It's not a complete image overhaul (Strickland in its darkest moment deals with prison murder), but given his third studio album is less a concept and more a soundtrack to his self-written/directed movie about the underbelly of east London's sink estates, including his hometown of Forest Gate, iLL Manors easily places Drew in his angriest and most unnervingly honest headspace yet.
His assessment of the circumstances that led to last year's riots begins with the merging of kids, drugs and gangs on 'I Am The Narrator' and 'Mr Drug Dealer'. Things quickly descend into prostitution on 'Lost My Way' and, worse, a particularly gruesome stabbing-and-vomiting scene on 'Pity The Plight', which is narrated beautifully by John Cooper Clarke.
But while the lyrical content grows hard on the ears, the music itself is varied enough to keep you listening on. The grimey, claustrophobic beats on the lead singles are balanced out by the spacious ones on Labrinth-assisted stadium-ballad 'Playing With Fire', while 'Deepest Shame' and 'Live Once' will offer respite to those who were expecting a different sort of record altogether. It may be a grim subject, but if anyone's going to talk about it, we're glad it's Plan B.
Tracks to download: 'Lost My Way', 'Playing With Fire', 'Deepest Shame', 'The Runaway'
If you like this, you'll like: Devlin, Maverick Sabre, Chase & Status
Watch the 'iLL Manors' music video below: