Plan B to return to Hip Hop for his third album

The British rapper turned soul singer Benjamin Paul Ballance-Drew, born in October 1983  is better known as Ben Drew aka Plan B.  He released his critically acclaimed debut Hip Hop album, Who Needs Actions When You Got Words in 2006. But it was his second album, The Defamation of Strickland Banks, a concept soul album, that has propelled Plan B to the commercial success and accolades he is now receiving.

The Defamation of Strickland Banks told the story of fictional soul singer Strickland Banks who ends up in prison for a crime he didn’t commit. For his next album, The Ballad Of Belmarsh, Ben Drew will go back to his Hip Hop roots and will chronicle his alter-ego’s ordeal in the eponymous prison.

Plan B is not just a musician and has tried his hand at acting appearing in 2008′s Adulthood and the Michael Caine vehicle featuring Harry Brown in 2009. He is currently amidst a popular tour of the summer festivals including Glastonbury and Wireless Festival in Hyde Park. But in the Autumn he will return to acting when he plays George Carter alongside Ray Winston in a remake of the 1970’s British film, The Sweeney.

He has also directed one short film and a music video for Pieces, his collaboration with Chase and Status.

Hear the music the way the artist with HP. In the video below, HP/Intel with beats audio presents Plan B who reveals the process behind recording She Said, the standout track from his Defamation Of Strickland Banks album.  The film uses 3D sound and is best enjoyed with headphones.

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Stanley Odd release new EP ‘Pure AntiHero Material’ + video ‘The Oddyssey’

A successful 2010 for Stanley Odd saw the six piece Scottish hip hop band release their debut album Oddio, headline the 2009 to 2010 Edinburgh Hogmanay Street Party to 15,000 people and play the T Break Stage at the T Festival to a capacity audience.

To kick off 2011 Stanley Odd have released their wonderful brand new five track EP Pure AntiHero Material, the first of three such extended plays scheduled for release through the rest of the year.

Rap man Solareye said; “We are really excited about the release of the new EP. Doing three EPs over the year means that every new EP is a way of letting fans know where we’re at and what’s been going on with us since the last one. At the end of the year, the 3 separate EPs will make one complete collection on the musings of Stanley Odd through 2011. It also gives us an excuse to go on tour 3 times this year!”

The lead track, The Oddyssey is an update on personal and global news events over the last year, that has a brilliant accompanying video where front man Solareye plays the part of  a news reader.

It can be a strain to make out the lyrics for anyone south of the border, but it is worth taken the effort, the songs reflect the social observations of the band, blessed with wit and a character all of their own, but the stories they tell are universal and will resonate with everyone.

The added beauty of Veronika Elektronika’s wonderful vocal breaks thrown into the mix on most of these tracks, makes the EP all the more palatable and well worth seeking out.

Stanley Odd – The Oddyssey

httpv://www.youtube.com/watch?v=1uLPR7POznw

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Classic Albums – Ill Communication by Beastie Boys (1994)

The Beastie Boys burst onto the UK music scene with their 1986 hit single, (You Gotta) Fight For Your Right (To Party).  The single was a commercial hit on both sides of the Atlantic and their debut album Licensed To Ill was released later the same year to critical acclaim.

The album sat firmly in the hip hop camp but the Beastie Boys had started life in 1981 as a hardcore punk thrash band.  The original line-up included Adam Yauch (MCA) and Michael Diamond (Mike D), along with John Berry and Kate Schellenbach (who later became a member of Luscious Jackson).  They supported the likes of Bad Brains and Dead Kennedys and released a debut EP Pollywog Stew.  But in 1983 John Berry had left to be replaced by Adam Horovitz (Ad-Rock) and they released a second EP, Cooky Puss which saw the band change music direction from thrash punk to an experimental punk hip-hop.

Following License To Ill they released the critically acclaimed second album Paul’s Boutique (1988) though the album wasn’t as commerciallyl successful as their debut and with no hit singles from either this or their third album, Check Your Head (1992) any mention of the Beastie Boys and most people would remember three young arrogant American brats in a video for Fight For Your Right wearing baseball caps with VW signs hanging around their necks.

The Beastie Boys third album, Ill Communication was released in 1994.  Before hearing the album I remember watching an amazing performance at Glastonbury in the pouring rain to a small but dedicated crowd.  The TV performance started with the opening track from the album, Sure Shot. A great groove complete with a flute loop and MCA, Ad-Rock & Mike D taking turns rapping; a great opening track that has all the power of their earlier hip hop complimented by a maturity in both sound and delivery.

httpv://www.youtube.com/watch?v=JhqyZeUlE8U&feature=related

But what makes Ill Communication a classic album is its depth and scope of music.  Without a breath-taking gap between tracks, as Sure Shot fades the opening thrash guitar of Tough Guy bursts from the speakers. Beastie Boys not only return to their punk thrash roots but they play it as well as they play hip hop! And less than one minute later we swiftly move onto the third track, B-Boys Makin With The Freak Freak (“Shit, if this is gonna be that kinda party, I’m gonna stick my dick in the mash potato!”) a dub infested jazz grooving hip hop tune with distorted rapping giving the track a garage feel.

