omplacency is not an option for Phabo’s music. In fact, with his latest album, Don’t Get Too Cozy, which is out now, Phabo gets pleasure from pervading momentary suspense throughout to keep the listener on their toes.
“It’s purposely peaks and valleys placed throughout the project so that you don’t get too comfortable in any mindset,” Phabo tells Rated R&B.
Phabo is also unafraid to be content in other areas of his career. Despite being a private person who prefers to avoid interviews and attention, he promises fans can expect to see more of him in the future. “I’m kind of a recluse and definitely a studio rat for sure but [expect] a lot more popping out,” he assures.
It’s a Tuesday afternoon, and Phabo is days away from the release of Don’t Get Too Cozy. A bit of tiredness seeps into his speech at the beginning, but his energy quickly picks up when asked about when he began the project.
He can’t give an exact date because he’s been consistently working in the studio for the last three years. “I make so much music around the same times of things that it’s easy for me to say, ‘Okay, these songs right here feel like this, and this is gonna be the intention behind these songs,’” Phabo tells Rated R&B.
Confident that he could have turned out a body of work with unheard songs from ongoing sessions, Phabo saw himself digging deeper. “There was a shift that happened while I was recording a little bit, and it was more like an aggressive shift just due to what I was going through,” he says.
The perils of newfound success heightened the audacious evolution of Don’t Get Too Cozy, as Phabo points out.
“Transitionally, it was just very hard for me. You’re not touching millions, but in certain spaces you have notoriety,” he affirms, reflecting on times early on in his rise when he would get agitated by admirers. “I haven’t created that Sasha Fierce (Beyoncé’s former alter-ego) yet, but we’re transitioning. We’re getting through.”
Phabo also had to adjust how he navigated industry circles. “You’ll go to an R&B curated event, made for R&B artists, and n***as will literally act like you ain’t shit in there on purpose,” he explains. “They were just in your DM, and they are standing right next to you, next to another artist, and it’s almost like they want you to feel away.”
Phabo is grateful nowadays that he is not part of what he calls the “cool kids table.” He says, “I wanted to build my own table or sit at a table not inhabited by many. I feel like we did that: me, Destin [Conrad], Ambré, and Tempest, all of us were in the same studio just cooking up that whole quarantine process. I think you’re definitely seeing the fruit to those laborers right now.”
Last fall, during his first-ever headlining tour, How’s My Driving, Phabo visited COLORS headquarters and performed “Scorpio Moon.” This song was later released as a studio version, paving the way for the release of his album Don’t Get Too Cozy. He sprinkled in a few other singles ahead of the album, including the Shaé Universe-assisted “Out of Touch” and the dazed “Casamigos.”
Other notable tracks stick out on Don’t Get Too Cozy, such as “Geneva” and “Express Yourself,” where Phabo flirts and pleads to his interest. In “The Wind,” Phabo cannot secure a title with a woman addicted to the physical intimacy he provides, but she refuses to leave her current partner.
Collectively, Don’t Get Too Cozy is an album that sounds special from the first listen, offering intimate confessions, slick references to R&B and hip-hop luminaries, and conflicted emotions that adds more definition to Phabo’s collection.
In Rated R&B’s interview with Phabo, the Los Angeles-based singer/songwriter talks more about Don’t Get Too Cozy, working with the celebrated Troy Taylor, his admiration for Brandy and more.
Ambré appears on the track “NYL.” You two seem to be part of the same music village and share an appreciation for each other. What’s the story behind this track?
The inspiration behind “NYL” was “LNF” [from the Soulquarius album]. I start off “LNF” like “flew to Baltimore.” I wanted to start off “NYL” with “left you in Maryland and now I’m in New York.” I’m painting that story. It’s like a spinoff like: “Cool, I flew there. Now I want you here. I need you right now.” I wanted to have unpredictability under [the production]. You never know when the bass is gonna knock or when the song is truly over. I wanted those elements of surprise [and] duet ballads. I’m thinking of Monica [and] Usher while I’m making it. Ambré was the perfect player to throw on there ‘cause she speaks the same player language I do on the tracks. So I felt that was the best possible outcome that song could have yielded.
“XTC” is a highlight on the album. How did this song come about?
