British MC and actor Plan B (real name: Ben Drew) came to notice with "Cap Back," a playful, Wiley-referencing track produced by Roll Deep's Wonder that appeared on the 679 label's Run the Road compilation in 2005. Signed to 679's roster, the London native proceeded to release a handful of singles across 2005 and 2006, which culminated in his debut album, Who Needs Actions When You Got Words. Its title a Meat Puppets reference, with tracks featuring clever samples of Hall & Oates, the Prodigy, and Gary Puckett & the Union Gap (often with acoustic guitars over shuffling breakbeats), the album made it clear that there was no easy way to classify the MC.
Released in 2010, The Defamation of Strickland Banks -- not just an album but also a short film directed by and starring Drew -- was to prove a breakthrough for Plan B. Led by "Stay Too Long," a stomping, organ-led rock song depicting an alcohol-fueled tailspin, the record was also heavily influenced by soul and Motown. The LondonerGÇÖs formidable singing voice shared the limelight with his rapping, helping to make Plan B a household name in the UK where the album was the fifth best selling of the year. Award highlights for Drew on the back of The Defamation of Strickland Banks included the BRIT Award for British Male Solo Artist and the MOBO for Best UK R&B/Soul act, while V Festival and Glastonbury 2011 welcomed Plan B during his extensive global tour.
In 2012, Drew released his first feature-length film Ill Manors, accompanied by a single and album of the same name. The top ten UK Single and title track touched on the subject of disaffected youth and the 2011 London riots, analyzing the mindset of the rioters while questioning the role of the government at the time. This set the tone for the remainder of the record and the film, which together put work on The Ballad of Belmarsh -- an album that was originally intended to follow The Defamation of Strickland Banks -- on hold, with Plan B confirming it would be focused on again in the future. ~ Andy Kellman & Daniel Clancy
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