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Ill Manors – Plan B

Ill Manors – Plan B

ill manorsReleased: 2012

When The Defamation of Strickland Banks was released back in 2010 it came as a surprise to pretty much everyone. It was a surprise to those who had never heard of Ben Drew or his Plan B alter-ego and it quickly catapulted him to a household name. But it was also something of a surprise to those who were already familiar with him as his stylistic shift from terrifying Thug Life rapper to crooning soul man made him almost unrecognisable.

Initially it seems like Ill Manors is yet another Plan B surprise. Released to accompany the film of the same name (which he wrote and directed) a movie soundtrack is probably the last thing people expected. In reality Ill Manors is actually the most logical recording Plan B has made yet.

What you have with Ill Manors is essentially a marriage of Plan B’s first two releases. He takes the hard hitting rhymes and gut busting beats of Actions and blends them with the high concept studio polish of Strickland Banks. There’s nothing as poppy as She Said here, just a series of blistering raps over manic backing tracks, with occasional soul flourishes to keep things interesting. It’s full of the same low-level violence and no hope scenarios that populated his debut, this time with the deft storytelling of his follow up.

It’s clear that Plan B has a bleak view of Britain’s working class youth and their lot in life. Ill Manors is a tale of drug dealing, prostitution, teen-pregnancy, murder and no escape. It’s a story of chavs basically, or “council estate and violent” as he refers to them on the ballistic title track.

Making an environment this bleak seem like a reality to the masses is no easy task and at times it does seem like Plan B is overselling his chav credentials with this never ending circle of hell. He churns out Tory-baiting sound bites with brutal efficiency and conviction, but his rhymes are prone to being a bit too on-the-nose. Thankfully the accompanying music gives weight to Plan B’s raps with spare drum beats and menacing strings really driving home the urban despair. There are a few well-placed guest spots too with the spoken word verses by John Cooper Clarke on Pity The Plight in particular, giving things some much needed levity. Playing With Fire, featuring Labrinth, is another easy standout.

With Ill Manors Plan B aims to combine the strengths of his two previous releases and, for the most part, he succeeds. But while Ill Manors is a fine record it can’t help but compare unfavourably to what has come before. It lacks both the raw shock-factor of Actions and the effortless charisma and variety of Strickland Banks. Even so, Ill Manors represents an impressive consolidation of strengths and makes for a hat-trick of excellent Plan B albums.

★★★

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