Updated: Oct 6, 2020
Plan B. English singer, songwriter, rapper turned director it seemed after he released the movie 'Ill Manors' in 2012 and in fact dropped a soundtrack to the movie of the same title. The album was very impactful for a number of reasons. The album followed the movie, and had a whole concept behind it which was about the lives many people have to face in the poorer areas of London. The album touches on drugs, prostitution, gang violence and also takes shots at the ways in which the government deal with these issues or rather don't deal with them. While the songs follows the storyline of the film, it can still be applied to real life situations and does a great job at exploring its concept. The production on this album is equally as fantastic as the concept and in fact adds to the atmosphere. The production overall is very menacing, murky at times and gives off an odd vibe - which matches the lifestyles being explored in the content. While it has this style, it all blends together well and sounds great. Plan B's delivery matches the mood of the tracks too, and lyrically he's quite good. He's no Nas or Jay-Z but he can tell a story excellently and you picture the whole thing in your head as he's spitting it. Just to add his flow is pretty solid as well - despite previous to this mostly being known for singing he proved he can spit on this soundtrack.
The album begins with the title track ‘Ill Manors’. The song is really good. First of all the message focuses on the government and their lack of care for the more disadvantaged people in London and how this all lead up to the London Riots of 2011. Secondly, we have the production which is blaring and menacing (especially with them violins). Following that Plan B’s delivery is also menacing and the ferocious hook just delivers the message perfectly. Following that we have what I consider the true introduction to this sound track in 'I Am The Narrator’. It showcases what will be a key skill for Plan B during this album - his storytelling. Plan B claims he’s going to narrate a story to us (the album), and starts by describing drug dealing & addiction in council estates. With a nice flow, once again menacing delivery and some clever internal rhymes it’s two for two. ‘Drug Dealer’ again is the perfect example of storytelling. Following the script of the film, it’s the story of a young boy born from a heroin addict & his entire life has been around drugs. Don’t want to spoil it too much but I definitely recommend the song. Takura’s hook (usually just one line) is also a nice break between moving time on through the verses. I sound like I’m repeating myself but ‘Playing With Fire’ is more good storytelling and a nice hook from Labrinth. The repetition of stating Jake (follows the storyline of the film) is just a kid really emphasises the whole concept of this song and this album that anyone & everyone in these areas of Britain are affected by gangs, drugs, crime etc. The beat creates such an empathetic atmosphere as well.
Plan B takes a signing approach on ‘Deepest Shame’ and while I enjoy the hook, I just think the singing didn’t really fit in. The rapping verse was nice but the whole delivery of his raps kept this album menacing - and while I don’t hate it, it’s just my least favourite part of this album at this point. Spoken word poet John Cooper Clarke opens up ‘Pity The Plight’ and partnered with the piano instrumental it creates such an eerie atmosphere for Plan B to spit about the downfall and fate of this 13 year old boy we’ve followed during both the film & the album. Eerie, haunting and brilliant once again. The menacing drums on ‘Lost My Way’ are great and overall it’s another good song but just compared to the others is a bit lackluster due to the quality of what we’ve already had. ‘The Runaway’ takes the story of an illegal immigrant forced into prostitution which again relates to the film. The ugly bass & drums create such a haunting beat as this rather disturbing yet real story is perfectly laid down. Line that hit the hardest was, “'Cause the only difference between this place and hell was gravity”. While I like the whole message on ‘Great Day for a Murder’ which is taking action against press in England, it’s the delivery I don’t like. I don’t like the singing parts, or the forced accent prevalent in verse one. The beat as well I dislike. The whole rock inspired electric guitar just seems to over power his voice & it seems quite overproduced.
There are loads of bars on ‘Live Once’ & after a few listens Kano’s voice grew on me and I enjoyed the verse. Plan B’s Monopoly extended metaphor is smart in the third verse but the whole signing again in the hook just seems so out of place and doesn’t sound nice. We finish on arguably the best song of the whole album - ‘Falling Down’. It finishes in style, with Plan B discussing how people from these rougher areas of London will be dragged down no matter how talented they are due to the environment and the beliefs installed in them about this environment. The beat is murky as is the hook & his whole style/cadence in the verses make them hit harder. It’s a great song.
To conclude then, Plan B's album is a great showcase of conscious rap in the UK scene (which at this point in the mainstream was very rare to see). His storytelling ability is great and feels really real as he taps into the darkest areas and acts of 'broken Britain' - creating an impact via album as well as his incredible movie.
FAVOURITE TRACKS: Ill Manors, I Am The Narrator, Drug Dealer, Playing With Fire, Deepest Shame, Pity The Plight, The Runaway, Falling Down
LEAST FAVOURITE TRACK: Great Day for a Murder
OVERALL RATING: Solid 8.5/10