Like Eminem, the rapper whose example first gave him the impetus to start his own hip-hop career, Ben Drew has devised a second alter-ego to work alongside his Plan B character.
There, however, the comparisons end: Strickland Banks is a white soul singer who, in the song narrative The Defamation of Strickland Banks, achieves brief fame but is then framed for a crime he didn't commit and winds up in jail, where he wilts under the threats of violence, becomes a recluse and eventually kills a fellow inmate. Drew wants to film the story – a course he should be dissuaded from taking, since it's a very slim tale, overly freighted with repetitive proclamations of innocence and pleas for freedom. These are all delivered in Drew's thin, reedy take on the soulful falsettos of Smokey Robinson and Marvin Gaye, which unlike theirs grows less compelling, once the initial edge of vulnerability in "Hard Times" is past. The backings are mostly Motown-manqué stompers dressed in shivers of soul strings, but despite authentic touches like the way the bassline tiptoes around the groove of "Writing's on the Wall" in the manner of James Jamerson, they lack conviction, if you'll pardon the pun. An interesting diversion, but not much more.
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