set free richardson has got the goodsIt’s often said that a space is a reflection of its owner; a manifested version of the self, where one can release and energize. A creative haven. I walk into “the Compound,” a creative space in the Bronx, owned by marketing maven and connector of culture, Set Free Richardson, and I immediately grasp this concept in real terms.
The elevators doors open, and through a black-painted hallway, I walk into what I can only describe as an arcade of cultured art. It’s a place where art represents a assortment of cartoons; graffiti-decked walls; limited edition toys by famed artist KAWS; signed sports jerseys of NBA world champions Kevin Garnett, Rasheed Wallace and NY Knicks’ Iman Shumpert; dozens of Star Wars action figures; paintings marked Deception and Loyalty by Slvstr©; a signed photograph of Andy Warhol and Basquiat by legendary street photographer Ricky Powell; sound mixers; design stations; four-foot sculptures by popaganda artist Ron English; a large collection And1 shoes; an original 1981 Ms. Pacman Machine; and countless other artistic embellishments.
The look and feel is absolutely stimulating. A flood of creativity runs in every direction of the room (and my mind). And then I make the connection between the room and its creator, and I understand.
Set Free Richardson has had a hand in all the industries: from sports, to music, to fashion, to entertainment, to art, he has been successful because understands the markets; in many ways, he is the connector.It began in Philadelphia, when Set Free was DJing for Tommy Boy Records. And1 approached him in a store and asked if he liked their shoes, to which he offered a bold remark: “I don’t like the shoes, but if you connect them with music and hip hop, the shoes would get more exposure, which would get more people to like them.” That confidence landed him a job as Director of Entertainment Marketing for And1, where he implemented the famed large-scale collaborative project, the And1 Mixtape, bringing together fashion, hip-hop, and basketball; something that had never been done before. Since then, he’s gone on to revolutionize industries through partnerships for brands like Nike, EASports, Vans, Ugg, Adidas, Activision, Universal Records, and Warner Bros. Pictures. Now, with the Compound, Set Free has created a physical space that reflects his career and life perspective. It’s a space where celebrity friends and artists of different backgrounds can join together and create the types of projects and planning that are insightful and cutting edge. “I was just combining a lot of genres and walks of life into one room. I’ve been told it’s like a 3-D mural of my head and my history.” Recently, artist Mos Def worked on a remake of Jay-Z’s and Kayne West’s single “Paris” at the Compound: while Mos Def recorded the lyrics, someone mixed the sound, a designer constructed the single art, and a videographer prepped for the music video. After the recording was complete, Mos Def shot the video, and then made his way to the “war table,” where the marketing strategy for the single was being devised. In a day’s work, the single was finished, and a consortium of production was formed. And this is just one instance. Other friends and artists who utilize the space are The Neighbourhood, Stash, Director Chris Robinson, and Asap Ferg.
The bottom line: in a society that promotes a separation of the industries, where everything is outsourced to individual niches, the Compound is revolutionary. It is pushing back through a new definition of culture. A culture that is true collaboration.
Words: Marissa Ericson Photographs: Justin Bettman