Standing with me shouting “pull up your socks”

Plan B is a modern day contradiction, a paradox. I’ve only just got used to enjoying new music again (thankyou Mumfords) and along comes this dirty white boy from Forest Gate who raps first-person narratives like Dizzee Rascal reading Ian Rankin, writes like a YouTuber commenting on the finer points of happy slap technique, and looks like a young Shaun Ryder with Eminem’s fashion sense. I hate him because he brings out in me all my prejudices, my middle class repulsion of this shocking and crude young white man, or even some sort of twisted racism because I wince at the appropriation of black culture – it’s the same sort of prejudice that engendered the pejorative term ‘chav’, or perhaps its ‘wigger’ equivalent from the US. Any white rapper is always going to be subjected to the most rigorous of assessments: hip hop afficionados tend to have long memories, and for every half-credible Eminem there’s a massively successful Vanilla Ice, riding on the back of black culture. And now the UK has its own, credible and commercially successful hip hop scene, hangers-on are unlikely to be taken seriously.

The problem is that, whether or not Plan B is a good rapper, he’s got the voice of something approaching an angel – a genuine Northern Soul voice, drenched with heart and soaring higher than Justin Timberlake stubbing his toe. Though predominantly a rapper, Who Needs Actions When You Got Words nevertheless featured the odd clever vocal break, inserting Dub Be Good To Me, or even Young Girl into his sordid (or otherwise) tales. But on his latest album, which went to #1 yesterday, Ben Drew takes the step into full-on Wigan Casino arrangements, coming across like Mark Ronson but with the benefit of not having to deal with Mark Ronson at all. This is where he throws me, because these are classic-sounding, genuine soul articles, full to the brim with passion and feeling, and it screws my prejudices right up. I get my realities mixed up, between what I hear on the record, what I see in the pictures, what I felt for Noel Winters in Harry Brown.

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