Independent hip hop record label based in Manchester, UK.
In 1995, producer and remixer Mark Rae was working in Manchester's Fat City record store, which had become a magnet for the city's DJ community. Dissatisfied with with the music that was on sale at the time, and inspired by the wealth of talent that seemed to be drawn to the shop, he decided to form his own label to put out the sort of music that he was wanting to hear.
Rae joined forces with fellow producer Steve Christian to found the label, which they named Gone Clear. In the spring of '95 it put out its first release: the Central J Parley EP, an intrumental piece by New Jersey hip hopper Tony D.
Shortly after their second release they came across a London promoter using the same name. Instead of abandoning their "g©" logo, they renamed themselves Grand Central, keeping the same initals.
Tipped off by the sort of records they were buying for their samples, Rae had soon signed a bevy of mancunian artists whose style and quality matched their lofty goals for the label. In addition to Rae & Christian themselves, the starting roster included Funky Fresh Few, Andy Votel, Only Child, Aim, otherwise known as DJ Andy Turner and the downtempo lunatic Mr. Scruff, who is now signed to the Ninja Tune label.
While the early releases gained good reviews as well as well as cult status among DJs, wider recognition didn't arrive until the release in November 1996 of the first Central Heating compilation. This featured tracks from all of the label's artists and is a great introduction to their music. It proved very popular and helped stimulate further interest in the label, and was followed by Central Heating 2 which continued in a similar vein.
Grand Central has built up connections with a wide variety of artists across the world. They have worked with acts such as the Pharcyde, Jeru the Damaja, Texas, the Jungle Brothers, Qball and CurtCazal and even R&B legend Bobby Womack who appeared with Rae & Christian on Get a Life.
Links with the Fat City record store continued, with its eponymous label working with them on many live events. Friends and Family started as a night at Manchester's Roadhouse club, featuring artists from the Grand Central and Fat City labels, but has expanded to include monthly appearances in Bristol, London and Brighton.
Recent years have been good for Grand Central. Their best compilation yet, Ordered from the Catalogue is a live mix by Mark Rae of the label's finest offerings. New signings have included the frenetic, sample-filled hip hop and electric double bass of Fingathing, and the latest album from Aim, Hinterland is a gorgeous mix of tender, melodic vocals, with lush arrangements and tight, accomplished production. It further cements the label's reputation as one of the most innovative sources of hip hop in the UK today.