Ben Drew on suc­cess de­spite a tough back­ground – and help­ing other lost kids

Daily Mirror (Northern Ireland) - - THE BEAT - With GAVIN MARTIN

The once hard-to-reach kids like Ben Drew, aka Plan B, of­ten make the most mu­si­cal magic. The chart-top­ping, Brits and Ivor Novello-win­ning, soul-singing rap star from East Lon­don en­joyed smash suc­cesses with The Defama­tion of Strick­land Banks and the sound­track of the movie he di­rected, Ill Manors.

But as the son of a sin­gle mum and an ab­sent mu­si­cian dad, the teenage Drew – now 34 – was kicked out of school and sent to a PRU (Pupil Re­fer­ral Unit).

“That’s where I was given the sup­port and con­fi­dence to pur­sue mu­sic,” he re­veals.

“Years after I left, I came back and found there wasn’t a mu­sic de­part­ment there any more.”

Drew, now re­leas­ing his first new mu­sic in five years, has become a mar­ried man and is now a proud fa­ther.

His suc­cess has brought per­sonal changes. He says he didn’t want the same trou­bled child­hood re­la­tion­ship he had with his own fa­ther be­tween him and his daugh­ter.

“I know what it’s like to have a void like that in your life,” he says. “I’m not go­ing to re­peat the cy­cle.

“Com­ing back to the busi­ness of mu­sic is hard be­cause tour­ing and pro­mot­ing an al­bum means less time with my fam­ily. On the other hand, I’m ex­cited to be re­leas­ing new mu­sic and to be per­form­ing live again.”

Drew also keeps a close con­nec­tion with his roots – help­ing to fund the mu­sic pro­gramme Each One Teach One (EOTO) – set up to step in when PRUS dis­ap­pear.

“We are in the dark ages when it comes to the psy­chol­ogy of how to deal with the is­sue of hard-tore­ach kids in our so­ci­ety,” he says.

“Year after year the prob­lem has been left to get worse, to the point where some kids in our so­ci­ety now think it’s OK to go around throw­ing acid at peo­ple.

“Then, when an or­gan­i­sa­tion like mine comes up with a vi­able so­lu­tion to tack­ling the prob­lem, there is no fi­nan­cial sup­port.

“This baf­fles me as we’ve proved that it works. Last year we had a 25% suc­cess rate in the num­ber of stu­dents be­ing en­rolled back into main­stream ed­u­ca­tion – un­prece­dented. Be­fore EOTO, it was 0%.

“I can only put this lack of sup­port down to so­ci­ety’s ap­a­thy and frus­tra­tion to­wards these kids. Peo­ple need to stop think­ing about these ac­tiv­i­ties as a re­ward and start think­ing about them as re­ha­bil­i­ta­tion.”

Sin­gle Heart­beat is out now. Forthcoming stu­dio al­bum, Heaven Be­fore All Hell Breaks Loose is out on April 13

‘I know what trou­bled fam­ily re­la­tion­ships are like... I won’t re­peat the cy­cle with my daugh­ter’

EX­CITED Ben is look­ing for­ward to per­form­ing live again

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