He first emerged a decade ago as part of group Smoke & Numbers, while also making a living ghostwriting for other rappers (the only name and project he’ll say he wrote is producer-cum-rapper Hi-Tek’s well-regarded 2006 album Hi-Teknology 2: The Chip), before going solo in 2008. A year later he released his first mixtape, Substance Abuse, and since then he’s grown more productive with each year with two releases in 2010, three in 2011 and three to date this year. It’s something Pompey attributes to a competitive nature. “I’m an artist that lives with a chip on my shoulder, I always want to be better,” he says. “Wanting to be better keeps me in the studio and keeps me working. And because I live what I rap, it’s easy for me to be prolific. When you rap about what you live, inspiration comes every day. I’ve actually done what I speak about so it’s easy for me to paint the picture and be visual with my music.”
Living what he raps means a common theme in his music is – to use the name of one of his 2011 mixtapes – Rolling Stoned (other releases include George Kush Da Button and T.H.C. (The Hustler’s Catalogue)). His love of rhyming about smoking marijuana has from time to time resulted in Pompey being derisively described as a ‘weed rapper’. However, he says the label isn’t appropriate.
“At this point, anybody that wants to call me a weed rapper is just a hater. I’ve definitely moved past this mould and I’m now working on becoming the king of my craft,” he says. “People that know my music, know that I represent a lot more things – Harlem, for example… and my [fashion] style with the Polo [Ralph Lauren] and [Nike] Foamposites.”
Other common themes are television – the album name Rugby Thompson combines his loves for Boardwalk Empire and Polo Rugbies – wrestling and video games (granted, all things that THC connoisseurs are likely to appreciate). What makes him stand out is a laidback delivery that can switch to menacing on a whim, sharp and humorous rhymes and an impeccable taste for beats.
He regularly collaborates with hip hop’s hottest new acts from around America – Action Bronson and A$AP Rocky in his hometown, Kendrick Lamarr, Schoolboy Q and Odd Future’s Domo Genesis in Los Angeles and Curren$y and Big K.R.I.T. in the south (he’s a member of Curren$y’s Jetlife crew) – many of whom made their names toiling away on free mixtapes before getting national recognition, as Pompey has.
“A lot of them have reached out to me and we just like to work with each other,” he says. “With most of them, we’ve rocked more than one time. We keep the camaraderie. I like to work with people that are on the same level as myself. Same stature and aesthetic. And I love working with other talented artists. It’s never a walk in the park; it’s very competitive even though we’re friends. But I love collaborating and being part of this elite in music.”
Despite his association with these acts, he hasn’t quite managed to gain the same level of buzz, until this year. He has just headlined his first North American tour (joined by Mr Motherfucking eXquire and the Flatbush Zombies), earned spots on some of America’s biggest hip hop festivals like Rock The Bells, Summer Jam and The Smokers Club Tour, and gained critical acclaim for Rugby Thompson, a collaboration with producer Harry Fraud.
“It’s one of the best bodies of work in my musical career,” he says of the album, which also features collaborations with Curren$y, Domo Genesis, Schoolboy Q, and New York veterans Sean Price and Thirstin Howl III. “It can go toe to toe with any other release from this year at this point.”
Rugby Thompson was released in June, but, Pompey’s not content to rest on his laurels. He’s currently working on a sequel to his 2010 album George Kush The Button, and released a free mixtape last month, K.O.N.Y. (King Of New York) – inspired by the Christopher Walken gangster film. “I felt like I was doing the soundtrack for the movie while recording this project,” he says.
Unsurprisingly, when asked what’s keeping him busy in the lead up to his Australian tour, he replies “smoking a lot of weed” – but he’s also been busy preparing a new set list for his shows here. He’ll be performing at the Laundry Bar on Saturday November 17, supported by Young Lean, Nam of The Operatives and DJ Nue Girl.
Pompey says it promises to be a good night for hip hop fans. “They can expect a lot of energy. [You] have to learn my songs because I conduct sing-alongs. KushedGod is gonna come out and light that stage on fire. I’m gonna smoke all Australian weed and have a lot of fun.”
BY JOSHUA HAYES