There’s a rough and open echo on the drum track. A crude sample rattling around the speakers.
“Yo! A bit more mic in my headphones please, ‘cos I’m about to tear this shit up”
Then the most “English” hip hop track in a generation bursts fourth.
The first verse of Plan B’s break through single No Good hit me like a left hook. All that “Stab you in your eye yo, wiv a biro, fuckin’ wino, archetypal, Ben like Nigel” business had me reeling. Not just because it was dexterous flow, but it was crudely produced, street talk (the way I knew it) type hip hop.
Ben Drew used the same vernacular as my mates. He sounded like the guys you hear in nightclubs and at the sort of nights where you thought it might all get a bit tasty. How a drum loop and an acoustic guitar could sound so intensely urban and modern was vexing and exciting.
“Fuck the Isle of Wight I could never live the quite life, I’m too used to drunken nights that end in fights and ultraviolet lights, So pass me a glass of ice and fill it up with liquor, Make sure you make it a double so I get drunk quicker, Only drink spirits, don’t give a fuck about my liver, the only reason I don’t drink pints is I’m tryin’ to watch my figure”
The title of the album Who Needs Action When You Got Words was pure grunge. A Cobain refrain from one of their Meat Puppets covers on the Unplugged album. The hook, a mellow busker sung section from a song made famous in a Prodigy sample. The lyrics totally real and with all the rough edges left on.
This record was like a shot of the hard stuff back in the day.