Ben Drew's Plan B is working out just nicely on The Sweeney
ANYONE is brave enough to give Ben Drew - aka rapper Plan B - grief for daring to float between movies and music, the Londoner has the perfect double-barrelled comeback.
Firstly: Two No.1 albums in the UK. Secondly: A UK box office-topping film.
Australia has already had a good earful of Plan B he's toured here several times, most recently as part of last October's Parklife festival.
And after briefly getting a taste of Drew the actor in 2010's Michael Caine thriller Harry Brown, we now see him step up to co-leading man (alongside Ray Winstone) in The Sweeney.
The movie went in at No.1 when it opened in the UK last year.
"I've done it at a decent standard," says Drew, 29. "If I'd done both or one of the things badly and still carried on trying to juggle the two, I'm sure I'd receive a lot more criticism.
Having me and Ray on the poster for The Sweeney, and it doing what it's done in the UK, it proves that me and him can both command a film at the box office. Some would say to you that is enough that's proof that I'm a success in both worlds. I'm not pretending to be one or the other."
It may be enough for some, but not Drew.
When he says, "I've got this far on raw talent", he forgets to include his rather large work ethic. "I'm never gonna stop trying to work hard enough in a film so people actually wanna see me for my acting, not just because they love Plan B and my music.
Because I keep that integrity, hopefully I'll get it right more times than I get it wrong going forward."
Raw talent, a work ethic and Drew doesn't play it safe, either.
After first hitting the top of the UK pop charts in a more approachable soul-singing guise with the album The Defamation of Strickland Banks, he thought his street-wise rapping would just have to be a "small side project".
"I figured my hip-hop music needs to live somewhere else. Because my stuff's always been story-based I thought, 'Well, let me make a film and it can live there and it can be as explicit as I want it to be'."
So Drew did just that, writing and directing. He wrote and directed his own film - Ill Manors, a gritty crime drama set on the London streets he grew up on.
It was an arthouse success and the soundtrack gave Plan B his second No.1.
"The fact that I've had a No.1 record and it's a UK hip-hop record which is unheard of really that's enough for me," he said.
Like his raps, Drew's taste in movies veers to the rough, violent and realistic. In The Sweeney, he plays protege to Winstone's tough, old-school cop.
He calls The Sweeney an "ultra-realistic" and "unapologetic" action film.
The film follows a police squad that tracks down armed robbery gangs. Their methods seem as questionable as the criminals they're chasing. Drew is in good company with veteran hard-man Winstone.
The more experienced actor has said he and Drew were "two ends of a bit of rope".
"When kids are looking at me in these films, I guess I'm sat in for the underclass kid from the inner city. That's what Ray did for me growing up he represented someone from our environment that made something of himself. The same way, I'm sure, Michael Caine represented that for Ray, when Ray was a young guy," Drew said.
The question now is, what will Drew do next? After that Australian tour last year, he planned to take some time off over Christmas to reflect.
"I dunno what I want out of life," Drew says. "But I'm in a great position now I can pretty much go make any album or any film I want."
Raw talent, a work ethic and humble, too.
Interview by Neala Johnson. The Sweeney (MA15+) is in Australian cinemas now.
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Man with the plan: Ben Drew has made a successful career in both hip-hop music and film.
Partners-in-crime: Ray Winstone (left) and Ben Drew (right) in a scene from English film The Sweeney.