As we mentioned before, Ben Drew returns this year in the guise of screenwriter and director, with his film debut, iLL Manors. The slef-titled lead single from the soundtrack was premiered on Zane Lowe last night, to rather large fanfare.
For those that are fans of Plan B's soulful sounds, his return to his rap roots might be somewhat of a shock. Either way, win fans or lose them, Plan B insists on making the music he wants to make. Here he tells us why he loves Labrinth, discovering his inner Tina Turner and why he'll never, ever make music for money.
You started as rapper, did a Motown record and now you're back to rap for the iLL Manors soundtrack. What gives?
You see Labrinth, he gets it. I’ve been in the studio with him and he gets it; he can play different instruments and he learns about music. He was talking to me about Jimmy Coltraine and people like that. He actually goes and learns about those guys. I respect that so much. People like me and him, there’s not a lot of us, especially out of the urban scene. That’s why I reckon Labrinth, he even said this himself, he’ll put some music out that not everyone will agree with, might not be feeling, but eventually he’ll hit the nail on the head and do something spectacular, something individual and different but he needs to learn the machine before he destroys it. That’s exactly what I’m doing. I have to venture down these different paths; I have to go and do soul music, I have to go and do punk music, reggae, classical... Me, as an artist, as a person who loves music, I have to go and see what the fuss is about. And learn it so that I can destroy it and so something new and fresh. I think one day I will. One day I’m gonna do something that no one else has done before and I’ll die trying. Until then, all these styles that I’m into and I love, I’m gonna flirt with. But I’ll always come back to hip hop and essentially it’ll make my hip hop music better.
How do you think people will react to you going back to rap?
For every person out there that hates the Strickland Banks album, I know that I’m either going to win them back with this album, or future albums that I do, or make twice as many fans because the music’s gonna be better because of that album and what making it taught me. Strickland taught me how to sing. For me, this whole other voice, when the iLL Manors soundtrack comes out, people are gonna hear my voice in a way they’ve not heard it before. Obviously there will be similairites but, for me, they’re gonna hear a bit of Tina Turner in there, a bit of James Brown, little bit of Stevie. Before I was signing more like Smokey Robinson. I never would have found that out myself, that I had a voice that was capable of doing that, if I hadn’t done Strickland.
What are the sales like on that album?
Like 1.4 million, maybe more than that. It’s mental (laughs) it’s crazy. It’s the same thing where people expect something from you. It’s like the first record but an even larger scale. If 50,000 from the first album (Who Needs Actions...) expected the same from the second album, than 50% of them were very disappointed with Strickland came out. So if 1.4 million people that bought Strickland are expecting a similar record then the margins of disappointment are that much bigger but that’s something that I can’t do nothing about. I’m not going to do what other bands do and play into the market’s hands. If I was a businessman, yeah, I’d go and make another soul record. What other artists do what I do? Jump from one genre to the next, take risks like that? They don’t because it becomes a business for them and that’s when they stop becoming an artist and become business men. And that’s when the music becomes rubbish and that’s why I don’t do it.
iLL Manors is out 4 May, followed by the soundtrack on 7 May.