If you haven’t yet heard of CMPND, you’re about to; as this Friday marks the release of their impressive debut album Eagle Court, on the High Focus imprint. The trio, made up of Kemastry, Vitamin G and Wundrop – who also produced the album in its entirety – honed their skills with Brighton’s Yogocop collective, but have steadily been making waves far beyond the south coast. Following a slew of eye-catching singles showcasing both their lyrical talents and visual flair, High Focus’s newest recruits announce their arrival on the scene with full-length debut Eagle Court – dropping Friday 11th October.
Straight from the off the team let you know what they’re about, with Wundrop telling us in more or less the same breath on opener and title track ‘Eagle Court’ that, whilst he’s dedicated to the music – “when I’m in the lab I ain’t leaving my seat till I pop my bladder” – he’s equally as likely to go AWOL for a few days on a drug-fuelled bender – “When I’m in the mood I like to bosh keys for more than three days and ignore my girl”. This kind of content is not only synonymous with much of High Focus’s work at this point, but a hallmark of UK youth culture. Not to say that this is anything new, music and drugs have been at the forefront of UK youth movements for the better part of half a century, and with this album the Brighton trio position themselves at the forefront of the moderation iteration of this culture.
The CMPND boys – it’s pronounced Compound, in case you were struggling – make music that is sonically striking, a melting pot of stylistic elements that a form an alloy much stronger than the sum of its constituent parts. It’s like an audio representation of the UK’s cultural milieu, but given a distinctive and unique new flavour – the result is a sound that’s familiar, yet sounds like nothing you’ve ever heard before; like an alien dressed in your dad’s clothes. On ‘Solid Air’, for example, Kemastry spits “walk in the rave, smile on my face and a hat made of tinfoil” – a lyrical nod to Dave, with an absurdism reminiscent of a rapper like Dirty Dike all over a mind-bending instrumental that sits somewhere between trap and boom bap with a significant element of the extra-terrestrial.
On ‘Dusty Ivory’ Wundrops exhibits the range of his skills on produkky, crafting an entirely different-sounding instrumental using a minor key piano melody and a thumping, murky bassline with a ‘dusty’ quality that Vitamin G very much appreciates. It’s a track full of quotables from each MC, giving an insight into their respective personas. Vits is melancholy and quick witted in equal parts as he quips “My only claim to fame’s I played against Dele Alli/ For Cambridge straight donny like MK since wearin’ nappies” – spilling over the barline in an effort to pack in as much wordplay as possible. Meanwhile Kemastry is devil-may-care in his attitude but meticulous in his lyrical craftmanship of the hook as he lazily flows – “Barely responsible for my own actions/ shrug and laugh and just reacting to all the random shit that happens”. Whilst Wundrop, for his part, is playfully self-deprecating as he spits the lines “Undercooked CV, lacking in credentials/ still we could chew the cud and get all existential/ and if your body is a temple mine’s a tomb/ I take my mind away and lie in wait to fly the cocoon”.
What with the obvious similarities of being a three piece with an intoxicating sound, verses that sound like the inventory of your local pharmacist and a ludicrously talented producer-rapper on the roster – comparisons with the US’s Flatbush Zombies are easy but altogether too simple. Certainly they embody a similar swagger and share an undeniable chemistry, but they also come with a healthy dose of introspection that sets them apart. There’s an implicit social commentary in the disaffected way they deliver lines about life in the urban underclass, like they say on ‘Arjen Robben’ they represent the “underbelly kinda guy”. This gives lyrics like “I know I’m alive cos it fucking hurts” and “load up on drugs, bring all your friends/ kill yourself slowly it’s the latest trend” (both spat by Kemastry on ‘Purpatrait’) a scathing quality. There’s no glamorisation, the dispassionate delivery normalises it as just another struggle of life in that underbelly.
That’s not to say that this is a record to put you down in the dumps, it certainly has its ups and downs but more often than not the dry wit and exceptional wordplay will leave you with a smile on your face, even in the darker cuts. There’s punchlines galore, some impressive features – Hindenburg is one of the better posse cuts you’ll hear this year – and the personality of the three rappers shines through and gives the whole project an infectious energy. A thoroughly impressive debut – make sure you get on top of it when it drops on Friday 11th. Preorder the vinyl here* and in the meantime keep bumping the singles – our personal fave is below, check it.
Standouts Tracks: Illeagle Court (feat. Hutch), Dusty Ivory, Paraphrase (feat. Verbz), Purpatrait
Rating – 4/5