best friend Kelechi created STNDRD music group, where the two looked to push their musical desires beyond their limitations. However, graduation saw the label mates choose different career paths: Kelechi pursued music, while Phay confided to a 9-5 job. Phay’s decision essentially led to a depression, which he was brought out of due to Kelechi’s determination to the music.

Today, Phay is set to release his debut project Mama that tells his story of immigration and depression that led to his current state of Nirvana. The Lunch Table got a chance to learn more about the Atlanta-based rapper in an exclusive interview.

Q: Before we begin this interview I asked you to send me some high quality photos of yourself, and you ended up sending a photo of you with a half naked chick. What was happening at that moment?

“I was shooting the video for ‘Nah Mean’. Atlanta’s big for thick women, and I wanted to display geographically where I’m from. I just wanted a big booty ass on the bottom left hand screen shaking the whole time, but me not paying any attention to it the whole video. I was conveying this persona of just feeling really empty inside.”

Phay | The Lunch Table

Q: What’s your take on Hip Hop and misogyny?

“If you’re a man in contemporary society, men are taught to objectify women even when they don’t think they’re doing it. Misogyny is an underlying theme in American culture and a lot of cultures.”

“There are lines where I refer to women as ‘bitches’ or ‘hoes’ – it’s not because I’m trying to glorify it, it’s just the first thing that comes to mind. And when I’m talking amongst my homies that’s how we refer to women. Is it right? It’s not right at all.”

“The first step in curing a problem is admitting it. I bring it to my music because I don’t want to sugarcoat anything. I don’t want to put on this high and mighty demeanor and then someone Snapchats me saying the word ‘bitch’. I have the utmost respect for women; my mom raised me really well, but at the end of the day I’m a product of my environment. I’m trying to bring a realistic view of what my everyday life is.”

Q: Everyday you are a Middle Eastern artist. Do you feel like you have anything to prove since this craft isn’t popular amongst your culture?

“Hip Hop is African-American culture. You have to be respectful of where it came from, and I don’t think I have the power to say what Hip Hop is and isn’t. I’m a visitor in Hip Hop. Music is looked down upon in Arab culture. As a first generation Arab-American, I don’t have an agenda that I’m pushing forward. But I do want people who grew up like me, whether they are Arab, Latino, Asian; to embody what it means to be American, an entrepreneur, to create something out of nothing, and have people relate to you.”

“I want to be the voice for people who grew up like me who didn’t really fit into a societal norm. After September 11th happened I was questioning my people and myself. I was in 5th grade when that happened. From 10 years old to now, you feel isolated, but you also want to belong. I used to feel so ashamed. Of course at 10 years old when people are calling you ‘Sadam’ and ‘terrorist’ – you try to laugh it off, but it does have a mental effect growing up.”

Q: You’ve experienced being called names when 9/11 happened, and music is looked down upon in your culture. However, you have this video called “Peace” and it looks like you’re in a peaceful state of mind. How do you manage to keep yourself so peaceful?

“When I was doing a 9-5 job, I was depressed in terms of going into a job that I didn’t want to do and put on a persona that I didn’t want to put on. I started reading up on how to be a more positive person – like name 21 things that you’re thankful about every day. I started doing exercises, and I found that music became therapeutic for me.”

Q: What can we expect from your debut project, Mama.

“The first half of Mama is so dark. Once you get to the end it turns into a euphoric stage and the music sounds brighter. Just being sad, ironically, I learned to be really happy after that. People take happiness for granted and don’t live in the moment… That’s where that peace comes from; that inner child and I really feel like a child again.”

Mama by Phay | The Lunch Table

Q: It’s interesting to see a 25 year old who still has a motive to keep a part of their childhood together.

“When we were children we had all the imagination and creativity in the world. It’s growing up and realizing what life is. Life sobers you.”

Q: What exact role does your mother play in your life?

“She’s the best human being that I’ve ever come across – she’s the foundation of my morals. I keep her in the back of my mind at all times. No matter how much I mess up, no matter how much I do wrong in her eyes, she’s still there with embracing arms… People are so quick to rep their city or their favorite sports teams. I represent my mom.”

Q: What’s one unforgettable moment you have of your mom?

I had her listen to my song “Lawd Please”. I wrote it for my mom and played it for her, and she just broke down in tears. Seeing that song impact her the way it did – I had to tell my mom’s story. I had to tell my story through the eyes of my mom.”

Q: In Mama are you going to rap from the perspective of your mom?

“No. My mom is narrating Mama. There was two months where I would have random conversations with my mom and I would candidly turn my iPhone on Voice Memos. We would talk and I would get her opinions and her wisdom.”

“The intro begins with her talking in and out of Arabic, and that conveys the cultural aspect of where I’m from. So she’s talking, and the song that comes after it will basically convey what she said. There are some things she says in there that I don’t necessarily agree with, but I’m showing her perspective and my own.”

Mama will be released on October 15th.

Phay | The Lunch Table

Fun Facts:
1. Phay’s Top 5: Young Thug, Future, Kanye West, Ludacris, Young Dro
2. Food Spot: His Father’s Restaurant – Mediterranean Grill – 2126 N Decatur Rd, Decatur, GA 30033
3. Go To Spot: Hookah – Food Therapy

Phay’s Social Media:

Instagram | Twitter | Facebook

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