Bobo On The Corner is a percussion-heavy funky instrumental. Four tracks into Ill Communication and the listener has been pulled every which way through an audible jungle of sounds including rap, hip hop, jazz, funk and punk hardcore thrash. And the reason it works is that every musical direction I am pulled, the Beastie Boys nail perfectly.  I don’t know of any other album that does this so well.

Root Down offers more funky jazz complete with Hammond organ, and all this is followed by the awesome Sabotage which has the three Beasties playing guitar, bass and drums and merging hard throbbing rock with DJ scratching to deliver what is possibly their most perfect track to this day.

Get It Together is a welcome relief from the heavy vibe of Sabotage and takes us back to square one with another funky beat and the three rapping over a more traditional sounding hip hop track.

While other hip hop artists were busy sampling ‘genre standards’ like James Brown grooves and Led Zeppelin beats the Beastie Boys have always shown the scope of their influences.  Here they use the likes of Jimmy Smith, Kurtis Blow, Lee Scratch Perry, Doug E Fresh and The World Famous Supreme Team.

And there’s more… the instrumental Sabrosa with its lazy funky Latin style, the return of hardcore thrash with Heart Attack Man and another groovy beat and flute loop in a similar vein to Sure Shot, with the wonderful yet short and sweet, Flute Loop.

The album jumps all over the place with so many genres and styles that it’s hard to understand why it works.  But the reason it does is down to the sincerity and perfection of the Beastie Boys; and if not for any other reason, that alone in my opinion is enough to consider Ill Communication as a classic album.  An album that sees the Beastie Boys, in many ways one of the most underrated groups of all time, at the peak of their powers.

Ill Communication has 20 songs that stand alone as great tracks and collectively become a pick-n-mix assortment worthy of any Woolworth’s sweet counter.

And if that’s not enough, Spike Jonz directed one of the best music promo videos ever for the single, Sabotage.

httpv://www.youtube.com/watch?v=z5rRZdiu1UE

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Matisyahu, returns with powerful new album, Light

Back in 2006 with the release of his Youth album the world discovered the sound of Matisyahu a Hasidic Jewish musician living in New York writing and singing his own reggae songs about his religious devotion.

This week sees the release of the latest album from Matisyahu,  Light,his first full length for three years.  Featuring the excellent single One Day, already a wonderful reggae anthem, the album takes the listener on a journey through a variety of musical genres  from reggae to dancehall, ska-inflected new wave, pop rock and acoustic folk.

While One Day is a stand out radio sensitive track, it also fits nicely into this powerful collection of songs. A deep and meaningful songwriter, Matisyahu is also a master of writing catchy melodies and infectious beats selling his heavier messages in lighter very acceptable bite size pieces.

The album content is about as diverse as it is possible to get from ballad to ballsy rock, R&B, pop and everything in between including of course some top reggae and ska-inflected tracks.

R&B star Akon is featured on the bonus remixed version of One Day, the final track on what is a remarkable album of strong songs, intricately produced with a message of peace, hope & understanding in a style that could only be Matisyahu.

Matisyahu – One Day

httpv://www.youtube.com/watch?v=52KmT1fN_ak

Dour Festival: 15th, 16th, 17th, 18th July

Dour Festival 15, 16, 17th, 18th July

Dour Festival 2010

Dour Festival in southern Belgium has released its full line-up! This excellent festival for fans of alternative music in whatever genre you can think of has 200 bands over 4 days on 6 stages and music from 12am to 5am.

Recently awarded the prize for the best medium-sized European festival, the line-up this year really reflects its stock as one of the leading European festivals.

Band to particularly look out for include Faith No More’s reformation, De La Soul & Rhythm Roots All Stars, Simian Mobile Disco, Gwar, A-Track, Calvin Harris, The Maccabees, The Futureheads, Dave Clarke, Benga feat. Sgt Pokes, Skream, Archie Bronson Outift, Spoon, The Raveonettes, Devendra Banhart, Paul Kalkbrenner, Atari Teenage Riot Gui Boratto, Dan le Sac vs. Scroobius Pip, Etienne de Crécy (Beats’n’Cubes), Brother Ali feat. Bk 1, Mayer Hawthorne, Third Wold, Mr. Vegas, DevilDriver, Shining, Fucked Up, The Very Best, Dum Dum Girls… the list goes on and on, so have a look here for more info.

Travel to Dour is easy either with Big Green Coach from London, to nearby airports or by Eurostar to Brussels or Lille, and for the price of the ticket (€93 + €17 camping) for 4 days of live music, even with travel it’s a bargain compared to UK festivals.

For those who don’t know the festival, Dour is in the French speaking part of Belgium. It is a very European, broad and open-minded festival that welcomes not only different nationalities, but a broad palette of different musical styles.  It has a capacity of roughly 40,000 people a day so is very humane in its size when spread over the six stages.

Here is the Dour Festival site.

Here is the Dour Festival Facebook group.

Here is the Dour Festival Twitter feed.

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