Plan B aka Ben Drew

East London’s Plan B is one of those once in a while original cats. He rode high with his No Good single with the dope stop motion animated video and has even been the darling of the broadsheet press. In his own genre he bends hip hop, r&b and acoustic guitar with confrontational lyrics and story telling. Check out what he had to say to Jade Bremner

Why do you write about the things you do?

I think growing up in Forest Gate, not a lot going on; apart from the stuff you read about in the local newspapers. I think if you’re involved in all that, you know the dark underworld stuff that’s in Forest Gate it’s just not there for everyone to see. There’s a lot of crime a lot of underground drug dealing and people getting shot because of that, and stuff like that, in the area. It’s whether or not you make yourself part of that world. I’ve never been part of that world it’s kinda hard to rap about that kind of stuff and say that I do it, at the same time I find it kinda interesting and I wanna talk about it. So I’ll be talking about the bad shit going on in life and that comes in different characters.

Plan B aka Ben DrewDas why I started doing the role playing ting in my Hip-Hop. I suppose the reason I write about it, I mean I’m not a gangster, I don’t sell crack I’ve never shot no one. But it’s right on my doorstep and I’ve found myself in situations that I can’t control, the stuff that’s going on behind the scenes, you know. I found myself affected by the shit that goes on in the streets, you know.

A lot of my friends did get involved heavily in that kinda stuff. I lost one of my friends that died, you know, no matter how much you try and ignore all the bad shit that goes on, it’s always gonna be there and I can’t ignore it. I’m affected by the stuff I’ve read in the paper. When I read about an honour killing or something like that and knowing that it’s happening so close to my doorstep; that’s kinda why I write about the darker stuff. I’m a bit of a pessimist when it comes to life you know, I only expect the worst, or think the worst.

How would you classify your music?

It’s definitely Hip-Hop, it’s a Hip-Hop tempo. The difference is, when I started writing, I’d write to Hip-Hop beats and write with other writers there and we’d freestyle together and stuff. What got me signed is when I write these lyrics; they didn’t have any beats finished. I could of just put a Wu-Tang instrumental and performed it like that. But then that would make me just an MC and not an artist you know?

Then growing up and listening to Rage Against the Machine, The Prodigy, Radiohead I always knew it was important you have your own sound. While I’d be working in the studio trying to create that sound, I had to do gig and if the songs weren’t ready how was I gonna perform these songs, you know what I mean?

One way of doing it was just picking up the guitar, coz I could play the guitar all ready, so I just picked up the guitar and done it acoustically, I think that’s what swayed it with me getting the album deal. That’s why people started writing about me, cos I wasn’t just an MC you know, I was an MC as well.

You live in East London, Would you ever have wanted to live anywhere else?

For a couple of years I wet to school in Essex I used to commute by train, going there I was the poor boy you know? I don’t mean that when I was in London I was the rich boy at all, it wasn’t like that. It’s kinda like, I wasn’t off an estate so I wasn’t street. But going to this school in Essex with all the rich kids I was the poor boy, the scummy guy from London. I noticed the difference in class and the why people treat each other. And I didn’t enjoy it up there, which is why I changed schools and went Tom Hood for the last kinda three years, until I got kicked out of there. Going to that school gave me chance to see how society is and how there are different tiers and how these different tiers look down on you.

I couldn’t find myself living in the suburbs –I find it too small minded. That’s one thing I love about the city. Although there’s a lot of crime, and all of that shit, there’s a lot of people with brains in there head who know what’s going on. The people in suburbs are kinda shielded from that.

Money covers up a lot of things. People in the suburbs like to hide the fact they got problems. They hide it, behind the home life and the nice car and nice house. But people in the street can’t, you know? It’s all there to show.

Is there anyone who pisses you off in music?

Plan B aka Ben DrewThere are people who piss me off in music, but then to talk about them wouldn’t be productive. What I’m doing is: I am artist, I’m expressing myself. There are people I don’t respect for the music they make, but I don’t know them as people. By me saying – that would just be getting personal. I think I’m bigger than that and I don’t really need to do that. There’s the occasional lyric where I might drop someone’s name, but it’s not with much venom, unless someone fucked with me and tried to criticise my music, then I’m not gonna start shouting their name abut the place, you know what I mean?

Do you have any regrets?

The whole experience for me has just been a learning curve, I might not have been able to make an album what 100% what I wanted too. I made an album where I done everything I could to make it what it is. As an artist, I’m never gonna be 100% happy with my work; I’m always gonna think I can do it better. I know how hard I worked, and stuff, I couldn’t have got it any better than I got it now. No regrets! The next album – I’m gonna know exactly what to do, and hopefully turn it over a lot quicker than the two years this one took.

You are signed to the same label as The Futureheads and The Streets (679 Recordings), have you met Mike Skinner yet?

I met him a couple of times yeah.

What does he think of your music?

I heard that he really likes it, you know, but he finds it quite depressing.

How do you want people to perceive your music?

I want tem to perceive it like you read a book or watch a film, that’s how I want them to perceive it. I’ve detached myself, even though this album is very personal and I’ve thrown a lot of personal shit in to it, but when I tell a story I detach myself fully and try and write the story through characters and tell the story through them. If I’m doing that then you’ve got to do that, as a listener, you’ve got to listen to this characters story, coz it’s not me it’s not my life, you know what I mean! I think you do that when you watch a film or read a book, you kinda just look at it that way.

Where are you appearing next?

Jul 12 2006        Academy 2, Newcastle
Jul 13 2006        King Tutts, Glasgow
Jul 14 2006        Academy 2, Birmingham
Jul 15 2006        Academy 2, Liverpool
Jul 18 2006        Rescue Rooms, Nottingham
Jul 19 2006        Academy 3, Manchester
Jul 20 2006        Mean Fiddler, London
Jul 22 2006        Ashton Court, Bristol
Jul 23 2006        Concord 2, Brighton

It’s all on all on Myspace

I think maybe I’ve been doing a lot of gigs to the Indie crowd, you know. It kinda works with that crowd, you know, and you reach out to a lot more people than if I just done Hip-Hop gigs. The fact is I love hip-hop and look at myself as coming from a hip hop angle. It more important, if anything, to get the Hip-Hop heads on to the Plan B shit! It’s more important, if anything you know.

Plan B aka Ben Drew

Where do you see you self in 5 years/ or where do you want to be?

Well, I’m looking to set up my own label Pet Cemetery; well it’s already set up – I put my first two releases on it. I’m gonna set that up properly, and in five years time I wanna be making films. One of the reasons I tell stories is cos I wanna do that in films, but the realisation is, if you wanna make films, you kinda need money, or people to give me money to make the fucking films, and then you need a piece of paper that says I qualified to make a film. But the truth is you just need the backing, and the fronting. So hopefully with the music I can build up the cash to go in to that line of work.

What kind of films do you like?

Sexy Beast, Pulp Fiction, stuff with great dialogue and also good stories, that kind of shock you. I’ve gotta couple of ideas for films, but it’s just gotta be the right one, you know, economical as well if it’s gonna be on a budget.

When is the album out?

26th June.

interview by Jade Bremner

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