WHY I RATE: Central Cee

Selected by: Thandie Sibanda
Photography: Jack Bridgland

Name: Central Cee

Where He’s From: West London

When He Started: 2011

Genre: UK Drill/Rap

File Next To: Loski, M24, M1llionz

Sounds Like: “Clean-cut. It’s a juxtaposition: gritty, but smooth.”

First Music That Inspired Him: “I was heavily into what my dad was listening to, so reggae, dancehall, house, garage and hip-hop. I got into grime later on as well.”

Central Cee is one of the hottest names in British rap right now, and for good reason. 2020 was truly a breakout year for the 22-year-old, having released a batch of impressive singles such as “Day In The Life” and his first Top 40, the jazz-pinched drill cut “Loading”. With co-signs from the likes of Big Sean, Tiffany Calver and DJ Semtex, Cench has so far this year found himself in every reputable “ones to watch” list going, garnering a new legion of fans in the process.

Inspired by his West London upbringing and his father’s musical tastes, growing up, Central Cee was moulded on the very best reggae, dancehall, house, garage and hip-hop. He also admits to a time when he and his dad would spend hours listening to the radio—pirate and otherwise—but says rapping became a personal goal “after watching Chip, Skepta and Jme freestyle on Tim Westwood’s BBC 1Xtra show.”

While it might seem Central Cee’s freshman year was 2020—much to many’s surprise, a baby-faced, 16-year-old Cench was inaugurated when he debuted in Charlie Sloth’s Fire In The Streets series (which has since been removed). Cee, like a lot of his Gen Z-era peers, has utilised YouTube as a means of marketing himself. His efforts eventually paid off when he appeared on a Next Up? freestyle for Mixtape Madness in 2019, and then on Mad About Bars with Kenny Allstar a year later, championed for his loaded punchlines and uniquely charismatic flow.

The biggest question surrounding Central Cee’s career, thus far, is exactly what major label gets to call him family. Having addressed this in the opener of his track “Pinging (6 Figures)” with the line, “Take that risk and go independent / I just turned down six figures (it’s different),” he tells TRENCH: “I’m a man about numbers! If the numbers don’t make sense, I can’t do it. We realised what we could do by ourselves, and I prefer doing things in my own way.”

The much-hyped release of Cee’s latest project, Wild West, has seen him lauded for his magnified versatility, alluring vocals and an example of exactly what one can produce as an independent artist today. The 14-track set, which bravely sports no features, showcases the rhymer’s evolution from cheeky one-liners to observant lyrical dexterity. But, Cench is still loading... Pay close attention.

TRENCH Highlight...

Posted on March 17, 2021