British rapper, singer-songwriter, actor and film director Plan B talks about being Hackney Ambassador and the real meaning of being a Chav.
So you will be an ambassador for Hackney Academy, How does that feel?
I feel I’m at the stage now where I feel confident enough to go and be round young people and teach them something that’s going to have a positive effect in their lives. I think that before now I always felt like that I hadn’t reached that point where trying to teach someone younger than me could actually have a positive effect on them.
Last year you said that you didn’t see yourself as a role model for people that didn’t know you well, explain?
It’s not that, I just think I’m like education X like I will tell kids the truth about drugs and about sex. For someone who has had a sheltered up bringing I’m probably a bad role model for them. For kids who have been desensitised to a lot of shit who just have really bad family environment, you know with no restrictions on the stuff they are watching the internet and films they are watching I think I’m a good role model. I haven’t felt till now that I was at a place as a man that I could come to a young person’s life and give them the right advice. I felt that I still had a few insecurities and a few issues that I needed to work out before I start giving a young person advice on how they should live out their life.
So I’ve been influenced by lots of different cultures especially black culture. So when I was growing up yeah I was called a wigger by other racist white people.
What changed your attitude?
Success, achieving the things that I wanted to achieve gave me a lot more confidence and made me love myself a lot more.
Have you gone back to your old school yet Plan B?
Yeah I went there yesterday, I went back it was weird because some things haven’t changed and some things have. I’m just reserving judgment on it, in 12 years I think there may have been a few really positive things that have changed and lost and but there definitely some positive changes. The fact that the kids get hot food for lunch, we never used to get that; we used to have cold sandwiches. The music room has been reduced in size now because the guy who used to run it isn’t there anymore. The problem is it relies on individuals that really care about these kids. It is that education x stuff where certain individuals will just have a way with kids and a way with other human beings. There is no rule book when you are coming cross kids with complex behaviour problems. Every kid is different you know, so there is not one way of treating these kids. You kind of have to have a gift to be able to deal with so many different individuals on a daily basis.
I think when I was there it is still the same case, still kind of works on the same basis. Which is taking kids that have been kicked out of school and giving them one to one learning. I think that maybe because a lot of the teachers when I was there have gone certain things have changed. I really think the music especially for me benefited me like massively like a great deal. I feel that this is kind of missing now but hopefully I want to in still that. I want to be there with them from the 1st June. I think they all love music they all really respond to it I thinks that is going to be the best way to get some positivity out of these young characters.
Did you have the chance when you were younger to be a part of a big festival coming to your borough like this academy? Do you think you would have taken this on?
No I never had something as big as this, I had something similar like I used to work with these young charities and we’d write a song and then we had to perform it at Camden Palace which is now called Koko . So I think the course is 3 to 4 weeks long a bunch of young people meet up and then they put us in groups. Then we’d write songs and record it and then we had to perform it at a day time rave, for me I was like wow I’ve got to step up. That is what I’m going to be telling them every day when they’re slacking. When they’re working hard I’m going to say you‘re going to be up on that stage.
How much time are you dedicating?
As much as I can, I’m trying to finish off my record so you know as much as I can. If I need to do one to one learning with some of the kids I need to, if they got school phobia they won’t come into school I’m going to try and see them at their house, I’m fully fully in.
Did you take the name Plan B from the Dexys Midnight Runners album? There’s a soul track on that called Plan B.
Nah, I didn’t my name is Ben and when I was a kid in school I was forever changing my emcee name. I had a 100 different studio names, every week my friends had to call me by a different name. People always called me ‘B’ short for Ben I wanted a name that had B in it. When I had started writing songs like love songs I kind of completely flipped it over by writing aggressive rap you know and I thought ‘Plan B’ was a good name. When I go to America I tell them I was named after the morning after pill, it’s a joke but they don’t get it. The morning after pill in America is called Plan b. So I’ve been influenced by lots of different cultures especially black culture. So when I was growing up yeah I was called a wigger by other racist white people.
I listened to an interview on the web the other night you started to slip into a sort of south western accent which was amusing because someone had wrote and put a comment on that you were being a wigger.
Well you know what one of the questions today was what do the kids have to face? A lot of the kids from these type of areas have to face this type of prejudice. You know I’m a white kid brought up in the most multicultural borough in not just Britain but I think in one of the most multicultural places in the world, Newham. So I’ve been influenced by lots of different cultures especially black culture. So when I was growing up yeah I was called a wigger by other racist white people. That is something that I had to deal with, so if I’ve got to deal with that could you imagine what Black and Asian kids have to deal with living within this society. You know they go through the educational system then having to integrate into society being the people they are and having to make a way for themselves.
Has that aspect improved?
I don’t know,
When you got stuck in this video you were throwing this word about Chav that really annoys me?
I just think it is a word that has been used to say you’ve got less money than me, I had a better education than you, I’ve got a solid family background that loves me, they look after me and you’re a fucking Chav!
As if middle class people haven’t got enough insult from working class people, why?
In the end it’s just a word I don’t care like you know words ain’t going to hurt me. I was just illustrating the fact that it’s actually a Romany-Gypsy word used for boys. My Godfather used to call me it, it was affectionate I used to like it then. When I started reading in the paper that it got reinvented by the newspapers. People walking round thinking they invented the word it’s like no you read it in the newspaper you was influenced by something you read. Now you have a prejudice with people you’ve never been in direct contact with because of something you read. The whole point of me putting that in a lyric was to just expose that you know.