Ninja Tune is an independent record label that is based in London, England (with satellite offices in Montreal and Los Angeles), created in 1990 by the duo known as Coldcut. Coldcut were pioneers of the emerging hip-hop/electro scene in the eighties. Inspired by a visit to Japan, Matt Black and Jonathon More (Coldcut) primarily created Ninja Tune to act as a vehicle by which they could release music of a more underground nature, free from the restraints placed on artists by major labels (the same restraints that were put on them via their brief stints with Arista and Big Life).
The first releases were heralded by the music press and afficionados simultaneously. The first four volumes of 'DJ Food - Jazz Brakes', produced by Coldcut, were comprised of instrumental hip-hop cuts, subsequently giving birth to the genre called 'trip-hop', and seen as indispensable tools for DJ's.
The label achieved a level of notoriety quickly, due to its funky style and commitment to eclecticism. Key in the labels success was the constantly growing roster of very different sounding artists.
With the musical and multi-media innovation of Black and More, the studio know-how and musical expertise of all the artists, the graphic vision of Openmind, and the sound business practices of the label managers and employees, Ninja Tune has grown into a label that prides itself on producing quality music while serving its artists in a way that no major label would. Also acting as the umbrella company to Big Dada, Counter + Motion Audio Records.
USSR The Theory Of Verticality
'Of the countless abstract hip-hop LPs released during 1996-1997 (with Ninja Tune bearing much of the load), U.S.S.R. Repertoire could be one of the best. DJ Vadim's attention to detail when structuring beats, samples and noise is impeccable over the course of the album's 26 tracks. With just the right blend of forbidding atmosphere and subtle funkiness, Vadim created an excellent album his first time out.
'DJ Vadim selected a baker's dozen of the best producers in the field for work on U.S.S.R. Reconstruction. From nu-school electro producers (Reflection, Clatterbox) to more like-minded beat-meisters (DJ Krush, Silent Poets, Kid Koala) and free-form experimenters (Oval, Techno Animal), the album flows without a hitch through the darkest hip-hop and beat exploration, though the material never becomes as abstract as on Vadim's debut.' - John Bush (allmusic.com)
USSR Life From The Other Side
"Controversy struck with the album USSR: Life From The Other Side (1999). The LP featured Co Flow and Iriscience (from Dilated Peoples) amongst others and caused quite a storm in USA with the track Your Revolution featuring Def Jam poetess Sarah Jones. The FCC in the USA cited explicit and provocative lyrics when they banned this song and the underground classic The Terrorist."
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USSR - The Art of Listening
"U.S.S.R.: The Art of Listening, even more than its predecessor, represents a large leap toward the rapping side of hip-hop, with guests on every track but one and virtually no space for the exquisite ambient breakbeat of previous DJ Vadim productions. It's difficult to mourn the loss of Vadim the solo artist, though, when the tracks and productions found here are so refreshing and totally distinct. All but one of the rappers are fresh faces (for a Vadim LP), which paves the way for talented newcomers (Yarah Bravo, Phi-Life Cypher, Vakill, TTC), some of whom have their own releases but all of whom will benefit from more attention. Vadim continues to strip his productions down, so far in fact that occasionally there's more space between the sounds than there are sounds themselves. One of the best tracks, "It's On" features the excellent Vakill freestyling over some standard jazz keys but also a few blink-and-miss-it samples: jew's harp, the distinctive sound of Japanese noh music, and a precious few grunts and moans from an earthy blues vocalist. Yarah Bravo is easily the most distinctive rapper here; she plays with her rhymes, drawling like a sloshed debutante and practically tripping over her own vocals like the hip-hop equivalent of Jackie Chan's drunken master. Gift of Gab from Blackalicious brings it back to the earthier side of alternative (read: American) rap with the deep groove "Combustible," but great features for Phi-Life Cypher and Demolition Man return to the up-and-coming British sound of ragga flow over heavily distorted analogue synth. While his sizable generosity -- inviting an assortment of voices to appear on his own album -- initially appears to be a fault, it quickly becomes clear this is a blessed virtue instead." - John Bush (allmusic.com)
The Art of Listening by DJ Vadim