The Wonderful, Boundless Existence of “Set Free” Richardson
Anything that’s truly worthwhile takes many years to create, dogged determination to sustain, and unbelievable reserves of passion to sustain. All the aforementioned qualities were applied in spades by Free Richardson (aka Set Free) to build the Compound, a polymorphous creative agency located in the Bronx, NY. Part art space, part extravagant man cave, the Compound is a head-swiveling concoction of art, Hip-Hop, and sports sub-cultures, highlighted by Kaws figurines, Ron English life-size statues, copious Supreme ephemera, NBA collectibles, and lots more. It even boasts a swanky pool table and a recording studio for the heavy rotation of Hip-Hop stars and producers constantly swinging by to hang with Free and his crew. To date, the agency division of his business has executed projects with Timberland, EA Sports, ESPN, and this year, Set Free launched a new art gallery addition to the Compound, a pristine white-walled space just a stone’s throw from his original creative hub. The new Compound Gallery was launched with a major co-sign from Hip-Hop renaissance man, Mos Def (aka Yasiin Bey), and the first show was an exhibition by well-renowned photographer and film director, Jonathan Mannion. Set Free has truly managed to conjure a deeply textured existence that fully encompasses all his creative and artistic passions. Read our interview with the fearless culture creator below:
First off, let’s talk about the Compound creative studio/space. It’s an amazing treasure trove of art, culture, and really unique, one-of-a-kind finds. How long did it take you to conceive and curate the entire space?
It took 11 years to build the space and it is still growing. I don’t think I will ever be done building the Compound; as long as there is art, the Compound will grow.
You started off as a DJ in the 90’s Hip-Hop scene. How did you switch lanes into becoming an art collector, toy maker, and all-around arbiter of culture?
I’ve always collected toys, and I had them around my turntables. All toys start from art. When you think about a toy, an artist had to draw it first before it became a 3-D toy. The natural progression into becoming a collector and toymaker was toys to art. Everything for me is organic. I live by my name, Set Free. I try to have and keep a free-flowing lifestyle in everything I do and all that I’m involved with.
Let’s talk more about your passion for toys and collectible figurines/statues. When did that start and anything new we can expect?
I started collecting toys after my father took me to see Star Wars at a young age. I have a Black Bruce Lee coming out with artist, kaNO, and another surprise collab with pop artist, Ron English, who we did a Black Charlie Grin, Ganja Grin, and Police Grin editions with.
The Compound also operates as a creative agency for major clients like EA Sports, Timberland, Nike etc? What are some of your more memorable client projects/activations to date?
Last year, I did a fun project with Magnum Condoms where I created a song with Fabolous and PnB Rock. My most memorable of all projects is having created the AND1 Mixtapes.
Of course we have to talk about your new gallery space and lounge that just launched. Can you tell us more about that and the Mos Def connection with this?
Yasiin is a good friend of mine, we are like brothers. Yasiin expressed that he wanted to be part of the gallery and it made sense to me. Yasiin helps curate shows on a world level. We are also working on a new ways to display a visual experience for music.
You mentioned earlier about how you originated the wildly popular And 1 mixtapes. Are you still making moves in the music space?
I’m always working in the music space. I have an artist/rapper Millyz and a singer/songwriter Annalise Azadian. I am still working with many artists in the music industry; working with Paradigm Talent Agency as well.
Your current schedule has to be a constant 24/7 schedule. When it’s time to relax, what kind of magazines/books do you read, and what kind of music do you like to unwind to?
I love listening to Jazz music and my favorite book is the Bible; that is all I need to read.
One of the murals at The Compound reads “Do or Do Not, There Is No Try.” Since this is our Fearless Issue, can you tell us the key to your motivation and willingness to always go against the grain?
There is nothing to fear but fear itself. GOD is my motivation to everything. Anything is possible with GOD.
All kinds of celebrities, musicians, artists, and athletes always swing by The Compound. What’s your secret for maintaining such a vibrant network of culture influencers?
Staying humble and I try my best to treat everyone the way I want to be treated.
Lastly, with regards to creative projects and new ventures, what can we expect from the Compound in the coming months?
More shows at the Compound Gallery and just more creative projects and a few new toys in the future.
To keep up with The Compound on IG, follow here: @thecompound_
To keep uo with Set Free, follow him on IG here: @iam_setfree