That’s one of those Soulquarius scrappers. We were wrapping [the album] but didn’t really get to finish it around that project, so we revisited it later on the production side. But the raw emotion I was going through at that time, I was being hit up by certain labels, A&Rs and people that had all the power and all the opportunity to do what they could with a hungry Phabo — and they didn’t. Many songwriters who start out in this game [are] invited to so many sessions. You cut so many songs and it’s a very short list of how many songs make that album that you’re working on. [On “XTC”], I’m speaking very honestly. It’s a diary entry that I wanted to throw on the project regarding my career and the people that had me fucked up.
Troy Taylor produced your latest focus track, “Luv Songs (Unruly).” He also co-produced the title track of your Before I Let Her Go EP. What did you enjoy about working with Troy Taylor again, and what’s the story behind “Luv Songs (Unruly)”?
First and foremost, Troy is a G.O.A.T. He’s a legend. He’s all those things with the swag to match. He’s never lacking ever [in a fashion sense]. I don’t think that n***a go to the store not fly. It’s like, “Oh, you really ‘90s clean.” So [with] the music, I had to meet him there. Recording, I’m trying to be cute on the mic. He letting it rock for a little bit and then eventually he’s finally like, “If you are one of those singers that only sing with autotune, you should have just said that.” That sh*t turned me up so crazy. I kind of got mad (laughs). Then I knocked on the mic and I hit the note that he was telling me to hit. He’s like, “There you go.”
Everybody in the studio busted out laughing ‘cause it’s like they knew that’s what Troy does. He knows how to get the best out of you in a very specific way. He’s good at being real. I think that is what is missing in a lot of the music that we have today. People started falsely claiming that R&B was dead when really they just need to get in with Troy Taylor. The inspiration for [“Luv Songs (Unruly)”] was truly ‘90s R&B — that regal leather coat, turtleneck-wearing in the cold weather R&B. When the music was playing, it was giving me that Faith Evans “I Love You” vibe.
You frequently bring up your late father throughout Don’t Get Too Cozy. What was your relationship with your dad like growing up?
My dad is the only reason why I do music. He was in a group growing up. Naturally having a family [and] a mortgage, it’s like: “Do I wanna be the forefront or do I wanna play the back? But playing the back takes too long. It is not the type of chicken I need right now to raise this family.” So he left the dream alone.
Me and my dad would play this game where he’d do a run and I’d try to mimic him. I was doing that from age six to 16. I always knew how to harmonize and all that through my dad. He was my best friend. I could talk to him about anything. I feel like I wouldn’t be doing music if it wasn’t for him passing away; that’s why I keep bringing it up. It’s like the contrast of feeling a way about being left, in a sense, while I was going through that grief. But also it’s like a false braggadocious spirit of being where I want to be as a result of all the pain and struggle that I went through. It’s never a real cozy moment on the project, especially when talking about touchy issues that I’ve never spoken on before on purpose. But I wanted to get it off so I can move forward.
On Don’t Get Too Cozy, you made a reference to Brandy and have mentioned her as one of your inspirations. What do you appreciate about her artistry?
I have an affinity for artists with raspy voices ’cause I have one, so whoever has that candor, I’m naturally like: “Oh, we can run.” Brandy and Rodney [“Darkchild” Jerkins’] sound they created cannot be duplicated, but I wanted to try to get as close to it as possible. A lot of my stacks are like those off-kilter black notes, diminished D9 notes. Brandy touches your soul. I wanted you to hear a note that gives you those butterflies when you hear a really good song. I only feel that with a few artists, and Brandy is definitely one of those. My longstanding affinity with Brandy grows and grows; the more I do music, the more I try and delve deeper. I hope to get a feature with her one day too.
What do you hope your fans will experience while listening to Don’t Get Too Cozy?
It’s purposely peaks and valleys placed throughout the project so that you don’t get too comfortable in any mindset, like “Ooh, look at him. He in love on this song. He’s talking like he don’t even care to be here type-sh*t on ‘Your Loss’ with Kalan.FrFr.” It’s just unpredictability in that sense. New words, new inflections, new beat patterns [and] new cores. [It’s] more authenticity from the start to the finish. I feel like people can look forward to those notes of classic R&B that they grew up listening to and loving as well as the sound that we’re trying to push forward as well.
Stream Phabo’s new album Don’t Get Too Cozy below.