The Defamation of Strickland Banks is the second studio album from British rapper Plan B which was released on 12 April 2010. The album is a departure from the sound heard on Plan B's debut album Who Needs Actions When You Got Words, providing a showcase for the rapper's singing. Lyrically the album's songs tell the fictitious tale of one Strickland Banks, a sharp-suited British soul singer who finds fame with bitter-sweet love songs like the album's opener "Love Goes Down", only to have it slip through his fingers when sent to prison for a crime he didn't commit.
Ben had always wanted to make his second album as a concept album and he had previously abandoned an attempt to make a hip hop follow up to his debut Who Needs Actions When You Got Words. After learning more about the technical aspects of singing and having written some soul songs such as "Love Goes Down", which was written whilst supporting The Roots on tour in 2006, Plan B came up with the concept of a story about a soul singer who gets sent to prison.
He commenced recording of the album in which half the songs were hip hop tracks narrated by Plan B and the other half were soul songs told through the eyes of the fictional character Strickland Banks, however this idea was scrapped because the two genres did not work well together and the label 679 Artists thought the idea was too confusing. Hence the album was split into two records and it was agreed that the soul record would be released as Plan B's second studio album.
Plan B, or Ben Drew to avoid confusion with the various other Plan Bs in operation, first emerged to the mainstream in 2006 with the album Who Needs Actions When You Got Words. The Forest Gate fox set out his stall as a ”“ putting it mildly ”“ angry issues-based young man in thrall to Eminem, and would probably have had your eye out if you so much as looked as him funny. This led to an acting sideline in Noel Clarke’s Adulthood, as well as a star turn in last year’s Harry Brown.
Now, a few years on, our Ben has calmed down a bit and returned with a concept album (an accompanying film is in production) that should finally get him known past the gritty urban set, ascending to the national consciousness. The Defamation of Strickland Banks is a story-based soul-up volte-face about a man being wrongly sent dahn, and an album that will see Drew added to the list of artists who’ve delivered not-bad debuts, but amazing follow-ups.
A genuine great leap forward, Defamation is a cracker. The two breakthrough singles lead from the front ”“ Stay Too Long manages to combine the urgency of northern soul with the giddiness of Drew’s breathless rap delivery, and the catchier She Said is a welcome addition to daytime radio. Elsewhere, on Welcome to Hell he trills like a scared-to-pick-up-the-soap-in-the-prison-shower Smokey Robinson, while Hard Times and Love Goes Down are just lovely ”“ anyone operating in the greasy world of pop would give a limb for such songs. Prayin’ could give Amy Winehouse a run for her old soul beehive, and her recent work hovers over most of the arrangements and styles Ben decides to lend his ASBO soul revue. There’s a bit more swearing though, just in case you thought he'd gone totally soft.
Defamation is a great little album which could steer Drew towards being one of the year’s biggest pop stars, and further onto realising his film ambitions. Or, perhaps this is just a side-step for him, and he’ll go krautrock on album three. No matter, if this hasn’t shifted the best part of a million by 2010’s end, then I’ll despair. I really will. Tremendous work. User Comments