Disclaimer: All views presented in this Album Review are those of the reviewer and not of DJ Wade-O
If there is one artist that fits the bill of the moniker for the record label Mixed Bag Entertainment, started by CHH veteran Da’ T.R.U.T.H., it is TJ Pompeo. A talent with a substantial enough following compared to his current situation, TJ was discovered almost by chance by Da’ T.R.U.T.H., who signed him not much after discovering him. He made a quick splash on the Christian hip hop scene, featuring on songs with Canon, Jahaziel, and T.R.U.T.H. himself. But seeing as the grander scheme of the music culture hadn’t heard of him or known of any of his past work pre-Mixed Bag, TJ wanted to take the time to clear the air on both who he is and what he thinks of himself – with the release of his newest free EP i’mperfect.
Artistry + Meaning
The title at first glance looks like something that autocorrect forgot to fix, but it’s a play on words and TJ’s current situation as an artist. The title spells both ‘I’m perfect’ and ‘Imperfect’ – the latter being TJ’s declaration of himself. Those who are involved in music and media are often placed on pedestals in the eyes of the consuming public – viewed as beings higher than others in both secular and Christian worlds (whether people mean to do so or not). They are looked at as if they can do no wrong, and when they do, it can devastate the fans to the point of abandonment of the fandom altogether.
EP’s are always shorter than full length albums, so TJ wastes no time with laying down his heart with this entire project. He starts off the project with a track featuring John Givez called “My Cake”, which is both somber and a head banger. The sample used in the song , which says:
“Seen the world, done it all, had my cake now”
is used as the weight bearing pole of this song, about not getting a big head about your success. It’s juxtaposed against the lyrics of how God can strip any success given to any man in a split second. This is followed up by the title track “i’mperfection”, an outpouring list of TJ’s own imperfections – that most artists can relate to on this road to being faithful servants of God’s gifts.
TJ also addresses the frailty that can come from the realization that one is imperfect by default, often exploited by our twisted society. The upbeat track “He Say, She Say” (featuring Mathai), which is almost an homage to being a teenager and dating, talks about the pain that is caused on both sides of imperfect people speaking promises that they can’t or won’t keep, because of the wrong motives. The track is deceptively fun because the meaning of the lyrics behind it are weightier than the instrumentation gives the impression of.
The exploitation of imperfection from society falls on ladies the hardest overall. Many have low self-esteem and don’t see themselves as Christ does, and “Butterfly” is a song all about that. TJ sings about how, although we’re imperfect, God did put marvelous things inside them, and that their “beautiful wings” were made to be shown off to the world, not hidden as if they’re something to be ashamed of.
He also turns this concept on itself with “Medley”, using the comparisons he’s received with Andy Mineo and Eminem because of his talent and skin color, as a way to express that the individuality within our imperfection is never anything to be ashamed of. Since we shouldn’t be ashamed, we should accept that we are “Who We Are” – a song that features Yaves. We were created to be who God made us to be, and to keep our mind on the One who created us to be that way. And in order for us to be who we were created to be without any resistance, we must be planted in Christ, the “tree” of living water, by our “Roots” (featuring “Da’ T.R.U.T.H. & Anna Grace).
This entire project spoke the title and brought the concept of imperfection, acceptance of said imperfection, and the freedom that comes from being made whole through one’s imperfection very well. They are very clearly tied to the title and smoothly support TJ’s creative direction for it. I had to listen to “He Say, She Say” a few times to get past how uptempo and happy it was to hear what TJ was really saying, about how speaking false words creates hurt and mistrust in others. Withthat song being followed by “Butterfly” gives the impression that TJ is having a short conversation with ladies who have been hurt by someone’s words, whether in a dating relationship or general conversation.
The music was great, as TJ’s natural propensity to be a mixed bag of styles gave some really cool harmonies over the tracks ranging from hip hop, experimental, and pop. TJ found a way to make all the tracks fit his unique approach to music and they were all enjoyable to listen to. The featured artists on this project fit as well. I can’t think of anything that felt out of place as I was listening through “imperfection.”
The whole point of this project is to undo the misconception that he, and any other artist that is in the forefront, have it all together – as well as the misconception that anyone can be perfect without Christ. “My Cake” sets the tone off with holding the mirror up in retrospective reflection to see oneself for what they really are. From that track to “Roots”, it is to say that no one is perfect. We can embrace that imperfection by resting in Christ’s perfection. Any form of success attained can only be accredited to the fact that God graced them to receive this favor from Him – AND that it can be taken away at any moment.
From this project, I believe TJ was saying that he desires to stay humble through everything, to not misuse what God has given him and to hold himself accountable, even within the creative process. Overall, it was transparent, as well as encouraging to see an artist be very up front and open about his desire to stay humble as his notoriety rises. For such a short listen, it is a good one, but I do hope to hear more of a full-length project from him soon.
Download TJ EP i’mperfect HERE