Killer Album‏

This month marks a big anniversary for me – it’s exactly twenty years since the crew I worked so closely with for over five years, as producer, manager and all round collaborator, saw their debut LP, the ‘Killer Album’, released via EMI.

I doubt most people reading this blog will have heard of it, but it’s a bit of a cult classic – lauded at the time as a seminal British Rap album that broke the mould in many ways. This is illustrated by the distinctive cover (above), which was unlike any previous Hip Hop album sleeve and provided designer, Brian Cannon, with his breakthrough (Cannon would become one of the most successful UK sleeve designers of the ’90s, and is best known for his work with Oasis and The Verve).

The ‘Killer Album’ marked the high point of a period of my life that, although it’s something I’m rarely asked about these days, was hugely significant for me on so many levels. I learnt a lot from Anderson, Carson and Kermit, the Ruthless Rap Assassins, and my time working with them.

Although critically acclaimed throughout the entire music press spectrum, this, unfortunately, didn’t translate to radio, and the crew’s singles never received the necessary plays for them to crossover to the wider record buying public. In the end we had to content ourselves with two minor hits, both of which reached the lowest possible chart position (number 75), resulting in the dubious distinction of being listed in The Guinness Book Of Hit Singles as the most successful ‘least successful British chart artist’ (those who’d spent just one week on the chart at number 75) – we’re the only act in chart history to do this twice!

Kermit (who later went on to form the chart topping band Black Grape, with ex-Happy Monday Shaun Ryder) is a mate from back in the Legend / Broken Glass days. He was the one who brought their demo tape to me just before I moved to London in the mid-’80s. This began an association which lasted until 1992, when the crew split up. There were lots of highs and eventual lows along the way, but it was a journey I wouldn’t have missed, one that’s helped shape my life, and I’m thankful to have shared it with those guys.

So, as you can imagine, it was wonderful for me to see all three Assassins together for the first time in eighteen years, when they all came along to the ‘Community’ night at the Contact Theatre in Manchester, where I deejayed last month.  A few weeks earlier I’d received an email from the former editor of Hip Hop Connection, Andy Cowan, who told me he was putting together a label via Cherry Red Records called Original Dope, to re-issue currently deleted British Hip Hop albums that had a big influence back in the day, and wanted to license the Rap Assassins’ back catalogue for the series.

Things have since moved very quickly, the upshot being that the anniversary will be celebrated in fine style, with the ‘Killer Album’ re-issued in September as the first Original Dope release (catalogue number ODOPE1001) , and the possibility of a couple of live dates to tie-in, one in Manchester, the other in London. I’ll keep you posted on further developments.

Here’s the video for the crew’s best-known track ‘And It Wasn’t A Dream’, listed in Mojo Magazine in March 2006 as one of ‘The 50 Greatest British Tracks Ever’ – full list, in chronological order here:

There’s a Rap Assassins tribute site, which was set up by Mark Balsom in the late ’90s, including music, video and loads of info:

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13 Responses to Killer Album‏

  1. Danny Berman July 22, 2010 at 3:57 pm #

    Hi Greg – just wanted to say that I bought the cassette of the Killer album when it was released and it was of course the first time I saw your name linked to something music related. I was 13 and lived in the Scottish fishing village of St Monans. The hip hop scene there comprised of me and my friends getting stoned in the park and listening to all the best underground UK and US hip hop at the time.

    The connections that we have had since have meant so much more to me because of the fact that i saw your name on the sleeve notes at such an early age. You were credited as providing the skits and segues if my memory serves me?

    Groups like RRA had a massive influence on me as a young music fan and I feel that my production style is just as informed by hip hop as it is by Larry Heard or George Clinton.

    Memories eh.

  2. Billy Caldwell July 22, 2010 at 4:52 pm #

    BRILLIANT!! I grew up in Hulme Manchester and this was our soundtrack….UK Hip Hop at its very best!!!

  3. Mark Cathcart July 22, 2010 at 10:07 pm #

    It’s worth of course pointing out that the backing track music for “And it wasn’t a dream” was hardly a sample, pretty much a complete copy of London band Cymande The Message from early 1970’s(72?). Was Ray King consulted or involved with the hip hop version at all?

  4. Jason Roberts July 23, 2010 at 12:24 am #

    This is one of the greatest albums ever made. When I heard this for the first time it just blew me away. As a rule i’m not into hip hop, however this truly is an awesome album and I still listen to it to this day ( along with ‘Think…..it aint illegal yet ) Every song on their a true classic. To see the Rap Assassins live brilliant, with Kiss AMC, even better!

  5. DJ Shep July 23, 2010 at 10:13 am #

    Full respect Greg, will have to dig my vinyl copy out this weekend and give it a fresh listen. It will be interesting to see what else Andy tries to re-release from back in the day.

  6. Rui Miguel Abreu July 25, 2010 at 10:01 am #

    Hi Greg

    Glad to hear about the reissue of this album. It’s original release coincides with the start of my writing career and i distinctively remember writing up the Killer album, which i own on cd. On vinyl in my collection i have Think! It Ain’t Illegal Yet and the Just Mellow and Less Mellow 12s. Would love to do a radio special around them. Will contact the new label asking for a couple of ids.
    cheers and good luck on the reissue.

  7. Michelle July 27, 2010 at 4:48 am #

    Hi G,
    And It Wasn’t a Dream………. it was real and what a time it was. This album will forever be etched into my psyche. An amazing time to be living in Manchester. I hope this time round the album gets the acknowledgement it deserves. I only wish I could get to some of the gigs if they get off the ground. Looks like I’ll have to do the next best thing and give the vinyl a spin instead. 🙂

  8. Coops August 1, 2010 at 1:21 pm #

    I loved this when it came out, I was 17 and impressionable. thanks for making a good impression on me!!

  9. Daddio August 2, 2010 at 7:04 pm #

    Its a crazy old world I didnt know until we met up again at the Basement boogaloo sessions that you had anything to do with this group,Id known you from Legends/and the all dayer scene.I can remember them doing a session for John Peel Ive still got it somewhere on tape.I still play the The Message which I bought on the strengh of the rap assaisins sample

  10. Lee Savidge August 8, 2010 at 9:48 am #

    RRA are still one of my favourite ever bands. Got both albums on tape (totally worn out though) and vinyl and mp3 and I still listen to them. When the re-release comes out in September, I will be there getting the CD.

  11. Mark Balsom September 25, 2010 at 10:01 pm #

    Orders now being taken!


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