Big Dada, home of some of the most maverick, forward-thinking and innovative artists in hip hop and beyond has just hit double figures. To celebrate, the label are proud to present "Well Deep", not so much a 'best of' as an overview of the label's history and philosophy, available on double CD and DVD which are sold separately.
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".
So, what we have here is an eclectic mix of some truly astounding musical works and a release which accurately catalogues Big Dada's long an venerable life. The music here actually only spans eight years of Big Dada's decade as the first two years was compiled on "Black Whole Styles". On Well Deep there are 33 tracks, more or less one from every artist album the label has ever put out. No doubt you'll already have some of these tracks, but probably not all of them, and so this compilation makes for a handy collection all in one place. It's two CDs and it'll be in the shops for less than a tenner, so its a verified bargain right there.
The DVD is a nice touch which collects together every Big Dada video ever produced. That includes the classic school sports day video for "Witness (1 Hope)" – an idea dreamed up by Rodney Smith himself. There's also a thirty minute documentary featuring interviews with Roots Manuva, Ty, Diplo, Juice Aleem, Mike Ladd, Infinite Livez, TTC, Wiley etc. If you are a more visual fan, then this is the offering you should check.
Big Dada Compilation CD1
01. Movement – Roots Manuva (4:13)
02. The Tale (Radio Edit) – TY (3:37)
03. Night Night Theme – Infesticons (4:05)
04. Colossal Insight – Roots Manuva (3:45)
05. Dead Dogs Two – Clouddead (Boards of Canada mix) (5:00)
06. Wherever We Go – New Flesh (3:46)
07. Wait a Minute – TY (3:22)
08. Fader Party – Majesticons (2:25)
09. Percolator – Lotek HiFi (3:20)
10. Dans Le Club-TTC (3:57)
11. Witness (1 Hope) – Roots Manuva (4:14)
12. Diplo Rhythm- Diplo (4:53)
13. Sweet Talk – Spank Rock (4:11)
14. My Mistakes (xxxchange Mix) – Wiley (3:09)
15. Hard Times – Part 2 (4:38)
Big Dada Compilation CD 2
01. 50/50 – Wiley (2:18)
02. Stick & Move – New Flesh (3:30)
03. Worcestershire Sauce – Infinite Livez (3:03)
04. Super Pretzel – NMS (4:53)
05. Monkey Theme – Infesticons (4:15)
06. Slang Teacher – Gamma (3:44)
07. Now's The Time – Diplo (3:08)
08. Supply & Demand – Busdriver (2:05)
09. Anti-Matter – King Geedorah feat MF Doom & Mr Fantastik (3:27)
10. Look For Me – Ty (4:14)
11. Killer Apps – Shadowless (4:12)
12. King Spitter – Big Juss (2:18)
13. Black Astronaut – Busdriver (4:00)
14. Can't Believe – Lotek HiFi (4:01)
15. Closer – Ty (5:06)
16. Physics of a Bicycle – Clouddead (4:41)
The DVD has over 30 video promos, a 32 minute label documentary (including interviews with Diplo, Roots Manuva, Wiley, Mike Ladd, Will Ashon, Ty, Juice Aleem + Infinite Livez) and extras.
Potted histories of a few of the key players in the Big Dada story:
Will Ashon worked as a music journalist specialising in hip hop and related musics for Muzik, Hip Hop Connection, True and then Trace. He also had features published in the Source, Raygun and many other magazines. He ran Big Dada full time from 1997 until 2005, when he went part time to allow him to write novels. His first book, "Clear Water", was published by Faber & Faber in June 2006 (paperback out now). His new book, "The Heritage," will follow in March 2008 through the same publisher.
Featured on the very first Big Dada single release, under the name Alpha Prhyme, Juice Aleem has been a constant on the label ever since, working with his groups New Flesh and Gamma, touring the world and developing a fearsome reputation as one of the very best freestylers you'll ever hear. Anywhere.
Rodney Smith was one of the first people Ashon approached when he started Big Dada. Rodney would only sign on an album deal and so "Brand New Second Hand" (1999) became the label's first artist album release and started a relationship which stretches over 5 albums and continues until this day. He has been nominated for almost every award under the sun, including a Brit, has had two top forty albums and continues to be the embodiment of the label's maverick approach to commercialism, art and life.
Ty was the second Big Dada artist to be nominated for a Mercury Music Prize for his own second album, "Upwards," a record which won him plaudits from everyone from De La Soul to Robert Wyatt. He has also established himself as a live favourite, worked with personal heroes like Tony Allen and become an important spokesman for his community.
Mike Ladd (Infesticons / Majesticons)
The first American to become a permanent member of the Big Dada roster, this writer, conceptualist and former punk now resident in Paris but previously based in the Bronx has long represented the dissenting spirit of the label. As well as the ability not to take oneself too seriously…
The Parisian trio signed for the label in 2000 and have since become one of the most successful hip hop acts in France, combining their three beautfiully contrasted flows with next-level electronic production from the likes of Para One and Tacteel.
A kind of anticon-supergroup before anyone knew what anticon was, Dose One, why? and Odd Nosdam split after just two albums citing irreconcilable differences and the world was denied any more psych-pop songs about decaying canine corpses.
The Floridian first got in touch with Big Dada whilst living in Tokyo and reading an interview with Will Ashon in a Japanese magazine. The first (and so far, only) predominantly instrumental producer to be signed to the label, Diplo has since gone on to be a superstar DJ, celebrity red hot lover and a&r extraordinaire. He also has an implausibly deep voice.
The one and only Lactating Man channeller, Chelsea Art School graduate, comic book artist, PiL enthusiast, pink wig wearer and all-round genius. What can we say?
Purveyors of art-filth, Baltimore attitude and stadium-level charisma, Naeem Hanks and producer Xxchange came (everywhere), conquered and then went again.
The maverick's maverick, godfather of grime and cold warrior was always meant to be on Big Dada. Now it has happened climate change can be reversed…