Benjamin Paul Ballance-Drew (born 22 October 1983), primarily known as Plan B or Ben Drew, is an English rapper, singer-songwriter, actor and film director from Forest Gate, London. Plan B first emerged as a hip hop artist releasing his critically acclaimed debut album Who Needs Actions When You Got Words in 2006. His second studio album, The Defamation of Strickland Banks (2010), was a soul record and went straight to number one on the UK Albums Chart. He has also collaborated with other artists such as Chase & Status most notably on the top ten single "End Credits" (2009).
Drew has also had a successful film career as an actor, with roles in Adulthood (2008), Harry Brown (2009), 18.104.22.168 (2010) and The Sweeney (2012). In 2012 Drew released the film Ill Manors, which he wrote and directed, and Plan B also released an accompanying soundtrack album which became his second number one album.
Drew was born and brought up in Forest Gate, London. His mother worked for a local authority and his father, Paul Ballance, played in a punk band, the Warm Jets, in the 1970s. Drew was five months old when his father walked out and six years old when he "disappeared completely". Growing up, he felt outcast from much of society:
We weren't working class but we weren't middle class, we were in the void in-between. I've always felt like a social outcast.
--Plan B, The Telegraph (15 June 2006)
From 11, Drew attended Anglo European School in Ingatestone, Essex, was later transferred to Tom Hood School which is now Buxton School all through learning community, a specialist Science College in Leytonstone, before being expelled and sent to Tunmarsh Pupil Referral Unit in Newham, for children unable to attend mainstream school. He finally left school with three GCSEs. He taught himself how to play guitar at 14, first playing Blur and Oasis with friends, then going on to write his own R&B love songs. At 18, feeling uncomfortable with R&B, he turned towards rap and hip hop music and wrote "Kidz", inspired by the murder of Damilola Taylor
The whole reason for calling myself Plan B was that I was doing this sweet-boy Justin Timberlake shit, but I never felt comfortable... When I started rapping, it was easier for me to feel comfortable.
--Plan B, USA Today (15 March 2007)
Ben Drew has been dating longtime girlfriend Amy Atherton since 2006. His first child, a daughter, was born in 2013.
2005-2009: Early career and debut album:
Plan B first appeared with the track "Cap Back", produced by DJ Wonder (formerly of Roll Deep), on the grime compilation album Run the Road (2005). Also in 2005, he released his first single "Kidz"/"Dead and Buried" as a limited edition 7" vinyl on his own label Pet Cemetery Records. He soon gained a recording contract with 679 Recordings and released his second double A-side single "Sick 2 Def"/"No Good" with his début music video filmed for "No Good".
In early 2006, Plan B released a video-only download single for "Missing Links", which had to be re-recorded because he did not gain sample permission from Radiohead for the use of "Pyramid Song", and also released his first mixtape It's Time 4 Plan B in the May 2006 issue of Hip Hop Connection magazine. On 23 June 2006 Plan B made his first television appearance on Later... with Jools Holland performing an acoustic version of "Mama (Loves a Crackhead)". His début album Who Needs Actions When You Got Words, recorded with producers such as Paul Epworth, Fraser T Smith and the Earlies, was released 26 June 2006 and charted the following week at number thirty on the UK Albums Chart. The album gained positive reviews from most critics, including a five-star review from The Guardian's Alex Petridis. In July 2006, "Mama (Loves a Crackhead)" was released as a single which became the first Plan B song to appear on the UK Singles Chart, peaking at number forty one. In 2006, Paul Epworth and Plan B collaborated again on the track "More Is Enough" by Epic Man (Paul Epworth).
After touring throughout 2006 and playing at festivals such as Reading and Leeds, a music video was filmed for "No More Eatin'" and Plan B released Live at The Pet Cemetery EP on 30 October 2006 (with a new version of "No More Eatin'" and two b-sides). On 11 December 2006 he released Remixes EP (which included the Hadouken! remix of "No More Eatin'"). During his January-February 2007 tour (which included support from Professor Green, Example, Killa Kela and Hadouken!), Plan B released his second mixtape Paint It Blacker containing bootleg recordings of songs by artists such as the Rolling Stones, Nirvana, Radiohead, Coldplay, Leonard Cohen and José González with producers Sem, Beni G from the Mixologists and Amir Amor. In 2007, Plan B re-released his song "No Good" with new remixes and a music video was filmed for the b-side "Bizness Woman" (featuring beatboxer Kila Kella). Also in 2007, Plan B featured on songs by other artists such as Professor Green, Killa Kela, Skrein, Shameless and the Mitchell Brothers.
