By Lance Cooper | September 2021
Some say Virginia is responsible for Hip-Hop's fixation with originality. Artists like Missy Elliott, Pharrell, The Clipse, and Timbaland come from this state, and that's enough to really make you wonder about other groundbreaking talent hidden in Virginia. Richmond, Virginia in particular has an emerging Hip-Hop scene that exists alongside its thriving neo soul scene. Is it possible Richmond can become one of the top rap cities on the East Coast in ten years?
Let's talk about it, because Virginia is really a goldmine when it comes to talent. In this episode I'm on the block with the indie rap force Zay P.O.M.C. in Richmond. Check out the interview below!
Before we take flight, let the people know where Zay P.O.M.C. is from.
I was born in Richmond, VA., raised between the East End and North Side. That's where I spent most of my early life.
How did you get your stage name and what does it stand for?
I never really had a rap name, but coming up I was always given a nickname using my government which is Xaiver. The homies called me X, and the ladies called me Zay. After a while Zay just stuck because it felt right. The POMC part is actually the abbreviation for (Product of My City) which is the name of my team label. One day I was at the radio station with Zxulu on 106.5 The Beat and he said both names (Zay POMC) together. It just stuck with me.
When did you fall in love with Hip-Hop?
Actually I fell in love with entertainment first. I was drawn to the culture itself, from dance to fashion, and of course music. But believe it or not I used to watch a local channel called 'The Box' where we had to order the videos from the phone, just so I could check out the scene and imitate them. This fueled my fascination with the rap game, period! I eventually tried it and fell in love. Once I pick something up, I don’t put it down until I've mastered it.
How long have you been recording & performing? When did you realize making music is what you wanted to do?
I've been at it for a while. I was discovered by a music teacher at Chandler Middle School in Richmond. She wanted me to sing and I refused, singing wasn't my thing. I told her, "I rap." She had me perform in front of the entire class. After that she hooked me up with her husband who had a studio. The rest is history.
If you talk about Hip-Hop in Richmond long enough, you'll hear a lot of people giving credit to Mad Skillz for putting Richmond on America's rap map. You'll also find a crowd that feels the city was never really on America's rap map. What are your thoughts on where Richmond ranks in rap?
First of all, shout out to Mad Skillz. He's definitely a face of VA Hip-Hop, especially Richmond. But we have a lot of solid talent here, which is amazing. Virginia has given the industry so much, top producers & artists. But Richmond is definitely that untapped market. We never stopped evolving, and we never stopped grindin which is the reason we're starting to get the credit we deserve.
What's the biggest barrier rap artists in Richmond, Virginia have to overcome to gain commercial success?
Promotion and being more united, which I'm actually seeing more of lately in this new era. The internet has opened so many closed doors, it's anyone's game now.
Are you satisfied with the current state of Hip-Hop? What are your personal thoughts on where the culture currently stands?
Hip-Hop has its strengths and weaknesses, but there's definitely good talent out there. Lil Baby, Lil Durk, Meek Mill, to name a few. I'm still playing Nipsey Hussle. Nip was what the game needed in my opinion.
What is your opinion about the music industry at the moment? What would you change if you could?
We need more real lyricists in music and less artists who rely on beats & hooks. The culture deserves more, the greats deserve more, listeners deserve more. Maybe I'm biased.
Top 3 rappers you'd like to see take the 'Milk Crate Challenge?' Have you seen anyone in Richmond do this yet?
Lol, not anyone I know from Richmond. As far as rappers taking the challenge, I would say Busta Rhymes, Method Man and Redman only because they're funny as hell.
The game has changed a lot, it’s all about going viral & streaming now. When I first got into music, that shit wasn’t a thing. I remember when it was illegal to get music online. What did technology do to music?
I actually think it's a gift and a curse. It’s a gift because tech gives everyone a chance to be heard, which is what we've always wanted. But technology has also oversaturated the game.
What separates you from the crowd of artists trying to breakthrough right now?
A lot of people say it’s my raspy voice, and of course my content. My style doesn't stay in one lane. They love when I get deep, or make party music. Versatility is my biggest flex.
Describe your process when it comes to making music? Is there a routine, or does every studio session create its own magic?
Some of my best material was written in the middle of the night, or sitting in the car smoking. The beats start talking to me. The time and place find me. When I hit the studio it's just an explosion of pure energy, and love for what I do.
For someone who hasn't heard your music, how would you describe your sound, and what song should they listen to first?
Raw talent. I’m not sure, I would honestly probably say play "Sanctuary" first, based on my preference. But I always try to see what the listener likes first, then I’ll play something that I think will fit their lane.
I'm still counting stacks to "Come Back," the track you did with Product Fatz, and "We Up" was on repeat everywhere this Summer. Honestly, everything you drop is a banger. Do you ever doubt yourself as an artist? If you do, how do you overcome that doubt?
It be days when you find yourself comparing yourself to the industry sound, but then you realize there's no comparison. I’m me, and they're them and that’s what works for me. But overall every song I've released was something everyone on my team agreed on.
How did you link with Pastor Troy for "We Ready?" Who are some other artists, any genre, you want to work with?
I was asked to perform at a 6335 birthday event for my cousin. Pastor Troy was there for the same reason. He caught my performance and thought it was dope. That night we set a date for the collaboration track. That’s my dawg, I can hit him up right now and say I got a banger, and he on it. I'm interested in working with Meek Mill, Jadakiss and Jeezy.
What's up next, and what's your endgame? What's the number one goal you want to achieve during your music career?
Right now I’m pushing "We Up" hard to the world, and we're about to shoot the video for that. Also Fatz, Redd and myself are putting together a group project titled Camp Fire. I'm just focused on building these numbers up so we can talk to the right people with leverage.
Where can my subscribers follow you on social media, and where can they buy your music?
YouTube: Zay P.O.M.C
Facebook: Zay POMC
Hip-Hop/Rap Artist Zay P.O.M.C.
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