Various : Sound 01: A Big Dada Sampler

Compilation of caustic Brithop from the Ninja Tune-affiliated label...

The odds stacked against British hip-hop are such that anyone who gets through the door – while others fall through the net – can expect to be barracked, hated or grudgingly acknowledged by fiercely competitive peers. Big Dada claim to be a hip-hop label, set up by Will Ashton under the aegis of Ninja Tune Records, but what they actually produce seems, on this evidence, to call for categories of their own.

The blessing and curse is that the artists collated here do not seem to subscribe to the bygone rules of Americanisation and the need to rap in transatlantic accents to be heard. It’s good in a way because when you deal with Roots Manuva’s honest and bass-heavy ‘Motion 5000’ and Ty’s inspirational ‘Break The Lock’ you still get a sense of connection, whether thematically or through a sense of history, to wider hip-hop.

On the other hand, there’s something detrimental in the way cLOUDDEAD’s lysergic wanderings take them near indie land or techno territory, whilst the language barrier works against French-rhyming TTC’s favour – it’s a question of transcending the barrier, and they don’t.

Even if that seems philistine, it’s necessary to reflect, that lyrics should be prominent in hip-hop, to avoid being a mere fashion accessory or the realm of pointlessness. Unless you’re speaking about dub, that is, in the way Big Dada Sound’s ‘Showtime’ really gets down and seismic with its heartbeat-like bass’n’drums. And, even when you talk about dub instrumentals – consider the fact that these also serve as bedrocks for aspiring or established rappers to use to battle each other, or as raw material for scratch DJs.

Dele Fadele