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Manors Maketh The Man
He's already made the transition from underground hip hopper to blue-eyed soul boy du jour. Now Plan B has written and directe Ill Manors, a damning indictment of cameron's broken Britain, and is also about to star alongside Ray Winstone in a reboot of classic 70's cop caper The Sweeney ("Get dressed, you're nicked!") A wellied-up Stuart Clark meets him and his crew in a north Yorkshire forest.
Stuart Clark, 23 Aug 2012
“Who do I rate at the moment? I really like Plan B since he’s gone all Motown-y. It’s pop but with the sort of attitude we had in The Jam. He’s going to sell a shit-load of records.”
Paul Weller was at the peak of his prophesising powers in March 2010 when he told us that The Artist Also Known As Benjamin Paul Ballance-Drew was about to leave hip hop obscurity behind and join the likes of Amy, Leona and Coldplay in the CD aisle at Tesco.
Taking its cue from Berry Gordy but also displaying a hard-nosed lyrical edge that reminded Weller of his young straight outta Woking self, The Defamation Of Strickland Banks has sold well over a million copies – 50,000 of them are in Irish homes – and made Plan B almost as omnipresent in the British tabloids as his near London neighbour, Adele.
“I reminded Paul Weller of The Jam?” says the 28-year-old almost falling off the white leather sofa we’re sitting on. “Fucking hell! To have the bloke who wrote ‘Down In The Tube Station’ and ‘That’s Entertainment’ bigging you up… The Jam and The Specials and The Clash are the level you aspire to, but getting there’s another matter!”
How far Plan B’s come in a short space of time is underlined by the venue for tonight’s sell-out gig. Gone are the sweaty grime dives of old to be replaced by Denby Forest, a Wicklow-sized swathe of greenery equidistant from Leeds and Middlesbrough.
There’s many an eee by gum! chuckle to be had as we spy signs en route for places like Hutton-Le-Hole, Roseberry Topping, Newbiggin Cliffs, Cowbar Nab and Warthill’s lovely Breezy Knees Gardens that belong in Monty Python’s ‘Four Yorkshiremen’ sketch.
A goodly proportion of the 5,000-strong crowd have brought fold-up chairs from which to gaze at their hero while the queue for the bar is so orderly I wonder for a moment if I’ve stumbled into another Eucharistic conference. Mr.B’s Denby set is split into two distinct halves – … Strickland Banks tunes, which are greeted with orgasmic shrieks of delight and the altogether more vote-splitting songs that soundtrack the Plan B written/directed/bottle washed Ill Manors movie. For those who’ve only had Euro 2012 on their minds these past few weeks, it’s a bold – and often very violent – attempt by Drew to lift the lid off David Cameron’s broken Britain.