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NTU Sustainability in Enterprise

Interview: Plan B

2 February 07 interview: Jesse Keene

"People who criticise me think everyone should be put in boxes. People can't help hating on people when they have no real understanding"

The UK hip hop scene has had its share of ground-breaking artists over the years. Some have found a wider audience appeal with acts like Hijack, Roots Manuva, Blak Twang, Skitz, Rodney-P and Taskforce heading the forefront of the ever bubbling movement although none of these have ever really had a good crack at the mainstream. Now comes Plan B, an emcee/songwriter hailing out of Forest Gate London, combining his skill with the guitar along with storytelling and witty lyricism. Will his acoustic style gain him notoriety beyond the underground? We got in touch to find out more…

You’ve been described as inspiring empathy but also being humble in your approach. Do you feel that’s a fair comment?
I think it’s because I portray different characters a lot of the time, I do that to try and bring the focus away from me as a rapper. A lot of emcees are all about themselves, but I’m more about the art. I love hip hop and I love the art of telling stories, so I think in a way my personal life is sometimes detached from my songs. But on the other hand there are songs that are very personal to me and I think I let my ego show on those. It’s important to have that side of your persona just to get through life and give you confidence.

Tell us about your debut album Who Needs Actions When You Got Words…
I was working on this project for two years and when I first signed my record deal I’d never tried my hand at producing. I found that the people who I worked with in the early days didn’t give me the sound that I wanted, so I started to do the production myself. Then I was running into walls and obstacles as I did not have much experience with the equipment. Eventually I hooked up with Frazier T Smith who did production for a couple of Craig David’s tracks and he’s also Craig’s guitarist as well. I released my first 7” which Frazier produced and from there I met up with a guy called Paul Epworth who produced the Bloc Party album. I worked with him on the track No Good and then after about two years I realised I’d gained enough experience to do it myself. I would say around 70% of the album (maybe more) is my own production. Obviously it was hard as it was my first time at doing anything like this, so mixing the tracks and putting stuff together has been taking hours.

How has touring been, do you think it has helped your now established notoriety?
The tours help me. The more I do the tours the more people know about me. Because I did the record at the same time as the gigs it means the fans were ready for the album.

You’ve also played some mad functions, the one that stands out is last years NME awards. How did that come about?
I was just invited but I’m not sure why. I did a gig at The Garage that maybe a couple of peeps at the NME saw and after that they basically invited me to the show. It was daunting because you’re in a room full of celebrities like Teddy Sheringham and the guys from Spaced. You’ve grown up seeing all these people on telly and now you’re standing there with a guitar in a room full of them, ready to perform. It helped me a lot though; it got me a few extra gigs and opened the door to different opportunities in other fields so it’s all good…

You mentioned that the exposure has opened up a few different doors can you elaborate on that?
I’ve had a few, I would not call them offers as of yet, but I’ve been invited to some auditions for roles in films and stuff. Because I tell stories and really love films in general, I would like to get involved with that. Starting at the bottom would mean I would have to be a runner, which is not something that I’m prepared to do, but another way of me learning about how the industry works is to act in a film. So I’m all up for doing that as long as it’s the right role for me. I don’t really want to start off in a music film. That whole 8 Mile style has already been done and for me to do that would be too obvious. People are already making the Eminem comparison with me and I don’t want to make those claims more justified by doing a similar thing. I‘d rather do something that was more demanding and puts me in a completely different place from the hip hop scene I’m in….

Speaking of the Eminem comparison, I noticed on your MySpace that someone made a really crass comment about that. Do you get that a lot?
You get two types of haters. There are people who love Eminem so much that as soon as another white guy decides to makes hip hop they hate on you. Then you get these other people like this ignorant borderline racist who wrote that blog about me. Instead of listening to the lyrics of my music he just jumped on the fact that I’m influenced by a lot of things associated with black culture and tried to question me as a person from the way I talk. Cockney-rhyming slang was something invented by the Dockers down the East End so that the police would not know what they was talking about. That way of speech grew and became widespread throughout London, so much so that black and Asian people were talking like that as well because that was their environment. When I was at school I was surrounded by hip hop and me and my friends as white guys see no reason why we should not be able to use certain words. We say that because we see everyone as equal people and we see language as something that is always evolving. When I’m writing a rap and I find a word that can only rhyme with a word that is used in black slang then I’ll use it. The people who criticise me think that everyone should be put in boxes. People just can’t help hating on people when they have no real understanding or facts or of what you are doing or trying to achieve as an artist.

Plan B website

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