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Big Dada

Big Dada, home of some of the most maverick, forward-thinking and innovative artists in hip hop and beyond, is an independent record label distributed by Ninja Tune. It was started by reputed hip hop journalist Will Ashon in 1997. It is best known for being the home of prominent British hip hop artist Roots Manuva, Mercury Prize winner Speech Debelle and grime pioneer Wiley.




Big Dada was started when then-music journalist Will Ashon approached Peter Quicke (boss of Ninja Tune) and suggested a hip hop label to run alongside but independently of the venerable indie. Heavily influenced by the underground hip hop scenes that had grown up in LA in the early nineties and then New York in the mid-nineties, Ashon envisaged the label as a home for musical misfits and pioneers, for those who were more interested in producing something worthwhile than necessarily having a hit.

Whilst “underground hip hop” became shorthand for a kind of nostalgic belief in “real hip hop” and dusty samples, Big Dada continued to evolve. Ashon maintains, though, that the label has stayed true to its founding principles. “I always thought the basic principle of hip hop was to keep moving, to constantly be trying something new. To be fresher than everyone else!”

Certainly, few labels have operated such a broad-church policy to rap-based music, both in terms of style and geography. How many labels could claim to have had a consistent music policy over ten years while releasing artists as diverse as Wiley and cLOUDDEAD? How many labels could justify releasing French group TTC, Diplo’s early Brazilian experiments, some of the finest acts to come out of the UK (Roots Manuva, Ty, New Flesh, Infinite Livez), as well as some of the finest underground acts to emerge from the USA (Spank Rock, King Geedorah/MF Doom, Mike Ladd’s Infesticons project) in addition to some of the most wildly offbeat (Bigg Jus, Busdriver)?

“Hip hop has saturated the breadth of popular music and culture,” Ashon argues. “There can’t be any rules about what’s acceptable or authentic other than whether it moves you and excites you. That’s all we’ve ever tried to do.”


"The very best underground hip hop label" - Observer Music Monthly
"The most progressive British hip hop label ever" - The Fader

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Diplo Rhythm

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