Born from the minds of rapper/producer Wundrop and rappers Kemastry and Vitamin G, CMPND’s first full-length album and debut release on High Focus, Eagle Court, invites listeners into a dizzying world of raucous characters and dark Brighton streets. We took some time out ahead of its release to grasp at the personalities behind this unique and vibrant project.
Yo guys! Thanks for taking the time out to chat to us. It’s just a handful of days now until your debut drops so we’re gassed to speak to you ahead of time Amidst your new-found exposure, many of your new listeners may not be aware of the unique space each of you have occupied within the scene prior to this release. So to shine light on each element of you as a trio, we thought we’d take the opportunity to ask you some questions as a group as well as individually.
‘Eagle Court’ takes its name from the block of flats in which you all lived and made music together in Brighton. Despite this, none of you are originally from Brighton, how did you come to know each other, and end up in Eagle Court?
Wundrop: I’ve known Kemastry for years. I had to leave Brighton a couple times, had to duck out of certain housing situations, debts and whataveyou. I was making plans for the grand return from Harlow town the same time Kema was looking for a yard. We moved in with another homie originally but he got sick of our shit. So Vits filled the room and started chucking verses on what we’d done. We made a load more tunes and it was dope, came up with the name Compound cos we lived in our compound and our names are kinda sciencey n all that shit. The vowels left cos they were sick of our shit too. Eagle Court sums up everything about that album. It was a time and a place.
Vitamin G: I moved to Brighton a couple of years ago, surfing on various homies sofas and the seven seas. I was given small doses of deludamol in my earlier visits to Brighton, however after finally discovering Eagle Court, the utmost nebula was achieved.
Kemastry: I was held hostage hosting some dead event and spotted Wundrop in the crowd and recognised him from cyphers. He agreed to take over hosting duties and hollered me later in the week with half the p. The rest is history and frosty jack’s. It’s a lesser known fact that I cloned Vitamin G in order to create a non buck-toothed version of myself that could rap fast and struggle to walk 100m without falling over.
We know that there are close affiliations between Yogocop Records, the label you’ve all released through previously, and High Focus. Even so, as HF’s latest signees, could you tell us a bit about how that link came about?
Kemastry: Shouts to YGC. I’d like to shout out everyone but especially Hank Hiller since I moved to Brighton we have planned written and scrapped several albums mainly due to our addiction to overly spicy chicken. He lives in Spain now but one day lace a full body of work or at the very least you’ll get an illustrated children’s book from us.
Wundrop: I met the YGC lot when I started going cyphers around Brighton. Mad love to Illiterate, Mr Slipz who usually DJs for us, NuphZed, Hank Hiller, Dingo, Tom Yum and all the homies. I released a couple bits with Yogocop and started my shit off there. We did a heavy fezzy season or two. Everyone lives all over the shop now. I went unsigned and did my thing a while before we started up with HF for my own reasons.
Vitamin G: Yogocop was one of the reasons I chose to move to Brighton. I featured on a Harvs Le Toad & KLB album called Leanworks on a track called ‘Snap Your Neck’ that came out on YGC. I’ve been making music with these boys for a while, including hitting up various cyphers back in Cambridge, Hol’tight Gully Goat Gang, Delegates of Culture, SMB and L.I.T.E. When Harvs and KLB (now known as Louis Loan) invited me to do a show at the Prince Albert for the last Slip Jam, I got to know the rest of the heads that rolled down. Love to each and everyone involved in that movement. That all led to Illitamin G being released on YGC in May this year, shouts to illiterate and Benaddict for making that happen. Prior to that project being released, Fliptrix hit me up on Insta while I was living at Eagle Court saying he was feeling my vibes. CMPND was in full swing by this point with multiple heaters stacked so we joined forces with High Focus to cook it up properly.
We’ve heard that the three of you have the rare ability of getting on a wave while simultaneously being musically productive, and this feels reflected throughout the album. What did making a track at Eagle Court usually look like?
Wundrop: It’s a boozey album for sure. I don’t reckon that’s too rare there’s a lot of skilful multi-tasking surfers in UK rap. A lot of the tracks that made Eagle Court are re-records cos the demos we was either half asleep or too many heads chatting waff in the room. It looked like fraggle rock.
Vitamin G: I don’t really remember what it looked like… but it sounded greezy… Smelt a bit funky.
Kemastry: Lots of time locked in a sweaty room talking to ourselves and consuming copious amounts of deludamol. Remember one of the fam walking into the yard one day and saying you man need jesus and washing up liquid. So imagine a scene that requires jesus in marigolds and some industrial strength bleach accompanied by a Wundrop soundtrack.
There’s been hype that this project will shake the UK’s scene up and that’s for good reason. What do you think most sets this project apart from the rest of UK hip hop circulating at the moment?
Vitamin G: Let your ears decide.
Wundrop: Everyone does their thing and we do ours. I think cos we’re 3 very different people that form like Voltron.
Kemastry: The fact that we’re actually just doing remixes of feudal Japanese operas.
Your lyrics on Eagle Court are a stark mix between social commentary and the sesh, is this a persona you’ve consciously created?
Not consciously, I think it’s a natural reflection of myself. I’m a youth worker as well as a wreck head (don’t tell my boss) so feel I kind of used the wave alongside music to self regulate my over active brain. Otherwise I’d get too depressed about the world and do something drastic like start an online petition or become a failed serial killer. I think we all have a duty to be socially responsible humans but I also love a healthy dose of chaos, debauchery and deludamol.
Similarly, your spoken word track ‘Two Arms’ really stands out from most rappers today, where did the impetus for this come from?
