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Plan B: The Voice of The Disaffected Youth

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Plan B is back and angrier than ever. The rapper/soul singer released Ill Manors this month, a track that attacks a frequently overlooked prejudice in society, lambasting the stereotype of the ‘chav‘ and what Plan B calls ‘the forgotten people of society’.

When Plan B released Ill Manors it was met with shock, with a propo rtion of Ben Drew’s fanbase unaware of his hip-hop roots and many  misunderstanding the message behind the song. The track and indeed the video are expressly designed to be shocking and to take them at face value is to miss the point. They fearlessly address controversial issues such as society’s view of the underclass and last year’s riots in a way that is difficult to ignore.

In an interview with radio one extra, Plan B cites middle England’s view of the lower class as a big problem in society, stating: ‘we have a big issue in society from certain ignorant sections of middle class people towards the underclass’.  He then goes on to use the example of the word chav, meaning council house and violent. He says it is ‘a derogatory term used...to define people from poor and unfortunate backgrounds... and the term is no different from similar terms used to be derogatory to race and sex.’ Yet it is an umbrella term that is actively and thoughtlessly used. Drew attacks the hypocrisy of such labels, and says: ‘just because you were lucky enough to be born into a family that can afford to give you a good education doesn’t make you better than anybody.’

Clearly many people see hip hop as a destructive force, and one that glorifies the violent side of street life and Plan B’s new song is seen as being of that vein, yet his new song is what he calls ‘conscious hip-hop’. It seeks to deal with life on the streets in the same way a cancerous lung is used to discourage people from smoking while speaking to them in a manner and medium that is likely to get his message heard.

Drew believes that the ‘demonization’ of the British youth is what has led to the riots, with such derogatory terms as ‘chav’ ostracising youths from society, and creating a situation where they wouldn’t want to be part of society - consequently leading some kids to embrace society’s stereotypes.

Particularly insightful is the view of former gang member Sheldon Lawrence, who stated: ‘If you ask how we became a society where people think it’s ok to rob and loot, I respond how did we get to a society that cares more about shops and business than the lives of young people?’.  Lawrence’s powerful statement raises a pertinent point: why does society exclusively blame the riots on the underclass, yet fail to address why these kids didn’t care about getting a criminal record?  The government is more fixated on punishing rioters instead of ensuring the events of last summer don’t repeat themselves, and Drew believes that nothing has been done to ensure these events wont be repeated.

That’s not to say that he condones the riots; he merely tries to raise the issue of the causes behind them that he says have been ‘swept under the carpet’. Speaking on BBC radio One Extra, he elaborated on the issue as he said: ‘I’m not trying to condone what happened during the riots, it disgusted me... but it saddened me more than anything because those kids have made life 10 times harder than themselves, and played into the hands of what certain sections of middle England think about them.’

Whether or not you agree with Plan B’s views, you cannot argue that he has anything less than the best of intentions. With the money made from Ill Manors he seeks to create a foundation that helps gives those less fortunate an opportunity that has often been denied to them by society.  He should also be given credit for bringing the subject of the underclass under scrutiny and opening it up for debate. It’s all too easy to dismiss Plan B as someone in no position to talk about these issues, yet if you listen to what he has to say, you will find he has a point and is rightly being labelled as the voice of the underclass.    




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