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on 17 August 2012
I make it a general rule not to review a band more than once. I've got about 40 Fall albums, but only ever reviewed Extricate even though I love all of them. I've made an exception with Plan B - Ben Drew.

A live performance of Sick 2 Def hooked me, and ever since then I've loved everything he's done. Actions, Strickland Banks, even Paint it Blacker. Everything. I keep waiting for him to slip up, but he never seems to. And Ill Manors is possibly the best thing he's done to date.

The combo of soulful choruses and the rap is mesmerizing, and the lyrics! They're right up there with Immortal Technique imho. This is heartfelt storylines and political analysis seamlessly combined. The initiation rite in Playing with Fire recalls Dance with the Devil; Lost My Way continues the theme. The story of the Runaway is heartbreaking - and ironically perhaps even more visual in the lyric than in the film itself.

Great Day for a Murder looks at the press: 'Looking at the Sun'll make you go blind, just like people say; Cost you your sight as well as 30p a day.'
Ill Manors takes on the reasons for the riots without excusing them. 'Don't bloody give me that, I'll lose my temper; Who closed down the community centre? I killed time there, used to be a member; What'll I do now till September.'
The saddest line for me on the whole album, one from the beautiful Falling Down. 'I know that they can't knock me down as long as I keep falling.'

Effortless. Succinct. Clever. And why? Because he's sincere and passionate about what he does. Ill Manors is a triumph!
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on 10 September 2012
I was going to say that this album was a pleasant surprise, having only heard of Plan B from what is played on the radio, but there is nothing pleasant about this album. It takes you on a dark, claustrophobic journey through Britain's sink-estates, and holds nothing back, but despite this (and really, as a result of this) it is an astounding album.

This is some gritty, socially conscious hip-hop. Think more Immortal Technique or The Roots rather than Lil' Wayne. And that is what surprised me. I didn't expect socially conscious hip-hop on the level of Immortal Technique or Lowkey. Lyrically, Ben Drew holds nothing back. He is a superb story teller, and his rhymes are amazing. He not only paints a picture of 'Broken Britain' (a term that he derides in the title track), but alludes to the structural forces in society that can be seen to have a hand in producing social ills such as addiction, prostitution and gangs. Foe example, the title track argues that spending cuts are affecting youths in our communities;

'Who closed down the community centre?
I kill time there used to be a member.
What will I do now until September?
School's out, rules out, get your bloody tools out
London's burning, I predict a riot'

The production is excellent. From strings to soulful choruses to haunting RZA style piano samples, it is creepy, gritty and paints a perfect auditory picture of the alleys of Forest Gate.

I haven't yet seen the film for which this album acts as a soundtrack of sorts, but I will be getting it at the earliest opportunity. The album doesn't suffer too much from including clips from the film, but it can make it even more desperate and hard to listen to. While I admire Ben Drew's vision, he has put all his chips on the table with this 'concept' release. There are no nice summer songs on here to break up the darkness. He has alienated fans or casual listeners who prefer the singing/soul side of Plan B. I don't think this will be particularly well received by people who pick this up purely on the basis of having heard TDOSB or having heard a few songs on the radio. But I like that he has gone all in, because art and vision should not be sacrificed for commercial viability, a problem that a lot of popular music suffers from.

So yes, it is an uncompromising journey through some dark twisted streets, but it is masterfully navigated by a musician/actor at the top of his game, so you could do worse than to follow him.
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on 28 July 2012
For the many of you who bought the Deformation of Strickland Banks and loved it and are giving serious thought to purchasing this I should warn you now that this is a much different animal.

I was expecting a few tracks from this to be a bit more mainstream however from listening to the live performance from Radio 1 in Hackney it put this to the top of my 'to buy list'.

