Some call the contemporary period in drill its ‘golden age’, as proponents of the varying sounds within the worldwide genre – like Chief Keef, Rowdy Rebel, Skengdo and AM and Headie One – are getting their undisputed praise. And amongst the acknowledgement of drill’s past and present, figures like west London’s Central Cee are informing the genre’s future.
The 22-year-old wordsmith has been cultivating his lyrical prowess since the mid ‘10’s, when he first graced Charlie Sloth’s Fire In The Streets series. Proving to retain his boldness as his skills progress, Cee now boasts millions of collective streams across releases – including breakout singles ‘Loading’ and ‘Commitment Issues’ – a seasoned ear and a harnessed cadence as he sculpts colourful anecdotes on his debut mixtape ‘Wild West’.
On the illuminating ‘6 For 6’, Central Cee justifies a shiny arrival and anticipates scepticism as it pertains to his come up in the scene. After soaring across the ominous score, his final line asserts that his is a work ethic we should never doubt: “Put in the work for years for this/I did have to take them trips.” There’s a nonchalance in Cee’s delivery as double-entendre foreshadows his tales of existence on road and in the booth.
The Shepherd’s Bush native makes it abundantly clear that sacrifices were made across his youth – he revels in speaking his mind across the project – as well as a humorous and admirable approach to his recollections of these events. On ‘X-mas Eve’, he compares his commitment to his allegedly nefarious behaviour to cleaning the streets like detergent and although marinated in grit, his wordplay is witty, punchy and incessant – and he’s just as sharp in his delivery.
Beyond tales of his own life, Cee touches the societal cruxes of those around him. Like on the piano-serenade ‘Ruby’, where he insists that one should not judge a book by it’s cover; “You know what it’s like, you know how it goes” he murmurs as Ruby’s journey takes shape, delving into sexism, broken homes and drugs. Central Cee is intentional in getting his point of view on this project, notably addressing the surveillance of rappers from working class backgrounds on ‘Hate It Or Luv It’.
The most urgent performance arrives on ‘Wild West’s closer, ‘Gangbiz’. Central Cee hones in on his intricately devised plan while “on the phone to Atlantic [Records]”, and scorned by former tensions with his mother; “I came up from a gram” he finishes. Now that he’s caring his way out, he still warns that “this showbiz media game’s fake”, as he faces the obstacles that drill’s ascendant rappers often do. Central Cee clearly has the tenacity and notoriety to resonate, while leaving room for allure; it makes his approach to the mic all the more fascinating.
- Release date: March 12
- Record label: Central Cee