THE RUTHLESS RAP ASSASSINS.
Manchester's Hulme estate has outwardly more in common with the slums of the Bronx than the worst that most of England has to offer. Its walled greyness, exacerbated by the rain stands witness to the housing disaster of the 70s. If it's awful to think that people have to make their homes here, it's an horrendous insult to think that the architects actually picked up a design award for their 'work'. Plenty to be depressed about but the Ruthless Rap Assassins who live here are far from depressed.
"If you listen to our music you can tell we're just enjoying ourselves. You can linger on thinking about the place. I suppose subconsciously our surroundings do affect what we're doing, but consciously I don't think so; unless you look at us and see we're always having fun and joking, maybe a necessary reaction to where we live. We're doing what we're doing in spite of our surroundings and not because of them. "
The Rap Assassins exude a positive attitude which seems to be the only practical way to live around here. There is an underlying caution. The curtains across the windows stay permanently closed hiding thousands of pounds worth of equipment away from opportunist eyes.
"Hulme is a place for students to live.They write their political graffiti all around the place. It's just somewhere for them to stop by for two or three years. You look into their flats and see a mattress on the floor, a table in the corner, a cooker and kettle and that's it. I've looked through a window to see a motor bike in the kitchen! So like we said it's not really the people who live here who cause the squalor, it's the people who are passing through."
They don't feel the need to make some kind of protest or comment about their surroundings as Public Enemy have done.
"Public Enemy, we rate them, but we don't have to do any stuff like them 'cause they're doing it and only Public can do it well. We're not going out of our way to be radical. Overlord X and The Three Wise Men have had their say about urban culture, so there's only so much you can say. P.E. talk about the higher more abstract things, we can only make our little comment. We're doin'our own thing."
Their music is an unusual brand of strong Hip Hop relying on DJ Dangerous' well crafted mixing and MC's Dangerous and Kermits fast rapping style. The Dangerous Brothers and Kermit, collectively the Ruthless Rap Assassins have just been signed to EMI.
What do you think EMI liked about your music? "Northern accents!" They laugh. "Straight away we don't sound like Londoners and we keep away from all the cliche bullshit. Yes yes y'all and all that. We go with how we feel. Some of the London crews don't like us calling us this and that. I ain't bragging 'bout what I ain't got!" announces Kermit.
Many people would say that this whole situation is a cliche. Three black rappers living in a deprived inner city area.
"Yeah but life is a cliche. You talk about life how you see it."
Do you think the rap scene is better here?
"The rappers are better. We don't go back looking for old breaks, we create our own beats. London needs to diversify, they're looking in the wrong direction. We don't just look at what's happening in The States, we look around locally. I think it's important for London to hear us, but I don't think it's important for us to be heard in London," MC Dangerous adds with a wry smile.
Which other crews do you rate in Manchester?
"Scratch Beatmasters, MC Tunes, Buzby-Jonny J, Shine MC, The Shackout Posse."
Are all these people gigging around?
"Some of them. But they tend to lock themselves away. One time people used to meet up in the Arndale Centre. Guys would be rapping to each other. Or you'd go to a club and a man would bus his new rhyme. Them days are finished now. Everybody wants to get paid. I saw Jonny J yesterday haggling out the last details of a contract."
Does it bother you that you haven't been out gigging since February? "No, we always know what's going on and lead the trends. People come up to us and dis us because they haven't had the last white label or because they haven't got the tape and they want you to record it on your tape and give it to them!"
Is Stu Allan at Picadilly Radio playing your stuff?
"No. He said he would but every week he spends about an hour trying to be really up-front, but he spends a good twenty minutes talking and reading out requests from white guys with weird names like Chuck D from Wilmslow.
Why are there so few Hip Hop Jams?
"Promoters aren't prepared to put their money where their mouth is. There's a few guys like Anif. He's good.
Dangerous, you're wearing an Iron Maiden T'shirt, do you like the music?
Mostly I'm into the artwork but sure some of the music is good. It's important to listen to other music." The others shake their heads laughing.
As we leave the confines of the council flat, the rain continuing to fall on Hulme's greyness seems to intrude on their former joy. But true to form MC Dangerous looking across the estate affirms, "I'll stay round here by choice. It's near to town, you can walk home. It's ok man."
Apart from being unattractive isn't it dangerous round here?
"Yeah, it's a dangerous place ... We live here!"