Formed in London in 1990 by Matt Black and Jonathan More, the duo known as Coldcut, Ninja Tune has established itself as one of the world’s leading independent record labels, etching its story into the pages of ground-breaking British music. Now a bonafide global music institution, synonymous with diverse, uncompromising releases and equally visionary artists—from breaking to GRAMMY-winning acts—committed to pushing the boundaries of music.
The label has celebrated a number of significant events in recent years including multiple notable GRAMMY nominations for Bonobo (who now has five to his name), Jayda G, PVA and via Brainfeeder—with who Ninja Tune have a longstanding partnership to release, promote and distribute their incredible and ever-expanding catalogue worldwide—Hiatus Kaiyote, and Thundercat (who took home the GRAMMY for ‘Best Progressive R&B Album’ for his 2020 album ‘It Is What It Is’). The label has also released Top 5 UK charting albums from Bicep (who were also BRIT nominated), Bonobo and Black Country, New Road (whose debut album was also Mercury nominated), relaunched it’s Big Dada imprint as a label run by Ninja Tune’s Black, POC & Minority Ethnic staff, and entered into a new partnership with ODESZA’s Foreign Family Collective (FFC) to release, promote, and distribute their expansive catalogue worldwide. Ninja Tune has also made a commitment to becoming carbon neutral by the end of 2021 and carbon negative beyond that
In the 30-plus years since formation, Ninja Tune has become a home for forward-thinking music and artists who are at the forefront of their fields, with celebrated releases from the likes of: Bonobo, The Cinematic Orchestra, Roots Manuva, Kelis, Jayda G, Young Fathers, Bicep, Floating Points, Black Country New Road, Little Dragon, Sampa The Great, Run The Jewels, Diplo, Helena Hauff, Actress, Coldcut, Peggy Gou, Julianna Barwick, Jordan Rakei, Maribou State, ODESZA, Tycho, Leon Vynehall, India Jordan, The Bug, Marie Davidson, TSHA, ??? Park Hye Jin & via Brainfeeder, Thundercat, Kamasi Washington, Hiatus Kaiyote, Georgia Anne Muldrow, Ross From Friends and many more.
Still 100% independent, the label has consistently defied expectations for both critical and commercial acclaim—manifesting itself with recognition as ‘Independent Label of the Year’ at the 2018 Association of Independent Music (AIM) awards, ‘Label of the Year’ at the 2016 edition of Gilles Peterson’s Worldwide Awards and most recently a nomination for ‘Label of the Year’ at the 2021 Libera awards. Chart positions include nearly 20 Top-40 records in the official UK Albums Chart including a #2 record with Bicep’s ‘Isles’, #4 for Black Country, New Road’s ‘For the first time’ and a #5 spot for Bonobo’s GRAMMY nominated ‘Migration’, with ODESZA’s ‘A Moment Apart’ (also GRAMMY nominated) reaching #3 in the US Billboard Album Charts. Other impressive results include Mercury Prize wins for Young Fathers album “Dead” (2014) and Speech Debelle’s “Speech Therapy” (2009) and three BRIT nominations for Bicep and Roots Manuva.
Having risen to prominence with the release of their 1987 remix of Eric B and Rakim’s, ‘Paid In Full’—bringing their underground sound to the mainstream—Coldcut founded Ninja Tune in 1990 as an independent outlet for their own productions and like-minded left-field artists. The label's early releases were all produced by Coldcut, and primarily consisted of instrumental sample-based cuts, spawning a number of celebrated albums including the first five volumes of DJ Food's “Jazz Brakes”. The critical acclaim that followed saw the duo become noted pioneers of the instrumental hip hop scene that coalesced the following years. Launched around the same time, the seminal Ninja Tune club night Stealth—named Club of the Year by NME in 1996—ran regular events with guests that included Squarepusher, James Lavelle and many artists from the label roster.
Ninja Tune have also established or worked with a number of additional groundbreaking labels over the years, including Big Dada. The label was originally founded in 1997 as one of the UK’s prominent early hip-hop labels, and helped launch the careers of homegrown legends Roots Manuva, Kae Tempest and Young Fathers, as well as thrusting US behemoths such as Diplo and Run The Jewels into the wider global consciousness. In 2021 Big Dada relaunched as a label run by Black, POC & Minority Ethnic Ninja Tune staff members for Black, POC & Minority Ethnic artists, championing new artists across the musical spectrum whilst continuing to tip its hat to the foundations that built its legacy.
