In music, controversial personas emerge on a cyclic rotation. What we’ve learned over time is that such renegades are always looming in the shadows, awaiting their moment to fulfill their destiny. Such revolutionaries are constantly born, forcing their trend-defying style on the unsuspecting public. England’s Plan B (Ben Drew) looks to be the latest to employ a style based on free thought, free speech and a general disregard for industry trends. With his debut release Who Needs Actions When You Got Words, the controversial rapper’s style has been described as a mixture of The Arctic Monkeys, The Streets, and Eminem. Plan B’s incorporation of guitar, sincere and direct storytelling and his x-rated lyrical content would deem such comparisons as fitting, and it is in the fusion of these diverse styles that makes Plan B great.
While some will question his staying power and many will be turned off by Plan B’s no-holds-barred style, he refuses to water down his controversial lyrics even in the face of intense scrutiny from the British media. “Kidz”, the opening song on Who Needs Actions When You Got Words, has been banned from the radio for its blunt discussion of violence, abortion and the rampant misbehavior of today’s London youth. Each of his songs weaves a colorful story, dealing with an array of uncomfortable topics. While he sings of drugs and sex, he delves deeper than most, unabashedly spewing some of the more lewd and vulgar descriptions that one might ever hear. His fatherless upbringing is another central theme in his songs, brutally attacking various male role-model types over the course of the record.
Who Needs Actions When You Got Words, as a bold title of the album, cuts straight to the heart of the matter while providing an accurate reflection of the essence of Plan B’s work. On “Sick 2 Def,” Plan B recalls a murder when halfway through he decides he’ll tell it backwards a la Martin Amis’s Time’s Arrow. Serving as the lead single, “No Good” comes complete with a provocative video in the vein of Genesis’ “Land of Confusion.” The closing three, “Missing Links,” “Couldn’t Get Along” and “Who Needs Action,” are the highlights of the album, the last two being somber ballads, that are, somewhat ironically, uplifting. The most prevalent fact to be taken from Who Needs Actions When You Got Words , is that Plan B is sincere in what he stands for and where he has come from (“A place where the streets are filled with snakes/ That smile in your face as they plot to do you wrong“).
Plan B is a plentifully skilled musician, whose prickly nature may deter those unwilling to take the time to appreciate his talents. He’s clearly more than a controversial rapper, demonstrating his diversity through soulful choruses and largely acoustic beats which tightly mingle with his violent lyrics. His appearance on Epic Man’s (Paul Epworth’s rap endeavor) summer 2006 bombtrack ,”More is Enough” and his bootleg work “Paint It Blacker” (which features him rapping over the likes of The Rolling Stones, Radiohead and Coldplay), provide a glimpse of his potential to achieve mass appeal. Plan B is more than a merge of Eminem and The Streets, as he possesses a surprising eclecticism, an enviable voice, and the fortitude to openly address depressing and unglamorous issues. Plan B is an artist bound to generate gobs of attention, for better or worse, in the foreseeable future.