A truly maverick figure in the world of music, Plan B (a.k.a. Ben Drew)’s diverse creativity is inexhaustible. Awards, accolades and multi-platinum album sales might be enough for some musicians, but for Drew, it’s just the tip of his artistic ambitions. His raw, incendiary debut album, Who Needs Actions When You Got Words broke new ground for UK hip hop in 2006, a loud, proud, obscenity-riddled scream of anger and pride from the estates of East London. But a part of Ben always stayed faithful to the soul he’d first heard as a child. He loved listening to classic Motown tunes on the radio, “I just found I could sing that stuff naturally, so when I first started writing songs seriously, and teaching myself how to play guitar, it was soul song after soul song.” It seemed perfectly fitting then that Drew returned to his soul roots with his quadruple-platinum, no.1 second album The Defamation of Strickland Banks, narrating the urban fairytale of a sharp-suited British soul singer who finds fame but ultimately loses everything when he ends up in prison for a crime he didn’t commit. Following The Defamation of Strickland Banks - which has seen over 1.4 million copies sold in the UK so far - a BRIT Award, three Ivor Novello’s and sold out headline tours, Drew has recently finished work on his self-penned directorial debut film and third album, both entitled ill Manors. The film is a stark, often brutal and provocative depiction of Forest Gate, east London, where Drew was born and raised. In recent years Drew has proved his worth in front of the camera too; appearing in Noel Clarke’s Adulthood in 2008, then opposite Michael Caine in gritty British thriller Harry Brown and later this year he will return to the big screen in a remake of The Sweeney, alongside Ray Winstone. The two have become mutual fans: “He’s a genius, that kid,” Winstone says of his co-star.
But for Drew, despite the sales, awards and international success, it is ill Manors that is the highlight to date; this film project and album are - in his eyes - his biggest achievement thus far.