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Plan B

It’s been six years since Ben Drews, aka Plan B, last album. The singer and director, who has ratcheted up a stack of awards and acclaim for Who Needs Actions When You Got Words, The Defamation of Strickland Banks and Ill Manors, has been taking something of an extended period of parental leave.

“I’ve been away for a long time, much longer than I have ever been between albums. And there was a real reason for that. I entered into fatherhood and I wanted to do things differently to how my dad did. My dad wasn’t around and I don’t want to repeat that pattern.”

Ben, now 34, became a father in 2013. It is this journey that he writes about on his new album, Heaven Before All Hell Breaks Loose.

His song, Grateful, reflects his thoughts on fatherhood. “I didn’t truly understand what grateful meant until my daughter was born. Everything I need to say about that is in the song.” But the album also features the sorts of political and social commentary that he is known for. “A lot has happened in the world and particularly this country,” he says. “There are at least three politically-charged songs on there.”

So are we to expect the rapping Plan B or the smooth soulful vocals, or a mix of both as he combined on hit tracks such as She Said? “There are lots of different flavours on the album so if people don’t like one song, there is hopefully something else for them to get into. It is a cross pollination of different genres,” he says.

Ben is excited to be playing his new material live on tour, which includes Sandown Park in July. “It’s been a long time coming and I can’t wait to get back out there. I will be playing the new stuff as well as the ones that people expect to hear. It’s good to have new material to add to the crowd-pleasers.”

Given his often political songs, what would Ben do if he were prime minister? Education, he answers vehemently. It is a cause close to his heart, having had a rocky education himself which ended in him being expelled.

He wants to encourage those that society has deemed beyond redemption back into the system. “Some kids don’t respond well to academic subjects, and there is a reason like something has happened in their home environment which makes it impossible for them to learn at school. They think it will be easier if they got kicked out of class and they make sure they do. They then become a problem and get passed on from person to person to deal with until they get stuck in a pupil referral unit. Society forgets about them.”

“But they become the problem within society: the gang leader, the drug dealer, they follow that path. If you want to reduce crime, it is about education and how we educate. We have to introduce more vocational subjects in order to engage and you have to educate society about why people are like they are.”

To this end, Ben set up a charity, Each One Teach One, in east London. But it has been difficult to get support, in spite of its success stories. “We have had 25 per cent of kids re-enrolling back into mainstream education. And that is just one school. If we can do it across schools up and down the country, you would see big changes in local communities in terms of crime.”

“But it seems that society doesn’t care about these kinds of kids. It is difficult to change perceptions.”

Given how Ben turned his own life around, such perceptions are being challenged.

Catch Plan B at Sandown Park, Esher, on 25 July, along with an evening of racing