Best of ’11: Plan B

Plan BThe Best Songs You (Maybe) Didn’t Hear 2011
Track 11: Plan B, “Welcome to Hell”

British rapper Plan B proved two important things to me this year: First, that some rappers can actually sing (sorry, Kanye: auto-tune doesn’t count); and second, that a hip-hop concept album can work. The Defamation of Strickland Banks tells the story of a famous soul singer imprisoned for a crime he didn’t commit, and tells it in an infectious way: the retro-styled hip-hop soul sound is sharp and compelling, conjuring images of a rough-and-tumble version Mark Ronson’s work with Amy Winehouse. I didn’t know that Plan B was a rapper before I heard Strickland Banks, making me doubly impressed by the emotion in his pipes. It was hard to pick just a single track to feature because the album is rock solid, but “Welcome to Hell” is what I returned to most: