Follow Us on Twitter

Plan B - Who Needs Actions When You Got Words

Plan B, Who Needs Actions When You Got Words

Review by Jack Foley

IndieLondon Rating: 4 out of 5

FROM the opening moments of Plan B’s incendiary album, Who Needs Actions When You Got Words, you can pretty much tell it’s going to be a tough listen.

“It’s my time now, you get me, fuckin’ cunts”, announes 21-year-old MC Ben ‘Plan B’ Drew, before launching into Kidz, a straight-talking lament about the mentality of kids today (under-age sex, violence and more).

The ensuing album is a hard, borderline depressing collection of hip-hop kitchen sink dramas that take in life and death on Forest Gate’s council estates – from friends that have died, those that survived and the decisions that led them to those fates.

Incredibly, however, the album works as a mightily impressive tour-de-force that sets Plan B apart from the likes of The Streets by mixing up the sounds, dropping in samples and seldom shying away from the harsh realities that have come to influence him.

The lyrics are almost always X-rated – witness “like a necromaniac raping a corpse, up the anal passage while contracting genital warts” on second track, Sick 2 Def – but if you can tolerate the expletives and the pessimistic reality, there’s plenty to admire.

The East London-born MC has a knack for juggling his fast-talking style with some impressive instrumentation that isn’t afraid to draw on every one of his influences – from the obvious likes of DMX, Mobb Deep and Eminem, to more surprising sources such as Michael Jackson, Aphex Twin, Radiohead, Steve Wonder and The Prodigy.

The latter’s No Good (Start The Dance) is referenced on Plan B’s No Good, which drops an almost acoustic chorus in amongst the hard-hitting raps to create an oddly urban fusion of rap and folk.

Likewise, Mama Loves A Crackhead uses fragments of Hall and Oates’s Say No Go. The result is a desperate tale of addiction that boasts some surprisingly pop sensibilities that also showcase Plan B’s ability to switch from Eminem-style rap to delicate, sweet white soul crooning.

No matter what you think of the lyrics, therefore, there’s no denying that this boy has talent in spades.

The NME suggests he may be the ‘English Eminem’ or the ‘hip-hop Arctic Monkeys’ – and both descriptions fit rather well.

Further highlights include Charmaine, another heady mix of folk-tinged guitar licks, gentle beats and rap/soul verse/chorus breakdowns. It’s during such moments that Plan B’s wit shines through, referencing Charmaine’s big pair of tits while conveying another hard-hitting tale of under-age love (the girl in question is 14).

I Don’t Hate You, meanwhile, is a raw track that explores Drew’s estranged relationship with his born-again Christian father, while Tough Love recounts the agonising tale of a westernised Muslim girl who was murdered in an ‘honour killing’.

Musically, the album occasionally swaps the trademark guitar licks for piano and, in some cases, gothic cello – but all to similarly take-notice effect.

While the tracks continue to come at you in relentless fashion, referencing cinema and pop culture such as Quentin Tarantino and Fernando Mereilles. Needless to say, the album is every bit as astonishing, musically, as films like City of God are visually.

They are designed to shake the listener, offering them an insight into a harder reality that’s a million miles away from some of the stereos they’ll find themselves playing on.

Even final track, Who Needs Actions drops a cracking hip-hop beat with a crackling guitar riff to end the album on a real high.

Plan B may lack the radio-friendly lyrics to crossover into the mainstream like Mike Skinner but that somehow makes his music all the more notable. He has stories to tell and isn’t concerned with toning down the content to curry favour with commercial DJs.

His album is undoubtedly one of the best British urban records of the year. Why not buckle up and take the white-knuckle ride?

Watch the video to Mama

Track listing:

  1. Kidz
  2. Sick 2 Def
  3. No Good
  4. Dead And Buried
  5. Mama
  6. Charmaine
  7. I Don’t Hate You
  8. Everyday
  9. Tough Love
  10. Where Ya From
  11. No More Eatin’
  12. Missing Links
  13. Couldn’t Get Along
  14. Who Needs Actions

  1. good

    vikki    Jul 7    #
  2. Awesome album - really original. Not one to play to parents though

    Tim    Jul 8    #
  3. Great album - for headphones only though. Definitely don't have it blastin' out the speakers

    jayne    Jul 9    #
  4. The album is really deep. It’s got something for everyone and something people can relate too.

    Titch    Jul 9    #
  5. Absolutely amazing album. It does relate to anyone making it. An intense album

    adi    Jul 14    #
  6. I haven't heard anythin as good as Who Needs Actions... in a long, long time

    john B    Jul 15    #
  7. I think plan b is amazing!!! Ahh I love all his tracks! My favourite is Charmaine or Kidz or Mama... but they're all great! Thanks.

    Sam Travis    Jul 18    #
  8. This album is amazing. I love all the tracks. I've never really heard of British hip hop till now and it's great!

    jane p    Jul 22    #