Tuesday, 20 March 2012

The Protest Song of Our Generation: Plan B, Ill Manors

"...there's no such thing as Broken Britain, we're just bloody broke in Britain"

With the coalition government's budget set to drop tomorrow, amidst rumours that (surprise, surprise) the 1% of society that fall under the bracket of the term 'super-wealthy' will benefit greatly from a tax relief, now is a good time to comment on a video that was released last week.  

When Plan B debuted the video for his sure to be hit single, and our 'Choon of the Week', Ill Manors, everybody from political commentators to Labour party MP's felt the need to praise what is quickly becoming the best protest song in a generation.  Labour MP Jamie Reed tweeted that the song was 'excellent', whilst Channel 4's Economics correspondent Faisal Islam called it 'fantastic' and retweeted the songs key message.  

So why all the fuss about the song?  Well it is the first time a mainstream British artist has spoken so candidly, and explicitly, about last summer's riots.  The song itself sounds like a riot - and the brilliant video, directed by Top Boy director Yann Demange, intersperses news footage of the riots with acted out scenes of youth violence and street crime.  It's all made so believable since one can imagine Plan B himself, were he not blessed with the luck of making it musically, being one of those kids rioting in the streets last summer.  The rapper, who was kicked out of multiple schools as a teenager, admits to this himself.

For what is an overtly political song and message, government figures only appear in a few brief moments.  The main anger of the song is directed towards the media and their constant demonisation of an entire class of people that ultimately results in the type of scenes we saw last year.  As Plan B stated in an interview with Radio 1:

"When you attack someone because of the way they talk, the way they dress, the music they listen to, or their lack of education, and you do it publicly and it's acceptable to do that, you make them feel alienated. They don't feel like a part of society … For every person who uses the word chav there is a less educated person ready to embrace it. They say, well, look, I'm never going to change the way you think of me so actually I'm going to play up to it and fuel the fire. In essence that's what Ill Manors is about."

This is an important message - one that was briefly discussed in the aftermath of the riots but quickly forgotten and neglected as the government piled more austerity on the public.  So whilst we complain tomorrow about the prices of petrol remaining high, child benefit being cut and alcohol prices rising, let's spare a thought about the so-called inhabitants of what David Cameron called 'Broken Britain', because the more they get neglected, the more they get demonised, and the more messages like Plan B's get ignored, we continue to sleep our way to another riot.  

Listen to Plan B's Radio 1xtra interview below:

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