That tracks actually bout 5/6 years old wrote it at a low point in my life. I’ve always been a fan of spoken word especially after listening to Kojey Radical’s first project. I feel the space gives me freedom to express myself in a different way because I’m not constricted by a beat. Check old tracks like ‘Matata’ (produced by Hank Hiller and Mr Slipz) and stay posted for more semi-acoustic rap poems.
Where do you see your solo work going in the future?
I’ve been working on a solo project called ‘Directors notes say smile, eyes say different’ for a minute—just waiting until the cosmos aligns and I can be bothered to hunt down all the stems. Be prepared for introspective sad rap over weird beats. Also got projects coming out under the VooDoo Collective, alongside a host of little side schemes.
Those who have seen you on the Brighton circuit over the past year are well-aware that you are an accomplished freestyler—I still recall a great back & forth between you and long-term Brighton MC Felman (formerly known as Mos Prob) at his Prime Cuts event. Do you have any stories from your experiences of touring around open mic’s?
I’d always say I’m first and foremost a a freestyle mc since attending my first Slip Jam open mic seven or so years ago. I’m shit at remembering bars so when I cypher with heads its automatic. There’s too many gully freestyle cyphers to remember. What’s dope about the Brighton Hip hop scene is that mc’s are expected to freestyle in cypher which means the levels are consistently high.
You collaborated with Wundrop & Kemastry on ‘Cool Runnings’ and ‘Kick Back’ before forming CMPND, how were these early experiences of working together?
When these two tunes were made we weren’t chilling as a trio or even had ideas that CMPND would form. I’d just come to Brighton and make music with a handful of heads and get waved so the experience was still more or less exactly the same as Eagle Court. We got lit, I had or wrote bars, and recorded them while someone engineered, these times it was Wundrop.
Even back then you had your distinctively dynamic flow and this is showcased to full effect on Eagle Court. How does writing for a CMPND beat differ to, say, your more boom bap-inspired work with illiterate?
My writing tends to differ with environment, my mood, the nature of a track (whether or not there is a concept) and obviously the type of beat. Chilled boom bappers let me get a little more introspective and engage listeners more, where as a CMPND beat often unleashes a more tricky technique and more room to be versatile. While at the same time keeping the content I’m expressing true to myself, might be a bit exaggerated sometimes but oh well thats rap, it is what it is as long as I get my point across how I want it’s cool.
Despite working with a variety of UK producers, this rhythmic style feels heavily reminiscent of US rappers like Tech N9ne and RA the Rugged Man, whose flow do you admire in hip hop?
There are a lot of rappers with admirable flows in Hip-Hop, however anyone can spew a peppery flow and it sounds impressive, if you’re actually coming with something substantial while spitting skippies then thats a bonus and I rate it . I’ve always been a big fan of Big L’s flow as kept it properly raw and he switched it up a lot unexpectedly still keeping it interesting, same with Busta Rhymes. Bone Thugs and Harmony as they have mad melodic vibes while its still tight and concise. Thats the hip hop side of things, I’ve always loved grime which is obviously more of a double time genre with the delivery and originated from the UK so I was automatically drawn to it. I grew up watching Chanel U and ripping grime tunes from lime wire so I originally was more on the 140bpm flex when starting writing as I was inspired by grime from young, so I guess I’ve always had the flow on lock, listening to heads like Ghetts and all of the movement like, Devlin, Wretch 32, Scorcher and Mercston, MCS like Kano, P Money, Flirta D, Dizzee Rascal, Frisco… there’s a long list.
Your use of adlibs also contributes to the dynamism of your verses on this project and have been utilised in much of your prior releases as well, how do you approach incorporating adlibs into a verse?
We call these the madlibs or the BS layer for a reason. I approach them in relation to whatever I just said in a bar, and sometimes even just make next noises to add a little more character to a verse and most of the time it works. This is the probably the most jokes part of recording especially when with gang, trying to hold back creasing because of how dumb it may sound, but its all for the cause!
Your production style really stands out from UK music right now and almost seems to exist in a vacuum, who (or what) would you say are your biggest influences sonically?
Gotta thank my mum on this one. I’d be tryna get to sleep hearing eerie shit from Portishead’s Dummy album, Zero 7’s Simple Things or Air’s Premieres Symptoms etc etc, she gave me my earliest influences. Also want to shout out Gary T, he introduced me to DJ Shadow, Viktor Vaughn/DOOM, J5, Can, The Streets, The Blend Crafters + a load more back in about 2002. Got into grime and wrote my first shitty bars at school. Then later found Task Force, Jehst, Children Of The Damned. I got into Deep Medi as well. Heads like Drae Da Skimask, Sumgii, Chemo to name just a few always been cold and original with the beats. As far as my shit goes I always made murky, dark lazy beats but the beats on Eagle Court and CMPND stuff reflect the wave we were on. It was jokes. I bought an old Korg synth a while back, that influenced and changed how I do my thing as well.
Having self-produced almost the entirety of your discography, your unique sound clearly had a lot of room to grow. Do you keep different things in mind when writing a verse vs. making a beat?
Sometimes people think if its not sounding right they gotta add more to it but normally its something you need take out. Im always tryna make sure its all got its place there. Same goes for both.
Each member of CMPND hits very different notes on a track, is there anything in particular you keep in mind when preparing a CMPND beat?
Just keep it wavey and steezey.
Performing live, you often seem highly alert and in work mode, do you sometimes feel a responsibility towards the rest of the group?
No comment. I dunno maybe cos I’ve done my share of terrible shows. Times I should not of been let near a stage. I fucking love doing shows and I just take what I’m doing a bit more serious now days. Its always cool, especially recently shits been on lock.
Eagle Court drops on High Focus Records this Friday, the 11th of October. Pre-order it now here.
Photos by Harvey Williams Fairley