Big Dada Recordings 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 those who were more interested in producing something worthwhile than necessarily having a hit.
Big Dada's first release was Alpha Prhyme's 12-inch single Misanthropic, a collaboration between Luke Vibert and Juice Aleem in 1997. Over the following 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, Big Dada 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 Bigg Jus, Busdriver, Mike Ladd and French hip hop group TTC.
On 8 September 2009, Big Dada artist Speech Debelle won the 2009 Barclaycard Mercury Prize for her debut album Speech Therapy produced by Wayne Lotek. It was the label's third nomination, after Roots Manuva's Run Come Save Me in 2002 and Ty's Upwards in 2003. Less than two months later, Speech Debelle claimed to have split from the label, allegedly because sales of Speech Therapy "suffered because of poor distribution by Big Dada.
Roots Manuva, one of the label's best known artist, signed a new deal with the label in 2011. In the 2007 documentary for the label Well Deep, 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."