Harry Harland (Plan B – Ill Manors)
Once again, this is hardly quick on the uptake, but having watched his performance as a rare highlight of last weekend’s Hackney Weekender, I felt compelled to write about my love of Plan B’s incendiary protest song Ill Manors. Additionally the tie-in film has just been released, so there is at least a semblance of relevance about this.
Fans of Plan B’s superb-yet-unbelievably-gritty debut album Who Needs Actions When You’ve Got Words could have been forgiven for wondering if the follow up Defamation of Strickland Banks was even by the same person. The former’s grim raps about teen pregnancy, crack addiction and knife crime, set to simple, menacing acoustic guitar play seemed a million miles away from the polished soul of the latter, even if the subject matter was not.
Having toured the platinum-selling Stickland Banks, Plan B has “gone back to his roots” with London Riots-inspired Ill Manors, but he’s clearly picked up a few production tips along the way.
Gone is the acoustic guitar and in come dark, brooding strings. The lyrics, highlighting the underlying issues behind the social unease in the country last summer, flow flawlessly, building up to the blunderbuss jackhammer of a chorus.
Those who experienced his early work will know that when he screams “What you lookin’ at you little rich boy?” he’s speaking in character, conveying a message that exists, even if it’s not necessarily his opinion. Plan B’s style has always been one of storytelling, especially from the first person, so while some may see this as a direct attack on “bloody rich kid” politicians, it’s more satirising how out of touch both sides of the fence are with each other.
The accompanying film (of the same name) is out now and has had strong reviews, although I wouldn’t imagine it’s a particularly light-hearted affair. The album release which soundtracks it is due for release in July, on the strength of this single, there is much to look forward to.
On a lighter subject, a posh spoof of the song has been independently made and is even endorsed by Plan B himself after it was played on Radio 1. See what you think, but for my money it’s absolute genius.