Simmy Richman: The Emperor's New Clothes (10/06/12)

Plan B is being hailed as the voice of his generation, spokesman for the dispossessed. But not by me...

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The Independent Online

Funny thing hype. One minute some scribe is proffering the idea that, say, Madonna is the "queen of pop", the next thing you know the phrase has been picked up by the artist's people and regurgitated as stone-cold fact across the many faces of the modern media.

And so it is with the notion – fast becoming accepted as gospel truth – that the singer/rapper/film director Plan B – real name Benjamin Paul Drew – is the voice of his generation, a Dylan of the disenfranchised, the Kerouac of the crack addict, the Strummer of the systemically downtrodden.

The evidence? His song and now film, Ill Manors, which purport to show the gritty truth of life on Britain's estates, and are a direct response to last summer's riots. Problem is, Plan B can't decide which side he's on. If he supports the rioters (as he appears to do in the song), he alienates his core Guardian-reader audience. If he comes out against (as he did in an editorial that claimed the rioters were damaging Britain), he loses all those hard-won battles for street credibility.

But it's this "voice of a generation" nonsense that jars even more than the delicate balancing act Plan B has to maintain between his own Ivor Novello-winning success and the authentic lives he purports to speak for. In the increasingly fragmented society we have fostered, of which element of his generation is Plan B supposedly the voice? The section that headed to the streets last summer with loaded weapons? Or those who went out the next day armed only with brooms to clear up the mess?

Revolution! He got his string section to wear balaclavas on the deeply cosy Later... with Jools Holland. Power to the people! He scattered a few unknowns through his directorial debut. Writing in The Huffington Post, Ronnie Joice concluded: "Plan B is... making a fool of the middle classes and those in the music industry and press who are desperate to be 'down with the kids'.... He's objectifying the working classes through a song that is going to make him rich."

Voice of a generation? If Plan B chooses that route, he may want to erase the "Justin Timberlake shit" (his words) he spent the Plan-A part of his career creating.