Who Needs Actions When You Got Words?
When it comes to UK youth culture, according to rapper Plan B (aka Ben Drew), things seem to be going from bad to worse. His full length U.S. debut Who Needs Actions When You Got Words is a jarringly brilliant and creative collection of graphic, albeit poignant, tales of UK youth. And whether or not he gets his moniker from the popular “Morning After Pill” that’s used to stop pregnancy, Plan B is giving UK hip hop, and now the U.S. fans, another option to consider, just in case the Lady Sov grime has gotten old or an alternative to the Streets is wanted.
At 22, Drew is a gifted storyteller who spins his stream of conscience rhymes while he strums an acoustic guitar — and depending on the song — is enhanced by the dramatic and well done production of perfectly placed classical strings and/or piano to squeeze every last bit of tension out of the song. His raunchy rhymes have caused quite a bit of controversy on the other side of the Atlantic, and similar to Eminem’s breakthrough days, both fans and critics are trying to figure out just where to put him: in the nearest detention cell or on their most played iPod playlist. Like Mr. Mathers, Plan B is largely misunderstood because he serves up violently graphic descriptions of a UK youth culture that, according to the album, is heavily involved in a day to day intake of sex, drugs and violent crime while being ambushed by the emotional fall out of divorce and largely ignored by an UK adult culture that doesn’t seem to care whether the kids live or die. In interviews, he’s noted that he doesn’t claim to have lived every story he raps or glorify the things he raps about but to simply be a voice for his generation. Like Lilly Allen who in her hit single “Smile” subversively sang about the nasty underbelly that Londoners don’t want to acknowledge, Plan B is shoving the nasty truth of the youth right at you and doing so via nibble word wizardry and an engaging yarn that’s impossible to deny.
The opening track “Kidz” demands you listen up. You’d think his jab-a-razor blade-in-the-stomach style would be too much, but he goes about his business in a sincere and thought out method. And once he gets flowing, the ride is psychologically journalistic and graphic; it sucks you in, much like reading a Stephen King novel and loving every minute of it into the wee hours of the morning. With “Kidz” and for most of the album, he’s vividly chronicling a hard to swallow multi-dimensional adolescent existence that’s not to far from the mid-’90s film of the similar name. “Sick 2 Def” sparkles like a black diamond as a bleak but honest culture commentary spliced with backwards yet fast-forward moving depiction of a crime scene with a killer ending.
When the chorus of “Mama (Loves a Crackhead)” kicks in it’s clear that Plan B is showing the powerful influence of the Hall and Oates’s ubiquitous 80’s hit “I Can’t Go For That (No Can Do).” Like the other numerous times it’s been covered over the years, Plan B recreates the song yet again by melding it with his why-doesn’t-mom-see-how-much-of-loser-this-boyfriend-is? fed up perspective. The track’s a good glimpse of how Drew walks the line between R&B and spoken-word-rap which looks to be his only flaw over the 14 tracks. Sometimes the mix works and others it doesn’t. But when it doesn’t it’s his rapping skills that keep him well above water along with the addictively dramatic production and fiery lyrical content.
The noted side effects of the pharmaceutical Plan B are nausea, abdominal pain, fatigue, headache, dizziness and vomiting. But none of these apply to the description of the side effects when listening to the rapper Plan B and his State-side release that’s all action AND words. The U.S. needs to swallow this stuff A.S.A.P.
Plan B: time4planb.co.uk