Where To Start With... Plan B
Born and raised in the Forest Gate district of London's east end, Ben Drew – better known to most as Plan B – first began to emerge in the mid-2000s, making his first appearance on the DJ Wonder-produced track 'Cap Back', featured on 679 Recordings' 2005 grime compilation Run the Road. But despite sharing a neighbourhood with some of the genre's rising stars, as well as a love of hip-hop, Plan B's 2006 debut album Who Needs Actions When You Got Words marked him out as something a little different from his peers, showcasing an ability to sing as well as rap and displaying a knack for soulful, R&B-influenced hooks, as well as a penchant for abrasive and often controversial lyrics about life on London's less affable estates.
By the time of his sophomore album The Defamation of Strickland Banks, the true scope of Drew's ambitions had started to become clear; a concept album based around the story of a singer destined for a bright future before he is sent to prison for a crime he didn't commit, Plan B's second album earned him favourable comparisons with the likes of Smokey Robinson, as well as his first Number One album in the UK.
In addition, Drew also began branching out into acting, landing roles in films such as Adulthood and alongside Michael Caine in Daniel Barber's 2009 film Harry Brown.
From there, Drew made the move into directing with 2012's Ill Manors, a film which he not only wrote and directed but also provided his own soundtrack for. Featuring a cast that included Riz Ahmed and Ed Skrein, Ill Manors told the story of six individuals trying to navigate their way through life on London's sometimes unforgiving streets, and while it hardly painted a flattering picture of the capital, the film won plenty of positive reviews and showed that Plan B was a man with many strings to his bow.
That same year also saw him land another starring role alongside Ray Winstone in a feature-length adaptation of long-running British police procedural The Sweeney, but since then he's been rather quiet. That's not to say that Drew hadn't earned the right to take a break after a prolific few years behind both a camera lens and a microphone, but five years is a long time in the world of music and his fans could have been forgiven for wondering if the singer and rapper was ever coming back.
They needn't have worried; last year Plan B began releasing new material for the first time since Ill Manors, unveiling a new song and accompanying video, 'In The Name of Man', in June 2017. By November, Drew had unveiled his plans for his third solo album (not including the Ill Manors soundtrack), as well as its title: Heaven Before All Hell Breaks Loose.
Originally slated for release in April, the new album is set to arrive on May 4th and includes 14 brand new tracks, including the already-unveiled 'Guess Again', 'Heartbeat', 'Queue Jumping' and 'Grateful'.
You can find the lyric video for 'Guess Again' below, beneath that we've picked out five of the best moments from Plan B's career so far...
Self-released on his own Pet Cemetery imprint as a limited edition 7” vinyl, Plan B's debut single was inspired by the murder of 10-year old Damilola Taylor by a group of school-age kids, and sets the scene for the sound of the rapper's gritty debut album.
'Mama (Loves a Crackhead)'
Combining the cheeky borrowing of a Hall and Oates hook with a a lyric about the anguish of watching his mother get stuck in a relationship with a deadbeat boyfriend, 'Mama (Loves a Crackhead' sums up the juxtaposition of acerbic lyrics and catchy melodies that characterises much of Plan B's debut album.
The title track from the rapper's directorial debut is as good an indication as any as to what you can expect from the film. Just like the movie itself, the song pulls no punches in its depiction of London's grimy underbelly, but it's one of the standout moments on the film's accompanying soundtrack album.
'Stay Too Long'
The first single released from sophomore album The Defamation of Strickland Banks, 'Stay Too Long' indicated a change of direction from his debut with a full-blown soul stomper that sees Plan B's voclas somersault from sweet falsetto to frenetic rap. One of the album's best moments.
Our final pick is arguably the standout track from Plan B's sophomore album and did more than most to earn him those Smokey Robinson comparisons we mentioned earlier. From swing to shuffle and back, 'She Said' remains one of his best songs yet.
Heaven Before All Hell Breaks Loose is available in stores now – click here to find the new album in our online store...