Plan B Biography
Drew has also had a successful film career as an actor, with roles in Adulthood (2008), Harry Brown (2009) and 126.96.36.199 (2010). In 2012, Drew wrote and directed his first film, Ill Manors, due for release in June 2012.
Drew was born and brought up in Forest Gate, East London. His mother worked for a local authority and his father, Paul Ballance, played in a punk band, The Warm Jets, in the 1970s. Drew was five months old when his father walked out and disappeared when he was six years old. Growing up, he felt outcast from the rest of society:
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 (15 June 2006)
From 11, Drew attended Anglo European School in Ingatestone, Essex and after leaving at 15, he was transferred to Tom Hood School, a specialist Science College in Leytonstone, London and left with three GCSEs. He 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 shit, but I never felt comfortable… When I started rapping, it was easier for me to feel comfortable.
—Plan B, USA Today (15 March 2007)
2005–08: Early career and debut album
Plan B first appeared with the track "Cap Back", produced by DJ Wonder (ex-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 "Sick 2 Def"/"No Good" with his début 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 23 June 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 26 June 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.
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 30 October 2006 (with a new version of "No More Eatin'" and two b-sides). On 11 December 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 with producers Sem, Beni G from the Mixologists and Analog Kid. 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 (2008), Plan B recorded three songs for the film’s soundtrack – "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.
2009 on: Strickland Banks era and Ill Manors
In 2009, Plan B recorded "Shifty" with Riz MC and Sway. The single was taken from the soundtrack to Eran Creevy’s film Shifty (2009) 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's second album and film The Defamation of Strickland Banks was released on 12 April 2010. The lead single from the album, "Stay Too Long" reached no. 9 in 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, and played in Bangor at the Radio 1 Big Weekend on 23 May 2010 on the New Music We Trust stage.
The new album, called The Ballad of Belmarsh, is a hip-hop laden "series of events" that depicts the story of Plan B's alter-ego, Strickland Banks. He has said that he recognises the fact that the upcoming hip-hop album will probably not have the same appeal or be as successful as his previous soul album, which has sold over 500,000 copies, which he is OK with.
"I know The Ballad of Belmarsh is not going to work commercially, I know radio ain't going to play it but I'm still going to put it out there because I love it. It's a piece of art.", he said. "It's probably going to sell about 100,000 copies – no more. But I'm cool with that."
He performed a duet of "I Guess That's Why They Call It the Blues" with Elton John as part of Elton's BBC Electric Proms performance at the Roundhouse in London in October 2010. On 16 February 2011, Drew won Best British Male at the Brit Awards.
The next single from The Defamation of Strickland Banks is "Love Goes Down". Official music video featuring Andy Crane, Paul Young, Abbey M Butler, Vicky McClure and Kaya Scodelario had its own premiere on 16 November 2010.
In March 2012, he released the single and video for "Ill Manors", a song (sampled from Peter Fox's "Alles Neu") which deals with the 2011 London Riots and which has been described by The Guardian as "the first great mainstream protest song in years". A soundtrack album and film of the same name (Drew's first as both writer and director) are due to follow in June 2012.