Tuesday, March 13, 2012

There's no such thing as broken Britain, we're just bloody broke in Britain.

If you do one thing today, listen to Plan B's latest track, ill MANORS:


The track opens with him sarcastically broken a violin, metaphorically symbolising the stream of sob stories - how the Conservative/Lib Dem coalition percieve the impoverished in Britain, most probably. Indeed, such was the media coverage of the Summer riots starting in London last Summer, that fingers were all being pointed at the perpetrators. Not a word of doubt, they were wrong to loot. But Plan B implores us to look at the other side of the coin too:

The world, and this country especially, is full of contradictions. I’m just highlighting them, I’m not condoning anything. The point being made in my song ‘ill Manors’ is that society needs to take some responsibility for the cause of last year's riots, why they happened and how we can prevent it from happening again.
Britain is currently in austere times, and any proposed tax cuts and tiny amounts of spending are all too small to even make a drop in the ocean. Households have cut back on expenses, but in a recession as deep as this, even that isn't enough. So for the poorest, some simply have no option but to dodge certain rules. It's the law of the jungle, kill or be killed.  It is this kind of mentality that dictated much of the behaviour in the riots, "if you can get away with it, why not?" Adult travel tickets have been inflated ridiculously, yet I don't see an increase in my pay to match it, so why should I pay adult ticket prices? Sorry, but it's the recession and when I can afford to have scruples, I'll have scruples. And that is how I regard the riots, shallow opportunism for some, undoubtably. But for others, a desperate sign of doing what they can to survive.

The song is unashamedly unpolished, with hollers of "oi" that provide the beat in a way the hollering in Kanye West's Power did. And indeed, ill MANORS (a clever play on the word "manors", as chavs are notorious for their reputation of having ill manners as well as living in council estates, ill manors, there's your wordplay), to me, kind of plays like a British version of Kanye's Power. Both have social commentary to the max, as well as some wonderful punnery (in Power, the creme de la creme was "they said I was the abomination of Obama's nation", whereas in ill MANORS the highlight is "let's go looting, no not Luton, the highstreet's closer.") Furthermore, where Kanye alluded to various pop culture highlights ("lost in translation with a whole fuckin' nation"), Plan B reflects on the dire state of the capital by cannily namedropping other songs ("London's burning, I predict a riot" he raps jauntily in one verse).

Musically, too, it's a treat. Like with Plan B's previous hit She Said, strings feature prominently in a catchy riff that features a stream of ominous tremlos, capped off with short, staccato jabs. The arguably "classy" beat is juxtaposed with the RnB beat as well as Plan B's knowingly bolshy delivery. Some of the rhymes are hilarious in their colourful flavour, "Oh shit too late that was kinda dumb, whose idea was that stupid...", with the last word left to our imagination. In line with many of his previous songs, some of his lyrics work on both a figurative and a literal level, as he raps, "fuel the fire and let it burn," talking of the fires set by yobs in the London riots, obviously, but also of the government and the British Meeja's constant agenda against said yobs.  It is a hateful fight being fought where both parties are as angry and as dangerous as each other, albeit in different ways.

Plan B has given some of my favourite songs, including the life-affirming What Ya Gonna Do and one of my favourite break-up songs, Writing's on the Wall. His songs strike the perfect balance between witty banter, a catchy beat as well as life experience translated into lyrics. But previously, when his songs drew on his experiences of the trials and tribulations of life, Plan B this time sings/raps of something even closer to home, that is, social injustice. The music video makes his withering opinion of David Cameron's pretentious empty posturing clear ("We got an Eco-friendly government, they preserve our natural habitat, built an entire Olympic villagearound where we live without pulling down any flats", he remarks sardonically, and in the music video it features the figurines Clegg/Cameron on a wedding cake, with their unholy matrimony being shitted on, quite literally, in the next scene, when a dog poos out the model figures. Genius, again), and the setting of the Summer lootings could not make this song any more relevant.

One last note: on about the tenth listening of this song, I realised something else that ill MANORS reminded me of: Mary Shelley's Frankenstein, and the underlying question of Who is the real monster? Is it the chavvy youths who commit crime because they're bored, can't get jobs and need money for booze? Or is it the government and the media, who fuel the fires of such common misconceptions, adding to the self-fulfilling nature of these youths, as well as the middle and upper classes, who look down on these people, regarding them as the so-called "scum of the earth", further creating us & them fractions?  Plan B has more to say about Britain in under four minutes than David Cameron has since he has been elected.
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