These days it is hard to discern exactly what is meant by a ‘classic album’. Usually the term is used to describe an older album that contains material that was considered killer at the time of release and yet, continues to be regarded as such by future generations even when challenged by today’s pitch perfect standard!
Despite this, I would regard any album which creates a powerful impact on its audience to be ‘classic’ since it will continue to retain that impact with its initial audience and inspire future generations with a message that will still resonate with people no matter how far you travel forward in time using a DeLorean DMC-12. So, using this possibly controversial interpretation, I’m going to review the fantastic thought provoking album ‘Ill Manors’ by Plan B.
During times where the art of an album has been lost to the much more profitable art of producing a few good singles, it is hard to find a great album full of real music and not just fodder to fill around the single. Despite this, Plan B has really delivered a thought provoking piece of art aimed at challenging our perception on the subject of ‘youth gang culture’ by taking a different view through the eyes of those involved. Intended as a supplement to the ‘Ill Manors’ movie, the album tells six stories about survival and corruption on the streets of modern day using a suitable Grime/Hip Hop style. Now, if your thinking that this means its just an album of rap and loops then think again! Ben Drew (Plan B) integrates his soul inspired voice into the genre beautifully making the album more accessible to a wider audience, providing they can still digest the shocking subject matter...
This album is labelled ‘Parental Guidance' and rightly so, the lyrical content contained within is not for the faint of heart! When he tells the stories about the unfortunate youths, he does not withhold any information and tells it how it is with real emotion and conviction in his voice. I was disappointed to see that the lyrics were not included within the album booklet since I enjoy reading the lyrics to learn the story of each song although this is only a minor quibble. During my first listen I was instantly drawn in by the aggressive title track which sets the scene for the rest of the album perfectly and the great material never stopped! Other highlights include ‘Playing with fire’, His collaboration with Labyrinth, telling the story of a youth corrupted by older thugs to turn on his friend for weed. ‘Deepest Shame’ has more resemblance to a soul number with some rapped passages, telling the story of Michelle, a heroin addict who’s only source of income is prostitution with no hope and no way back. The song which had the greatest emotional impact on me was ‘Pity the Plight’ bringing many a tear to my eyes. As the story progresses, 13 year old Jake is manipulated to carry out his older peers’ dirty work and turned against old friends. My only quibble with the actual music is during the song ‘Lost My Way’, which is fantastic until the song concludes with the overly clichéd line “If you don’t believe in something then you’ll fall for anything” repeated many times, although after hearing it twice I’m always tempted to skip to the next track.
I could continue to talk about the merits of this musical masterpiece until I'm blue in the face but my best advice would be to purchase this album and listen for yourself. I would not recommend this to anyone aged under 18 since the stories had a big effect on me at 18 and were enough to stir my feelings deep inside. Other than that, if you’re open to listening to some deep, intellectual rapping, then this is a great album and you will not be disappointed with the purchase!