But only for now. Rapper turned soul man Plan B tells Tony Clayton-Lea his new album will continue the Strickland Banks story – but another shift in style could follow
It does, and that’s why I change things as much as possible. With the first record, Who Needs Action When You Got Words, it was hip-hop. And to me, if it had felt right to make a second record in the vein of hip-hop, then I would have done it. I attempted to, but everything I wrote around that time wasn’t anywhere near as good. Then I realised I was writing soul music, not hip-hop, and I made a conscious decision to run with the songs that ended up on The Defamation of Strickland Banks. I knew I would leave my original fan base, and possibly fuck up my career. But I thought, I am what I am. The first album was hardcore hip-hop, but then I’m a hardcore guy. But I’m also a soul singer – always have been. I was a soul singer before I was a rapper. Nobody is one-dimensional in life. As for being pigeonholed, part of me thinks that’s very necessary, especially when you try to describe it to people who need reference points. I don’t get upset by it. For me it’s not a massive issue. People can put me in a box if they want – I’ll just destroy it from the inside. I mean, I’ve been called the British Eminem and the male Amy Winehouse. The descriptions change with each album. Being compared to the best is a compliment, isn’t it? I’m the same bloke, but I think a lot of people around me have changed. I’m being treated differently because they see me on television or in the newspaper and magazines, listen to my songs on the radio. Frankly, I don’t have time to watch television, read newspapers and magazines or listen to the radio.
In other words, the things that people see me do or read about me doing have become the normal things for me to do. Like, going on stage with Elton John is not necessarily the usual thing to do, but with my life the way it is now, going on stage with him is very much normal. What I’m doing now is not some dream state – it’s the real world for me, and I’m experiencing it the way other people experience their normal lives. So my life now is the normality for me. I’m the same guy, but I’m living in a different world from a lot of other people. If Ben saw Plan B now he’d think he was the bomb. Listen, mate, I’m never going to do anything that my heart is not in to. What I’m doing now is great. I fully believe in it and I’m fully comfortable with it. I’m proud of what I did on the first record, I’m proud of what I did on the second record, and with subsequent albums I know I’m going to be proud of those, too.
Why should I not admit my love of soul music to the world, just because the common perception of me is that I’m an angry, aggressive, underground rapper? Why should I hide things like that? Yes, I can be an aggressive rapper, but I can also be a really soft, romantic soul singer. The next thing I do will not be soul music, but whatever I decide to do I can guarantee that I’ll do it the right way. Which is staying true to the essence of whatever that music is.