“When I was eight years old, I was sexually molested by someone whom I had known very closely,” Pompeo told Rapzilla. “When that happened, it messed up my perception of God, his faithfulness, [his] protection, made me question a lot of things, got me confused, bitter, caused an identity crisis and overall stripped me of my definition of masculinity. I went through a stage of being bitter with God for about 10 years. A part of this phase was the party scene — alcohol, drugs — and a theft stage.”
By the time Pompeo was a freshman in college, he was admittedly a mess. He got good grades throughout school but constantly wrestled with identity. Then one semester, his roommate became a Christian and invited him to a Bible study.
When Pompeo finally gave in and went after much resistance, he saw the same man who had molested him when he was eight.
“It had been 10 years since I had seen this guy,” Pompeo said, “and it had been his first Bible study that very same evening as well. When I saw him that night, the only thing I felt towards him was compassion and forgiveness. I hadn’t rededicated my life to the Lord at that point, so I had no idea where these feelings were coming from.
“The Lord really worked on my heart that night, and he allowed me to truly understand forgiveness. I had been bitter towards God for those 10 years, and he was telling me that he forgave me and still wanted to be a part of my life. I then asked the Lord for forgiveness and rededicated my life to him that night in my dorm room with my roommate.”
At this point in his life, Pompeo had already started rapping. And the music he was making reflected his previous, troubled lifestyle.
“I knew around that same point that a switch needed to happen,” Pompeo said. “It was hard giving up all that I had achieved at that time, but I knew that God had so much more in store for me. I felt like He wanted me to use my talents in pointing others to hope.”
After that realization, he practiced and improved. He involved himself in a local hip-hop ministry and continued to pursue music full time.
Pompeo, now 24, signed with Da’ T.R.U.T.H.'s record label Mixed Bag Entertainment in 2013. On Monday, he released a free EP titled i'mperfect.
The ProjectPompeo initially caught Da' T.R.U.T.H.'s attention with "Roots," track No. 7 of the EP, which features Da' T.R.U.T.H. and Anna Grace.
"We had actually done this song three years ago,” Pompeo said. “Anna Grace was 14 when she recorded her vocals, and it was the first song that introduced me to Da’ T.R.U.T.H.”
Pompeo has had a long list of songs he has collected over three years. As he polished them, seven tracks stood out. He didn’t initially know where to take them, but as a build up for his full-length album, he decided to release the songs on a free EP to be candid with both past and future fans.
“The creative process really has been in the selecting of songs that fit the mold of just being open with people,” Pompeo said. “My branding has always been that of being 100 percent transparent with everyone — never shying away from my history or my past, my struggles, my successes, my failures, my triumphs, just being completely candid with people. This explains the wordplay and concept of i’mperfect.”
With track No. 2, “i’mperfection,” Pompeo wrote the song about still wrestling with his identity at 23 years old. On stage, he said, it was as if he had been wearing a mask where people couldn’t really see the flaws of a fellow human. With this particular song, he wanted to bring it all to light and say that he is by no means perfect.
Even flawed, track No. 6, “Who We Are,” is all about embracing one's identity.
“Just be who God created you to be,” Pompeo said. “A flower will always be a flower and can’t change. It has embraced itself and will bloom and blossom as it was always intended to do.”
J.Paul, Pompeo's current roommate and the singer who performed on Lecrae's Anomaly Tour this past fall, expects Pompeo's transparency to translate into a bright future.
“With his music and his branding," J. Paul said, "TJ fits an individual mold and sound that people have yet to hear."
In the coming years, people will continue to hear Pompeo's transparency, no matter how weighty the topic.
“As hard as it is, don’t be afraid to let people in to see the real you," he said. "Don’t be afraid to let people see your imperfections because imperfection can allow doors to open for God to work true beauty into your life.”
Download TJ Pompeo's free EP i'mperfect.