Plan B - Who Needs Actions When You Got Words
Prior to writing this I was listening to one of Johnny Cash's American Recordings albums. Not really the perfect preparation for writing about the debut album by Ben Drew aka Plan B and his dark, brutal take on youth culture. Or so you might think. Cash had the ability to look on the dark side of life and articulate it in a manner that the layman could relate to. There's something about Plan B's lyrical twists and turns that suggests a similar empathy with his audience.
Before I get emails attacking me for putting these two even in the same sport, let alone ball park, I'm not saying that Plan B is a genius, I'm just saying his approach is similar. For a start, you'd never hear Cash use the "cunt" word in the opening phrase on his album, that's for sure. This is uneasy listening. The songs cover all the bases of youth culture in 00's Britain; drug use, under-age sex, unprotected sex and gang-culture. It's dark and depressing stuff that doesn't really hint at a way out of it all. It's not a preachy album; the delivery is more storytelling than self-help. True, I'm probably not the target audience for this and I can't really relate to what's being said here, but that doesn't mean I can't appreciate it.
His ability lies in the clever lyrics he spins into the stories. The couplets he spits out complete with expletives and delivered drenched in hate and bile can be shocking and intruging in equal measures. The single "Sick 2 Def" was the first 7" I bought in almost five years; the acoustic guitar a jarring companion to his rapping - the bile that fuels his delivery is in your face. It was a welcome combination of two seemingly disparate worlds of music. Comparisons to Eminem and Mike Skinner of The Streets are obvious, but Plan B is darker than both, he seems closer to reality and hasn't been perverted by the trappings of fame and fortune yet. "No Good" proves that he has a ear for a beat as well, spinning in the 'No Good' refrain from the Prodigy track over a top-hat beat, it's not all content over a tune. In another world this would be number one in the charts... even if they'd have to bleep out the expletives.
Sure, this won't be for everyone and most people will be put off by the "chav" element associated with it. But interviews with Drew show that he's an intelligent young man who knows that it's going to be hard to make a difference, but the fact that he's even trying shows an ambition that should be embraced and encouraged. Plan B could become one of the most important young voices in British music.