ASCAP Vanguard Award

Plan B

Plan B for The Defamation Of Strickland Banks

Writer: Ben Drew
Publisher: Universal Music Publishing Group

Ben Drew has always stayed faithful to the soul loved listening to early on - classic Motown tunes on the radio, or singing along to cheesy R&B acts like Boyz II Men. "I just found I could sing that stuff naturally, so when I first started writing songs seriously, and teaching myself how to play guitar, it was soul song after soul song. Just pure love songs. I was 14, I'd never been in love, but I had a good understanding of what love might be. And almost every song had the word 'love' in its title!"

Ben wanted to be heard, but no one wanted to listen to a white boy from Forest Gate singing silly love songs. He began rapping and singing in his own accent, playing his guitar and telling stories about the world he'd grown up in. Some songs were written from personal experience ("Mama Loves A Crackhead"), but most involved characters he'd invented (like "Kidz," inspired by the murder of south London schoolboy Damilola Taylor).

His raw, incendiary debut album, Who Needs Actions When You Got Words broke new ground for UK Hip-hop in 2006. It also led to acting roles, with Ben playing a bad boy from the estates in Noel Clarke's Adulthood in 2008, then another hoodie thug opposite Michael Caine in last year's British thriller Harry Brown.

Harry Brown also gave Ben his first top 10 hit, "End Credits," a collaboration with drum'n'bass duo Chase and Status recorded for the film's soundtrack. When it came to working on his own follow-up album, however, the soul he'd put aside kept bubbling back up. It started with the sweet, sexy "Love Goes Down." He gave in to it, recording songs which tell the story of Strickland Banks, a sharp-suited British soul singer who finds fame with bitter-sweet love songs like "Love Goes Down" and "Writing's On The Wall" but loses everything when he ends up in prison for a crime he didn't commit.

The Defamation of Strickland Banks is the sound of Motown, Stax and obscure Northern Soul, filtered through the grit of contemporary East London. It's an urban fairytale, the story of a man who finds success hard to handle and then hits rock bottom. A sweet soul morsel with a razor-sharp edge, a collection of great tunes with soulful pop hooks, sung with the voice of an angel -Plan B once more twisting genres, telling stories and defying expectations.