Alongside this, Ninja Tune’s Counter Records imprint has masterminded commercial success with artists such as ODESZA, The Heavy, San Holo, Kasbo, Maribou State and more. Seriously shaping the sound of emerging music scenes the world over, impressive Counter Records milestones include breaking 1 million sales of The Heavy’s celebrated single ‘How You Like Me Now’ and 500,000 sales of ‘Say My Name’ by ODESZA.
Ninja Tune’s Technicolour imprint has also made waves in recent years, working with prominent underground figureheads like Octo Octa, DJ BORING, VTSS, Minimal Violence, Umfang, Elkka and Sofia Kourtesis to name a few.
The label also began working with Flying Lotus legendary Brainfeeder in 2010, with releases that include the GRAMMY award-winning Thundercat, Kamasi Washington, Hiatus Kaiyote, Ross From Friends, Georgia Anne Muldrow, Jaga Jazzist and more.
More recently, Ninja Tune announced an exciting new partnership with ODESZA’s Foreign Family Collective (FFC). The deal, which came after many years of close collaboration between the two independent labels, sees Ninja Tune releasing, promoting, and distributing FFC’s expansive catalogue worldwide, while FFC will work alongside Ninja Tune to expand the FFC mission of supporting musicians and artists alike. ?
By nature, the label is continually looking for new and innovative ways to develop its artists' visions, having grown from the brainchild of the two-man Coldcut team to a living, breathing organisation boasting 70+ employees based across the world including a North American headquarters in LA. It has encouraged interactive technology, embraced the audio-visual world, created its own publishing company, Just Isn’t Music, and made innovative use of software with the creation of Ninja Jamm and the Zen Delay—the first-ever hardware effects unit produced in collaboration with an electronic music label.
Ninja Tune also devotes time and resources to working on non-profit initiatives to support the community around them and also to develop a dialogue with their audiences on relevant social issues. From Coldcut’s early partnerships with Greenpeace and others to the label’s involvement with the Independent Music Cup, XLP/Arts Emergency, MIND, Help Refugees, and ongoing donations to organisations like Fair Fight and Extinction Rebellion this has been in Ninja’s DNA since inception. The label recently announced that they are committed to becoming carbon neutral by the end of 2021 and carbon negative beyond that.
Best Part (BBC Maida Vale Session) - (3:23) 147 BPM
Mind's Eye (The Pool Session) - (7:10) 123 BPM
You & Me (KCRW Session) - (4:30) 87 BPM
Mad World (The Pool Session) - (5:55) 98 BPM
Mantra (The Pool Session) - (6:07) 87 BPM
Rolling Into One (The Pool Session) - (4:33) 54 BPM
Review: A vital thread deeply woven into the Ninja Tune complex, Jordan Rakei has long been a part of the withstanding label with his acoustic, electronic and folky, singer-song writing style. This newest release sees the musician's expression come through in what's said to be inspired by dystopian visions of our future, highlighting Charlie Brooker's Black Mirror, Margaret Atwood's The Handmaid's Tale and David Lynch's Twin Peaks. Undeniable visions of despair and harmony meet through the soft hand claps and orchestration of "Mad World" (Pool Session) while lighter, more hopeful, jazzy and ambient affairs present themselves in "Mantra" (Pool Session). Soul and sub-pop come to the surface in Rakei's original tracks like "Signs" featuring rapper Common, to the R&B styles of "You & Me" and the sultry sensation that is "Say Something". Dive into the deluxe.
Review: Back with her third single on Ninja Tune, Emika continues to impress on this exclusive Juno release. Her original of "Count Backwards" is an adventurous, smoky and sinister modern trip-hop song that recalls both Kate Bush and Skream at the same time! Kryptic Minds' mix takes the logical route of beefing up the bass even more, really pushing some thick subs into the echoey spaces, while Berghain don Marcel Dettmann goes the other way by double-timing the beat into a fast and scary techno joyride.