PRO Profile - Big Dada
Big Dada Recordings is the Hip Hop imprint of London-based independent record label, Ninja Tune. It is best known for being the home of prominent British hip hop artist Roots Manuva. It was started by reputed hip hop journalist Will Ashon in February 1997. The label's first release was the Alpha Prhyme 12" Misanthropic's, a collaboration between Luke Vibert and Juice Aleem Over the following thirteen years the label has released over one hundred and fifty records and garnered considerable critical acclaim, being described by Observer Music Monthly as "the very best underground hip hop label".
In 2007 the label released the compilation 'Well Deep' to celebrate their tenth anniversary. NME said the label was "not only a platform for the British urban underground but also attracts some of the most progressive wordsmiths and beat-scientists in the whole world... Big Dada are still pushing things forward". As the quote suggests, Big Dada is not exclusively a label for British acts - their roster has also featured contributions from American hip hop artists including Saul Williams, Mike Ladd (Infesticons / Majesticons) and Daniel Dumile (MF Doom, King Geedorah), and French hip hop artists, TTC. They also released debut albums by both Diplo and Spank Rock, as well as the comeback album from grime legend Wiley, who was so pleased with the record deal they offered that he recorded a single, "50/50," in tribute.
On 8 September 2009 Big Dada artist Speech Debelle won the 2009 Barclaycard Mercury Prize for her debut album 'Speech Therapy.' It was the label's third nomination, after Roots Manuva and Ty. Less than two months later the artist claimed to have split from the label, allegedly because sales of her debut album, Speech Therapy, "suffered because of poor distribution by Big Dada records". While the label haven't commented on these allegations, much press reaction has suggested that the situation was not so clear cut, with Alexis Petridis of the Guardian stating that "She was a bit hasty, wasn't she? Don't we think? Made a bit of an error... I think it's just particularly unfortunate in the case of a label like Big Dada because whatever else you make of it, and obviously it probably doesn't have the ability to promote your records in the way a a major label would, it's clearly a label that's been run for all the right reasons by someone who absolutely puts their heart and soul into the relentlessly maligned genre of UK hip hop".
Perhaps the label's best known artist, Rodney Smith aka Roots Manuva, signed a new deal with the label after the release of "Run Come Save Me". In the documentary for the label's "Well Deep" DVD, he said, "It's been a lovely relationship over the years... Big Dada's unique and it will always be unique because it's a philosophy, y'know? It's unique because it dares to stick its neck out and it's run by people who genuinely love music. It's not just a record label, it's a movement."