19.02.21
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When Central Cee was a teenager, he would often get the bus and ride it beyond the boundaries of west London, where he lived. The experience, he remembers, showed him that the world was far bigger than he had previously imagined, and nourished his already active imagination. “I couldn’t speak to people about my aspirations because I always thought they were too big for everyone around me,” the 22-year-old rapper recalls. “It’s a problem. Maybe it’s the system, but I always wanted to get out. And a lot of people don’t have that ability to want more for themselves.” After these trips, west London was too small for Central Cee.

Born in Ladbroke Grove and raised a stone’s throw away in Shepherd’s Bush, Central Cee – most people call him Cench – grew up in a part of the capital where a rich array of Black sounds, from reggae to jazz, dancehall to rap, have found expression and converged. Cench, it should be noted, has only missed Notting Hill Carnival twice in his life. It’s fitting, then, that his earliest and fondest memories involve music; he remembers how his dad would pick him up on evenings and weekends while playing old school hip-hop, he and his three younger brothers making up rhymes in the back seat of the car. It was, Cench says, a combination of his dad’s influence and the eclectic music environment in which he grew up that put him on this path. He was just eight years old when he began writing raps of his own. “What is already yours, will come to you eventually,” he claims. “For me, I just had to focus on my own timing and I feel as though these years putting in all this work is starting to show what I’m capable of.” It’s a simple enough mantra on the surface, but also a lesson in patience from someone whose artistic vision was clearly in place early.