Plan B (UK) Biography
Ben Drew has also been successful as an actor with supporting roles in Adulthood and Harry Brown and he has also directed and starred in his own film The Defamation of Strickland Banks which will be released in 2010 along with his second studio album of the same name.
Born and brought up in Forest Gate, East London, Ben Drew's mother worked for a local authority and his father (Paul Ballance) played in a local punk rock band. When Ben was six, his father walked out on the family leaving behind two children. Growing up, Plan B felt outcast from the rest of the school pupils.
"We weren't working class but we weren't middle class, we were in the void in-between. I've always felt like a social outcast."
—Plan B, The Telegraph (June 15, 2006)
From 11, Plan B attended Anglo European School in Ingatestone, Essex and after being expelled from at 15, he was transferred to Tom Hood School, a pupil-referral centre in Leytonstone, London and left with three GCSEs. Ben Drew taught himself how to play guitar at 14, first playing Blur and Oasis with friends, then going on to write his own R&B love songs. At 18, feeling uncomfortable with R&B, he turned towards rap and hip hop music and wrote "Kidz", inspired by the murder of Damilola Taylor.
"The whole reason for calling myself Plan B was that I was doing this sweet-boy Justin Timberlake [stuff], but I never felt comfortable... When I started rapping, it was easier for me to feel comfortable."
—Plan B, USA Today (March 15, 2007)
Plan B first appeared with the track "Cap Back", produced by DJ Wonder (Roll Deep), on the grime compilation album Run the Road (2005). Also in 2005, he released his first single, ("Kidz"/"Dead and Buried") as a limited edition 7" vinyl on his own label Pet Cemetery Records. He soon gained a recording contract with 679 Recordings and released his second double A-side single "No Good"/"Sick 2 Def" with his debut music video filmed for "No Good".
In early 2006, Plan B released a video-only download single for "Missing Links", which had to be re-recorded because he did not gain sample permission from Radiohead for the use of "Pyramid Song", and also released his first mixtape It's Time 4 Plan B in the May 2006 issue of Hip Hop Connection magazine. On June 23, 2006 Plan B made his first television appearance on Later... with Jools Holland performing an acoustic version of "Mama (Loves a Crackhead)". His début album Who Needs Actions When You Got Words, recorded with producers such as Paul Epworth, Fraser T. Smith and The Earlies, was released June 26, 2006 and charted the following week at No. 30 on the UK Albums Chart. The album gained positive reviews from most critics, including a five-star review from The Guardian's Alex Petridis. His track "Everyday" featured on the soundtrack to London to Brighton (2006).
In July 2006, "Mama (Loves a Crackhead)" was released as a single which became the first Plan B song to appear on the UK Singles Chart peaking at No. 41. In 2006, Paul Epworth and Plan B collaborated again on the track “More Is Enough” by Epic Man (Paul Epworth). After touring throughout 2006 and playing at festivals such as Reading and Leeds, a music video was filmed for "No More Eatin'" and Plan B released Live at The Pet Cemetery EP on October 30, 2006 (with a new version of "No More Eatin'" and two b-sides). On December 11, 2006 he released Remixes EP (which included the Hadouken! remix of "No More Eatin'").
During his January–February 2007 tour (which included support from Professor Green, Example, Killa Kela and Hadouken!), Plan B released his second mixtape Paint It Blacker containing bootleg recordings of songs by artists such as The Rolling Stones, Nirvana, Radiohead, Coldplay, Leonard Cohen and José González. In 2007, Plan B re-released his song “No Good” with new remixes and a music video was filmed for the b-side “Bizness Woman” (featuring beatboxer Kila Kella). Also in 2007, Plan B featured on songs by other artists such as Professor Green, Killa Kela, Skrein, Shameless and The Mitchell Brothers.
With a supporting role in the film Adulthood in 2008, Plan B recorded three songs on the film’s soundtrack album – “End in the Streets”, “On It 08” with Adam Deacon and “I Need Love” featuring Jacob Anderson. Plan B also featured on the Chase & Status single “Pieces” which topped the UK Dance Chart in 2008 and reached No. 70 on the singles chart.
In 2009, Plan B recorded “Shifty” with Riz MC and Sway. The single was taken from the soundtrack to Eran Creevy’s film of the same name starring Riz Ahmed (Riz MC) and Daniel Mays. Also in 2009, Plan B played Noel Winters in Harry Brown and achieved his first Top 10 hit with “End Credits”, another collaboration with Chase & Status which was used in the soundtrack for Harry Brown.
Plan B first mentioned his second album in an interview with NME in 2006. He explained "I've started this project about a drug addict called David Frost - no relation to the guy on TV - and basically it's the story of this guy and the levels of addiction, rehab, rehab not working, robbing...The trials and tribulations of a fucking smackhead. It's a big story. I might release a first edition, then a second edition...". The David Frost album eventually evolved into the current Strickland Banks film/album.
In late 2009, Plan B announced news of the release of his second album and film The Defamation of Strickland Banks to be released in 2010. The lead single from the album “Stay Too Long” was released January 2010 and reached No. 9 on the UK Singles Chart.
He supported Noel Gallagher at the second night of his solo gigs at The Royal Albert Hall on 26 March 2010.
His unique sound is characterized by his use of acoustic guitar and lyrics involving drugs, rape, murder and underage sex. He was placed fourth in the BBC's "Sound of 2006" competition.
Plan B's controversial lyrical content delivered against guitar strumming has seen him dubbed "The British Eminem", or "Eminem meets Damien Rice". Though content wise, Plan states that with most of his songs he is "just telling a story" and that he is "just trying to portray something that's real that happens in everyday life". These stories are largely semi-fictional but include personal content as well. One song of which "Kids" was partially inspired by the murder of 10-year-old Damilola Taylor, in which Plan B tells the story of a 14-year-old who kills, rapes and mugs his victims. Some lyrics in the song allude to this, such as "hand over your money, your phone and your Pokémon cards". Drew points out, in a possibly subtle jibe at American rappers, that his life growing up is not interesting enough to write songs about, so he takes on characters in his songs to make interesting and, hopefully, thought-provoking music.
From 2010 onwards, as Plan B is set to release his highly anticipated follow up album 'The Defamation of Strickland Banks', he will focus more solely on his singing abilities, rather then rapping (although the album still contains a few raps verses in some of the songs).
On Soccer Am on the 9th of January 2010, Drew confirmed that he strongly believes his follow up CD will be a reggae album, and he will commit to it. In an interview with Contactmusic, B stated that he may do a reggae album in the future, but it was also entirely possible he would do a Dubstep album.
Earlier on in the very same interview he confirmed he hasn't quit hip-hop music as the Strickland Banks soul album is just a one off and that there will be a couple more hip hop albums in the near future. "Just straight forward Plan B hip hop that you're used to, we have a couple of them coming out before I decide to do that." said Drew.
He followed that up by saying "I wanna get the Strickland Banks campaign out the way; I want to shoot a short film around it, so the videos and that go together as a sort of musical feature film. I want to then release The Ballad Of Belmarsh (His follow up hip hop record) and then I want to shoot my film, my directorial debut, Ill Manners and that's also music based, a musical again. It will be the reverse of Strickland Banks, so the film will come out first and the soundtrack will come out after that, so I've got a busy year ahead of me doing all that. Then 2011 I guess I'll start work on something new".