Plan B - Manchester Academy 3 - 19.7.06

The rasping brutally honest lyrics are enough to set him apart from the romantic outlook of the Albion by Mike Skinner yet that doesn't make Plan B the British answer to Eminem. A unique voice in hip-hop the nearest comparisons Plan B has is with Necro and Non Phixion, although B's world is one of stark reality rather than horror-core porn fantasy worlds, if Necro is Lockstock & Two Smoking Barrells then Plan B is the reality of Trainspotting with only slight traces of humour to get you through the bleak tale ahead of us.

While lesser critics are trying to pigeon hole him into the role of king of grindie and the rapper that samples Radiohead alongside Roots Manuva the crowd tonight speaks volumes about who Plan B is really trying to reach out to and these certainly aren't the people that have read about Plan B in Guardian pullout supplements or are here for some ironic hip-hop ala Goldie Lookin Chain. It's more than likely that these are the kids that have lived through the tales that Plan B twists and rhymes about and for some they're still going through and learning and stumbling their way through life.

With no official support Plan B sets himself apart from the rest of the Britpack and rightly so because lyrically Plan B isn't just speaking out to the people of the East End, Longsight or the Midlands as these tales of crack addict stepfathers, underage sex and friends being shot could quite easily be New York, Paris or Berlin. What is uniquely British is the lyrical flow rather than the lyrical subjects. From the opening harsh reality of "Kids" Plan B starts on a non-stop assault of the senses and while at sometimes there's a light-hearted laugh at a lyrical couplet there's a cold atmosphere that is the musical equivalent of acclaimed arthouse "La Haine", never before has an artist summed up the trial of inner-city living so succinctly.

Barely an hour goes by and Plan B's set comes to an end. It's almost not enough but during the 60 minutes the choice cuts from the album have been revealed with "Mama" and "Charmaine" thrown away in the first 10 minutes. Pulling apart each song with it's intro he goes at lengths to explain when and why he wrote this song and by the end of the show there's a positivity that if one person can escape than so can we all, although he's not so crass to mention this on stage.

Plan B is without a doubt the most important person in UK Hip-Hop right now and while The Streets have achieved a certain level of success stateside there's every chance that Plan B could go all the way without compromise

Alex McCann
Photos: Shirlaine Forrest

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