Plan B - aka Ben Drew - grew up listening to the pop station Capital FM. It was the 1980s and 1990s, and the only radio his mum would play: banger-after-banger of chart hits. "So I can't help but have pop sensibilities," he says, smiling, of his own music. “But ours was something of an open house, people hanging out, playing other music when mum was at work and I got to hear things like Prodigy or Rage Against the Machine. Therefore, I sit between pop and the other stuff.”
Drew, 34 now, born in east London in 1983, is back - six years after his last album, ‘Ill Manors’, which was released alongside a film of the same name. He has his confidence still very much intact, but he is a changed man too - both musically and at home. Ill Manors was an exceptionally tough, uncompromising look at an east London council estate, which put memories of Drew's hard youth on screen and in its hip hop verses.
His new record, however, his fourth, is called ‘Heaven Before All Hell Breaks Loose,’ and it has a softer, soul sound recalling, in parts, his four-times platinum- selling concept-led second album, ‘The Defamation of Strickland Banks’ (2010). That record, which introduced the singer to a far larger, cross over crowd, followed a much-loved rap debut, ‘Who Needs Actions When You Got Word’ (2006), and Drew's forever shifting styles have made him very hard to pin down.
"When I did Strickland Banks, a lot of soul and r'n'b was coming out of me, so I decided to make that album about a soul singer," he explains. "Ill Manors was me talking about what I know, the experiences of myself and my friends growing up in Forest Gate. But with this album, it was very different because I was taken out of that environment, physically, spiritually, mentally, because of fatherhood. It didn't feel right rapping. I didn't have anything to rap about."
Drew became a father four years ago and thanks and love for his daughter shines through on songs like the gorgeous ballad 'Grateful'. 'Heartbeat' has a similar vibe, as does album closer 'Sepia', with its opening line of "You put colour into my life / Before you it was black and white." For the most part, the new album sees Drew at the most content he has ever sounded.