On first lisen the titular track (which I was in awe of when I first heard on Jools Holland) set it off a treat with angry sounding, clever lyrics over a fantastic orchestral number. Playing with Fire is a strong track, Deepest Shame will probably be the most succesful chart release but the track that had the most impact on me was Pity the Plight with the poetry of John Cooper Clarke and the quite frankly harrowing extract of a stabbing from the Ill Manors film which had the hairs on the back of my neck standing on end. Live Once with Kano is back to the soulful sort of track I first expected to hear on the album before closing out with Falling Down, a slow psychadelic track which further shows off the diversity of this album.

All in all I couldn't recommend this highly enough. A UK grime/hip hop/soul hybrid with production values of the quality you'd get from the likes of Dr Dre. Superb.
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on 23 July 2012
Ok, so I have just finished listening to Ill Manors for the first time and I have to say this is dark storytelling at its very best!

The tone is set from the first track "Ill Manors", and only gets darker from there. The Song I found particularly dark is "Playing with Fire" Featuring Labrinth, as it tells how one of the characters first gets into a gang, and his initiation is pretty brutal and heart breaking. My favourite track is "Lost My Way" as the opening strings section reminds me of proper old school hip hop like Cypress Hill.

There is a little bit of light at the end of the tunnel with "Live Once" Featuring Kano which assures you things will be OK come tomorrow (if you're lucky).

As with Plan B's first album "Who Needs Actions When You Got Words" His ability to hit the nail on the head with his current social commentary is second to none. Add that to the fact that he is one of the very best rappers the UK has ever had and you get an excellent rap album.

I say rap album because that is what it is, please don't come into this album thinking that it's going to be the same soul style as "The Defamation of Strickland Banks" because you will be disappointed. This is Plan B expressing himself in another of his many ways, so just stick with it and listen to the words and you will realise how relevant this album is in today's society.
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on 28 July 2012
Well, what can i say. Ben Drew AKA Plan B has created a lyrical and musical masterpiece. He has taken everything that it means to be quintessentially british today and made into a fantastic album, which narrates the story behind his masterpiece film of the same name. It will go down as an awesome chapter in the history of British music.

ILL MANORS: The track outlines the edgey style of the album right from the very start, attacking the events of the London riots and criticising the actions of David Cameron and his government. Broken Britain is a strong topic throughout the album, and this is perhaps one of the finest examples. (5/5) I AM THE NARRATOR: A rough ride into the world of society's darkest places. Perhaps one of the track most common of Drew's roots. No catchy hook here, but powerful lyrics and tight production make for an excellent track. (4/5) DRUG DEALER FT. TAKURA TENDAYI: A force overcomes the listener, forcing them to stand up and sing the catchy-yet-edgy hook of this fantastic collaboration. Another strong subject combined with a forceful hook make for guaranteed satisfaction. (5/5) PLAYING WITH FIRE FT. LABRINTH: Collaborator Labrinth goes in deep with a hard-hitting hook to outline the story of a young boy drawn into the world of gang violence. Etta Bond's 'aah--ahh-aaaah-aaah's background what is perhaps the most eclectic, yet effective, track on the album. (5/5) DEEPEST SHAME: Drew reworks a powerful freestyle into a strong soul number for what serves as the third single from the album. A hard hitting video detailing the murky world of prostitution and pimping accompanies a fantastic performance from Drew and video star Anouska Mond. (5/5) PITY THE PLIGHT FT. JOHN COOPER CLARKE: Poet John Cooper Clarke assists in narrating an audical view of the tough times that youngsters face in today's society. A strong mix of poetic verses and rap lyrics create a recipe for a perfect single that creates universal appeal. (5/5)

