Straight outta East London comes Ben "Plan B" Drew, strewing acclaim behind him -- the British Eminem, a rapping Arctic Monkeys, even Kurt Cobain has been invoked in his name. But those comparisons lack imagination: how about a modern-day Linton Kwesi Johnson, but without a decent edu-kashun, and forced to fall back on his wits? With the same gleaning eye for detail, a similar rage against a society which shuts him out, and an equal eloquence of rhyme, albeit expletive-laced on Plan B's account, he strips away England's polite facade to expose the ugliness at its core. Times have changed, though, so where Johnson used broad strokes to paint the political and social currents of his day, Plan B utilizes the small brush of the individual to draw his dystopian world. He does this brilliantly on the opening "Kidz," balancing a boasting gang-banger wilding night out with a scathing condemnatory editorial. But can you blame it all on the kids? "Sick 2 Def" definitively answers that question, as Plan B slams his own critics, whilst taking aim at pop culture and society's own flaws. It's a lethal number, but the rapper is even more illuminating when describing daily life in the 'hood. "Dead and Buried" sums it up, as his protagonists' wrong turns invariably trap them in insolvable, ofttimes fatal dilemmas. "Everyday" delves into a junkie's battle with drugs, "No More Eatin'" a boy's failed struggle against violence, while "Tough Love" depicts an honor killing. The infectious "Where Ya From?" is an anti-paean to his hometown, an ironic antidote to all the big-ups to my 'hood from the American rappers. And unlike Eminem's well-publicized battle with his mother, it's his father that Plan B disdains, coldly expressed on "I Don't Hate You," while his mother elicits tender concern on "Mama (Loves a Crackhead)." That latter track features an inspired sample of Hall & Oates "Say No," Gary Puckett & the Union Gap's "Young Girl" gives forewarning of "Charmaine," while a particularly clever use of a sample from Prodigy's "No Good (Start the Party)" underpins "No Good." That song is a plausible gangsta motto, the anthemic title track reflects Plan B's more mature ethos. Eschewing stripped down to the breakbeats backings, the set is flush with melody, heady atmospheres, and vocals, all counter-pointing Plan B's tough as nails toasts. A magnificent album from a poet for a modern generation.
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AllMusic Review by Jo-Ann Greene