Release Date: Aug 21, 2012
Record label: Atlantic
Genre(s): Rap, R&B
Having spent a couple years supporting his successful 2010 effort The Defamation of Strickland Banks, Ben "Plan B" Drew had to strike while the iron was hot, seizing the day with enough clout and financial backing to fund his directorial debut, the feature film Ill Manors. As such, this soundtrack was a bit delayed, with some tracks recorded after the film's completion, but if ever a recording deserved that "music from and inspired by the film" tag, it's this one. Ill Manors, the soundtrack, is a thematically sound album with the dour life of the U.K.'s lower-class youth always in focus.
Covering subjects such as stabbing people with biros, anally raping corpses, and having sex with 14-year-olds, behind all the unsavoury imagery on Plan B’s 2006 debut album was an outraged moralist, appalled at the inequality and injustice of the world he saw around him, like some kind of be-hoodied Bret Easton Ellis. This was not hugely commercial subject matter and for 2010’s The Defamation of Strickland Banks the scruffy rapper reinvented himself as a suit-sporting, smooth-crooning pop singer. The transformation was remarkable.
Afew years back, if you'd laid a bet on a British rapper turning out a film script, the odds would have been on Mike "the Streets" Skinner. With his grasp of dialogue and nuanced take on the vulnerabilities of British geezerdom, Skinner was already writing cinematic vignettes that turned effortlessly into videos. Last year he announced vague plans for "a punchy thriller" set in a hospital.
On the final track of his third album, Ben Drew offers a message to any of the 1m buyers of its predecessor who find themselves dismayed by its noticeably different follow-up. But his message does not, perhaps, strike quite the conciliatory tone his record label – who find themselves flogging a collection of bleak, unflinching hip-hop to people expecting another album of post-Winehouse retro-soul – might have hoped for. "You can't relate?" he asks rhetorically.