The Ruthless Rap Assassins were a Hip-Hop group from North Hulme, Manchester. They came from a Manchester scene that included MC Tunes (see also Dust Junkys), A Guy Called Gerald, MC Buzz B (see also Lionrock), 808 State and Kiss-AMC, one that some would say wasn't helped by the dominance (in the media if nothing else) of the 'baggy' or 'Madchester' indie scene at the time.
UK Hip-Hop was (and indeed still is) largely dominated by London-based artists and crews. In the shot on the left, taken in 1988 by Normski, the Rap Assassins (bottom right, with Kiss-AMC - hover your mouse over the artists on the image for help!) are pictured with the Demon Boyz, Overlord X, Monie Love, the She Rockers, Top Billin' (who later became Definition of Sound), the Stereo MCs (who later sold lots of a mediocre album, having previously released two excellent ones!), MC Mell 'O' (often credited as being the UK's best MC) and Richie Rich, amongst others.
The Rap Assassins were made up of MC Kermit Le Freak, Anderson (Dangerous Hinds) and Carson (Dangerous C). Previously Kermit was a member of Broken Glass (managed by Greg Wilson), while the others had a crew called the Dangerous 2. Their first recording together 'We Don't Care' was released in 1987 (with 'Kiss AMC' on the B-Side). They finally called it a day in 1992, having always threatened, but never quite achieved, chart success. Their two albums were released on Murdertone records, via EMI - 'The Killer Album' and 'Think, It Ain't Illegal Yet'. 'The Killer Album' was one of Sounds Magazine's Top 50 Albums of 1990. Although all their stuff has since been deleted by EMI, a lot of the later, more widely-released stuff (the early singles were limited edition white-label affairs and hard to get hold of even then!) can still be found at Record Fairs (or see my Links Page for stuff available over the net). Kermit and Ged Lynch (their drummer) surfaced again with Shaun Ryder (from the Happy Mondays) as Black Grape. Since then Kermit has released a single with Psycho (from Black Grape) as Manmade, an album and singles with his own group Big Dog and made guest appearances on tracks from other artists (like Bentley Rhythm Ace). Check the News Page for the very latest on all the crew members.
It's always difficult to explain exactly why a particular artist or group has had such an effect on you. For me the Rap Assassins defined exactly what British Rap should sound like. It couldn't be mistaken for anything other than Hip-Hop, but done with a very British sense of humour, not to mention them being one of the first acts over here to rap in their own voices rather than fake American accents. They were able to blend a wide spectrum of musical influences seamlessly. Too often when groups mix styles it's done without any subtlety, and you can tell it's been done to 'cross over' and try and attract a particular audience. Ruthless would bring in rock influences without it ever degrading into 'Rock-Rap', but next up they could do an electro tune and still manage to make it sound completely contemporary. At least in part this was down to producer Greg Wilson. He was also responsible for the segueways on the two albums that all add so much to the feel and the flow of the entire thing.
As well as with their musical influences, it was also with their subject matter that they displayed such an impressive range. Quite often in Hip-Hop you have one set of acts that can do humourous songs, and another that can do serious social commentary. Contrast a track like the comical 'Jealous MC' with something like 'Justice (Just Us)'. While I was at school I once tried to convince one of my teachers that Hip-Hop was an effective platform for discussing serious issues, rather than just noise. I played him a couple of songs, things like 'Fight the Power' by Public Enemy, and he really wasn't convinced. His attitude changed completely after I'd played him 'And It Wasn't a Dream', a song discussing the problems faced by immigrants to the UK in the 1950s. It was really great to have a UK Crew you could be proud of, and even better that they were from the North!
The live performances were another thing that really set the Rap Assassins apart from their contemporaries. Along with the Stereo MCs (and Stetsasonic in the US) they pioneered the use of live percussion in Hip-Hip performances. I was lucky enough to see them live twice, and their shows had the same sort of energy you'd get from Run DMC. Another thing I always loved about them was their knack for saying exactly what needed to be said. This was particularly true of their second album, 'Th!nk'. Not only did they have lots to say that was serious and sometimes political (but never party political), they also had plenty to say about topics like Stock, Aitken and Waterman or Radio One (which was a complete joke at that time, and many would say a major factor in the Rap Assassins' lack of exposure and success).
They were very widely recognised within the industry itself - the press they received was glowing, and their influence was far reaching (I remember seeing the guitarist from Living Color wearing a 'Justice' T-Shirt on the Word). Unfortunately it seems they were just too ahead of their time and they never achieved the sales they deserved. The only thing left now is their output, so this site was designed not only to answer the question at the top of the page, but to hopefully bring that material to the attention of people who wouldn't get to hear it otherwise. As Greg Wilson says "their two albums document Manchester from a black perspective at a time when the city was at the centre of British popular culture, and as such, their place is assured". I also hope the site can offer something for people who were already aware of the Assassins - maybe it will bring back some memories, and hopefully there's an obscure song or a bit of information here that's of interest. Anyway, feel free to let me know what you think, but in the meantime...
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