Here’s a funny one.
In the 33 1/3 book on Endtroducing, Shadow touches on The Wire’s review of his debut, published in September 1996, the month of the album’s UK release. It’s apparently the only negative review the album got. You can read it above, it’s quite something in hindsight.
Perhaps more interesting though is the comparison to Ninja Tune, with the implication that Ninja’s own records were superior to Shadow’s work. Just yesterday I began annotating the 20 Years of Beats and Pieces book, a retrospective of Ninja’s first two decades. And there’s some interesting links to be perhaps drawn.
Peter Quicke, Ninja’s long standing label boss, got the job at Ninja through his then employer at a film production company whose brother was Mark Sinker, editor of The Wire from 1990 to 1994. Sinker had played in the same student band as Coldcut’s Matt Black. Quicke recalls that in the mid 90s, when both Mo Wax and Ninja hit their stride (and arguably their respective golden eras) as purveyors of experimental, instrumental-minded hip hop music the press would write up the labels as being in somewhat of a competition. He then goes on to mention the time Lavelle blanked him at a party in Soho, noting that while Lavelle didn’t want to be friendly he later accepted an offer to play at Ninja’s Stealth night in 1996.
Now obviously I’m not inferring that Quicke’s link to The Wire has anything to do with the review, as Sinker had left the magazine by then and the review itself is written by Jake Barnes. But it’s a funny set of links and certainly not hard to think that The Wire were playing a typical press game with the review going against the grain of everyone else. Even more funny, a few months later they’d publish their Illbient cover feature which would go on to antagonise the entire NYC scene that had arisen as a sort of answer to the UK’s trip hop movement.