LOST MY WAY: An emotional clause within the lyrics of this track makes the listener believe that perhaps Drew has had a first person view of exactly what he is trying to convey. Tough times as a youngster that are channelled into creating a lyrical masterpiece. (5/5) THE RUNAWAY: In a similar vein to 'I Am The Narrator', Drew takes on the strong subject of teenage homelessness, and couples it with a powerful, yet catchy hook which runs throughout the track. By this time, you really start to believe that Drew has created a timeless masterpiece that will go down in history. (5/5) GREAT DAY FOR A MURDER: Etta Bond once again provides backing vocals on the tough story of murder. This track perhaps works better with a visual behind it, as it provides a stronger outlook of what the track is trying to represent. (4/5) LIVE ONCE: Fellow rapper Kano assists Drew on creating a two-way view of the situation regarding the opportunities that youngsters are given to break out into the world. Etta Bond once again provides backing vocals, with her most prominent feature yet. (4/5) FALLING DOWN: The album ends on a calmer note with the slow, but heartfelt ballad about making mistakes and attempting to rectify them. At times the track feels empty, but keep it going until the very end, because the last note closes the album with some fine dignity. (4/5) LOST MY WAY FT. RAEKWON: If you've downloaded the album, you will find that a bonus remix of 'Lost My Way' is packaged on the end. Drew gives the track an American twist by enlisting popular hip-hop rapper Raekwon and spicing up his own vocals. A great remix which works just as well as the original. (5/5)

I was very happy when the album went to number one, it deserves it - it's the finest truly British album in years. Excellent collaborations, lyrical masterpieces and tight production make for a perfect final product, so after you have read this review, don't hesitate to buy it. You won't regret it.
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on 3 September 2012
I don't normally like hip hop but I loved the last Plan B album and had seen him promoting this week on Jonathan Ross, whilst singing ' Deepest Shame' - a single from the album. I downloaded this not knowing what to expect. My God, this is the soundtrack of Britain in 2012. Honest, moving, harrowing, well written, fantastic and poetic lyrics about real situations without resorting to swearing for the sake of it. This album hit me hard and has made me want to see the movie. Every generation needs a musical spokesman and Plan B is the one for our times. Recommended but open your mind.
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on 31 July 2012
Cracking album my favourite so far. Adored the film also. Was gutted after to find out I now need to buy the deluxe version with 28 songs on though.
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on 7 April 2013
I bought this album mainly because of the song (the same as the title's album). I even have it as a ringtone.....and whilst no doubt Plan B is extremely talented and can tell a story lyrically through rap like no's just a little bit too much for me....I don't want to hear gunshots and someone being stabbed on my album. I bought this for my partner, he had the first album and enjoyed the mixture of rap and singing (mainly singing) but he was in for a shock with this one. He too loved the title album track and was hoping for more of the same, but he found the rest just too much to handle. After one listen, he gave to me. I must admit, I have only played it a couple of times for the reasons mentioned above. All in all, if you loved his first album....this is such a departure you should make sure you're ok with a pure rap album and with such a sensitive subject as gang violence/stabbings/drugs before you take a listen/buy. Under 18's I don't think should even be allowed to have it!!. I still think Plan B is extremely talented...I just don't want to hear of stuff like this in an album when its on the news and tv constantly and that's hard to bear as it is. In terms of service, arrived quick and great price.
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on 12 August 2012
I really wanted to give this 5 stars because I think Plan B is one of the most challenging, and therefore, best artists around at the moment. Like many people, I suspect, I got into Plan B with 'The Defamation of...' - a truly fantastic album that I loved from the first listen. It was a while later than I decided to download his first album. This took a little longer to get into, but is now also one of my favourites with some great tracks. So I was eagerly awaiting 'ill Manors'. I think those that have only listened to 'Defamation' will find it harder to understand where 'ill Manors' has come from. For me, it's not quite got the edge of 'Who needs...' and it hasn't got the flow of 'Defamation'. I have 3 or 4 favourite tracks from 'ill Manors', but the rest I can take or leave. This is a great effort from Plan B and better than a lot of other stuff around, but it doesn't quite reach the pinnacle he has already set with 'Who needs...' and 'Defamation'. That's why I can't bring myself to give it 5 stars.
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on 18 September 2012
Long awaited album did not disappoint - actually like more each time i listen, must admit a couple of tracks took a few times to like but absolutely love it. As a 47 year old it is great and my 18 year old son and friends loved it from 1st play.
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