Plan B shot to mainstream fame after following up his inner-city rap album Who Needs Actions When You Got Words with his successful Motown persona in The Defamation of Strickland Banks, telling the tale of Mr Banks, a British soul singer. The boy could sing, and had soul.
Soundtrack Ill Manors came next, a “hip hop musical for the 21st century”, and this new one (ish, we’re a bit late with this review) somewhat combines his two approaches, with likable and catchy soul-based tunes mingled with others more suited to hip hop. The anger of songs with titles such as Dead And Buried and Sick2Def has gone.
In the six years since his last album, he’s built a family and enjoyed being a father, avoiding fame: “It’s your choice to keep going out in front of everybody and wearing flashy clothes and making a big statement when you arrive places. I get on the Tube, I grow my beard out, I don’t cut my hair, ain’t no one batting an eyelid at me,” he told Vice. We guess this new album is about all that: growing up, growing older, and having responsibilities.
This album is mostly singing and soul-centred, though he takes in drum ‘n’ bass and other dance-based influences on the way, and you might find the mixing of styles a weakness.
Opening song Grateful kicks it off, with a soulful sound and B grateful for what he’s got. Stranger is more soul, and a song that shows off his voice, with a huge chorus. Heartbeat is also good, somewhere between and DnB and soul, the latter sound from his vocals.
Queue Jumping is more dance than soul and a little jarring after the preceding songs, while perhaps the weakest song Wait So Long is next; it has a reggae/dancehall vibe, but the comparatively weaker run ends with the title track. If this were vinyl, side two would get fewer plays as it’s less impressive than side one, but there’s nothing as weak as Wait So Long. There’s nothing real new to the sound: if you liked Defamation you’ll probably like this.