With a supporting role in the film Adulthood (2008), Plan B recorded three songs for the film's soundtrack - "End in the Streets", "On It 08" with Adam Deacon and "I Need Love" featuring Jacob Anderson. Plan B also featured on the Chase & Status single "Pieces", which topped the UK Dance Chart in 2008 and peaked at number seventy on the UK Singles Chart. In 2009, Plan B recorded "Shifty" with Riz MC and Sway. The single was taken from the soundtrack to Eran Creevy's film Shifty (2009) starring Riz Ahmed (Riz MC) and Daniel Mays. Also in 2009, Plan B played Noel Winters in Harry Brown and achieved his first Top ten hit single with "End Credits", another collaboration with Chase & Status which was used in the soundtrack for Harry Brown. "
2009-present: Strickland Banks era and Ill Manors:
Plan B's second album and film The Defamation of Strickland Banks was released on 12 April 2010. The lead single from the album, "Stay Too Long" reached number nine on the UK Singles Chart.
He supported Noel Gallagher at the second night of his solo gigs at the Royal Albert Hall on 26 March 2010, and played in Bangor at the Radio 1 Big Weekend on 23 May 2010 on the New Music We Trust stage.
The new album, called The Ballad of Belmarsh, is a hip-hop laden "series of events" that depicts the story of Plan B's alter-ego, Strickland Banks. He has said that he recognises the fact that the upcoming hip-hop album will probably not have the same appeal or be as successful as his previous soul album, which has sold over 500,000 copies, which he is OK with.
"I know The Ballad of Belmarsh is not going to work commercially, I know radio ain't going to play it but I'm still going to put it out there because I love it. It's a piece of art.", he said. "It's probably going to sell about 100,000 copies - no more. But I'm cool with that."
He performed a duet of "I Guess That's Why They Call It the Blues" with Elton John as part of Elton's BBC Electric Proms performance at the Roundhouse in London in October 2010. On 16 February 2011, Drew won Best British Male at the Brit Awards.
The next single from The Defamation of Strickland Banks is "Love Goes Down". Official music video featuring Andy Crane, Paul Young, Abbey M. Butler, Vicky McClure and Kaya Scodelario had its own premiere on 16 November 2010.
In March 2012, he released the single and video for "Ill Manors", a song (sampled from Peter Fox's "Alles Neu") which deals with the 2011 London Riots and which has been described by the Guardian as "the first great mainstream protest song in years". A soundtrack album and film of the same name (Drew's first as both writer and director) were released in June 2012. It was followed by three more album singles, "Lost My Way", "Deepest Shame" and "Playing with Fire".
Drew produced "Pray for Love" by Kwabs, released on 6 May 2014.
After previously appearing in Iain Forsyth and Jane Pollard's short film Walking After Acconci (Redirected Approaches) in 2005, Ben Drew's first major film role was as a supporting character (Dabs) in Noel Clarke's Adulthood (2008). His song "Kidz" was previously included in the soundtrack to Kidulthood (2006) which led to Drew being cast in the sequel.
In 2009, Drew had another supporting role as Noel Winters in the Daniel Barber film Harry Brown starring Michael Caine. In 2010, Drew appeared in Noel Clarke's film 22.214.171.124,. Drew's most recent acting actively has been co-starring in The Sweeney based on the '70s UK TV show of the same name alongside Ray Winstone, playing the role of George Carter. The film was released on 12 September 2012 and went straight in at number 1 in the box office charts.
Earlier in his music career, Drew expressed an interest in working in film. In an interview about Who Needs Actions When You Got Words, he said: "We're still promoting this album and I've started work on the next one, but I'm really getting into film at the moment. I'm writing this script, and I really want to find some time to focus on it, I really feel that's what I'm destined to be doing".
In 2008, Ben Drew directed his first short film Michelle which starred Adam Deacon and Skrein and he also directed the music video for "Pieces" (his collaboration with Chase & Status).
Drew began production on his first full-length feature film, Ill Manors in September 2010. Speaking in March 2010 to UK soul-writer Pete Lewis - Deputy Editor of the award-winning Blues & Soul - Drew expanded on his first full-length feature film 'Ill Manors': "It's a hip hop, music-based feature film which has six short stories that all kinda mix together to make one BIG story - and each mini-story will be represented by a different hip hop track. It'll all be narrated by me, and it'll actually be the reverse of 'The Defamation Of Strickland Banks' - in that with 'Ill Manors', the film will come out first and the soundtrack will come afterwards. And again the soundtrack will be a film for the blind, in that you'll be able to listen to it and it'll tell you the story of the film."
In June 2011, Hewlett-Packard signed up Plan B as part of their advertising campaign for its laptops featuring Beats Audio, using a short film exclusive to UK cinemas, showing Plan B with his band in a recording studio de-constructing the song "She Said", which had been a UK chart success a year earlier. Subsequently, in its 24 June issue, the British satirical magazine Private Eye made reference to the ad in its Ad Nauseam column and voiced the magazine's view that Plan B's involvement in the commercial seemed to be at odds with his comments at the Ivor Novello Awards regarding music promotion and criticising what "...has to go on in order to get your music to get played to the masses." in reference to Plan B's own US stage tour just prior to the awards.
In July 2011 Bulmer's cider announced that they had signed up Plan B to help sell their product. An advertisement for the cider was later released depicting a live performance by him.