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“This Is Who I Am”: Central Cee Talks Trust, Tracksuits And Why He’s Just Trying To Be Himself

Right now, few musicians are as in-demand, as impactful, as soulful, as one fashion-adored, trend-forging rapper from west London. And yet, for Central Cee, conquering the world seems to come naturally. Deep within the confines of his inner circle, novelist Caleb Azumah Nelson meets the most mercurial – and mysterious – man in British music. 

Photographs by Alasdair McLellan. Styling by Kate Phelan


Some wouldn’t call our first link-up a meeting, but stay with me here. It’s a weeknight in 2022, early in the year. Someone’s offered me tickets to Dave’s headline show at The O2, which, being a fan, I quickly accept. There are no trains or Tubes running that night, so I find myself in the queue of cars crawling, painfully, towards the arena. But when we arrive, it’s worth it. Dave is, by all turns, magnificent and has the arena glittering with lights from phones desperate to record a souvenir of the moment. Then, about halfway through the gig, an undeniable drill beat starts up, guitars start being strummed over skipping hi-hats that has everyone lose themselves for a moment, or as I think good music and art does, brings you closer to yourself, gets you out of your own way to make space for some honesty. Here, that honesty takes the form of limbs being flung this way and that, of lyrics being punched in with the accuracy of the rapper on stage, of whoops and cheers and excitement. As he performs, I nudge my friend and ask, “Who is that?” He looks at me confused, like I should know, and when it becomes clear I don’t, he says: “Cench. Central Cee.”

A year later, at the end of a three-week, 17-date tour for my new novel, I’ll take a plane to Barcelona to meet my younger brother and sister and their friends, just in time for Primavera Sound, where we’ll learn that in Europe they do festivals a little differently. I grew up going to London’s Wireless and Lovebox, where, if you were lucky, if you succeeded in racing through the crowd after the headliner left the stage, managed to sneak into the Tube station before restrictions were imposed, you might get home by 11pm. But in Europe, and here at Primavera, the main acts go on from around 9pm. That’s how we find ourselves waiting until just after midnight for Central Cee to come on – and when he does, the crowd transforms into a horde. The mass of people that had been previously simmering in energy begin to press towards the front as Cench emerges, several chains glittering from his neck as he glides across the stage.

When we meet – this time for proper – a third time, in the lobby of a members club in London earlier this spring, he’s fresh from the gym, which he later tells me is the only guaranteed part of his day. Coffee in hand, hood pulled tight to his head, he’s clearly a little tired but flashes me a quick smile, takes my hand and pulls me into an embrace. Up close, he’s quiet and unassuming, but as soon as you’re within his orbit he commands attention. It’s a real presence he holds, though, despite the mature demeanour – I don’t want to diminish the boyish excitement I get a glimpse of. As we walk, he’s quick to ask me questions first: “What ends are you from? You come round these sides much? I heard you write novels…” His eyes light up when I confirm there are audiobook versions and he continues to delve, asking me to divulge, prying into specifics around the process, nodding knowingly when I talk about not just having to maintain my voice but also my spirit. “That’s what it’s about,” he says. “Delivery. Heart.”

It’s hard to deny that Cench isn’t just having a moment but is on a seemingly never-ending run, with cosigns from some of the genre’s greats (Skepta and Chip), a slew of collaborations from music heavyweights and an increasing presence in the fashion world – he’s previously collaborated with Trapstar and Corteiz with his own lines, featured in the Nike & Nocta collaboration and fronted Jacquemus’s Neve World collection in 2022. All of these brands are synonymous with his own style: the tracksuit he heralds as uniform, a uniform I’m sure many of his 11 million Instagram followers have taken as their own too. When I ask him when he realised life might have changed for him, he laughs, recounting a trip to New York in 2022, a place he’d travelled to numerous times, but on this occasion, he says, “I couldn’t even walk down the street. People were mobbing me. Even all the way over here, people didn’t know who I was but they wanted photos. It was crazy.”

…..Order a copy to know more…….


Weight 2 lbs
Dimensions 13 × 10 × 1 in


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