Wild West

Central Cee

Wild West

“Most of these songs are attached to a specific memory,” Central Cee tells Apple Music of his debut mixtape. “Some can be fully disclosed but others can’t.” There might be some detail held back, but Wild West, sees the London rapper recount a journey of passion and persistence with brutal honesty and vivid wordplay. “That’s the good thing about my music, I guess,” he says. “I’ll always talk about what’s current and what’s real to me. So you’ll get that feeling.” Circled by major labels as far back as 2016, a teenaged ‘Cench’ appeared on tracks with AJ Tracey, Dave and J Hus—but a breakthrough would elude him until a pivot to the jumpy drill sound heard on 2020’s “Day in the Life”. With his sound laid out, fans fell for his smooth grasp of song structure, the bright, evocative, tales of juvenile delinquency and the artist’s unshakeable ambition. Wild West sees that sound evolve and the (still independent) west Londoner stretch out grime’s horizons. Matched with a dream selection of beatmakers (including Frosty Beats, Hargo Productions and Chris Rich), ghetto love songs receive modern updates (“Commitment Issues”), brass sections light up skittering drill anthems (“Loading”) and lyrically, we’re give an all-access tour of an ultra-ambitious, searingly honest mind. “It takes a lot of hard work to be independent and go down this route,” he says. “You have to put more in, but it just works for me. I have a vision and it’s vivid, so it’s important that I get it out properly. If I leave it in the hands of others, it won’t come out how I want it.” Here, Central Cee opens up on the pleasure (and occasional pain) of rising through the ranks in the Wild West.
6 For 6 “On the day I made this track, ‘Loading’ had just hit the charts and I went into the studio feeling...kinda different. You can hear it. I’m describing that transition on this track, or the transition that I feel I’m making. I’m also speaking on things I haven’t touched on before. The funny thing is: I wasn’t going ‘six for six’ when I made this, I only had two tracks out. But I was looking ahead.”
Fraud “I’m really feeling myself on this tape, I won’t lie. This track here, I’m just talking my s**t. I’m speaking about my younger days on in the opening line, I’ll admit. How I was when I was 14 or 15."
Pinging (6 Figures) “This track’s about taking risks. And yes, that was the big risk that I took [turning down a six-figure record deal] at the time. I know people often associate risk-taking with the roads and stuff like that but when it comes to the music industry—the roads can be similar, mad similar. And with those similarities, the main one is: we’re all out here taking risks.”
The Bag “I’m feeling like this is a track for the shows. I can imagine performing at a festival with the whole crowd going crazy. When I made ‘Day in the Life’ in April [2020] and released it in June, I didn’t have any songs similar to follow it up with; I just dropped it and planned to go with the flow. So it was back to the studio. I’d been making music for a minute but just not this particular style. I had to throw myself in at the deep end and this was one of the tracks that I came up with.”
Day in the Life “This track changed my life. Honestly, it’s a legendary song for me. I made it at a studio in the ends with maybe 10 man in there at the time. I had Box12 and A2anti, and a few other rappers from my area. I think I fed off the energy present that day—and the track’s come out crazy. Listening back to it, it was obvious that the ‘DBE’ (D-Block Europe) line would be controversial, but that wasn’t intentional. Especially because of the way I wrote it: listening to the beat playing in my car. I was recording voice notes along to it—freestyling, bar after bar, and it’s rolling off my tongue. So I definitely didn’t intend to call anyone out, but I realise that’s what it looked like and it was kind of p**sing me off. So I had to address it later on [2020 single] ‘Molly’.”
Dun Deal “When I’m writing songs there are probably three states of mind that I could be in; how I feel in the current moment, and sometimes I put my mind in the past, and other times it’s in the future. On this one I was putting my mind in the future and talking from that perspective. I say on the hook, ‘You could have done what I’ve done, but you ain’t on what I’m on’. I hadn’t really done much at the time, but I just knew that I was going to do something.”
Commitment Issues “I remember being really frustrated when I made this track. Mainly because I was feeling like all of the producers I was working with had heard ‘Day in the Life’ and kept playing me drill beats. And I was still new to music then, I had a big song out but didn't really know if this was even what I wanted to do—go straight with this drill tempo. I wasn’t sure it wouldn’t end up being a limitation to me because I have all these different concepts in my head. So I said, ‘Let’s make a song for the girls. Let’s take a drill beat with a completely different concept.’ I don’t think I’ve really heard anything like this track and I knew if done right, then it would be a hit.”
Sex Money Drugs “On the opening line I say, ‘I could have been laid up with shorty/But fuck it, the grind’s more important’. That’s what I was on that night. I really had to tell myself: ‘Fuck it’ and convince myself that was where I wanted to be was the studio. I could have been enjoying life that night, but it’s true: the grind is more important.”
Ruby “This song is a bit different to the rest, it’s a bit more hypothetical. I feel like my mind just opens to all the relationships and all of the crazy situations I’ve experienced and kind of mushes them into one.”
Hate It Or Luv It “Writing these songs is almost like a diary for me now, a chance to get things off my chest. I’m not sure where it comes from but I’m quite observant. I’ve always been that way. I can learn from other people's mistakes—whether that’s people around me, or people I don’t know that I see out at the pub. A lot of people have to learn the hard way before it becomes real. I think I can clock where someone’s going wrong and take a piece out of their book. With the way things are going for me right now I need that.”
Xmas Eve “I feel like this is one of the gassiest on the tape for sure. It was a bit of a process to making this one too. I was putting lyrics together to a couple of different beats but to lay it down, I had to find the right one for it. Finally, I found the one that was just right for it and from there, I knew what time it was.”
Loading “I knew this was big when I made it but we didn’t know it was top 20 [in the UK singles chart] big. And it all started from hitting the studio with the guys. They helped me find this one, flicking through beats. They let me know me know that I had to go with this one, and I wrote it up quick, in minutes and everyone liked it. I knew it was for sure a good song, I should say, not a big song.”
Tension “This was produced by [London producer] BKay and recorded at [London studio] Wendy House. It’s in the ends but it’s a high-profile studio: real fancy and the booth is mad big, it’s just not what I’m used to. I’m used to more smaller spaces with the booth in the same room and shit. But at the same time, I feel like that environment rubs off on me and sometimes adds to what I’m saying. I wrote this on that day. I used to write most of my songs in the car because I could put the speakers up loud. I made ‘Day in the Life’ and other songs in my car—that was the best way for me, but then I lost my license and I haven’t been able to since!”
Gangbiz “I didn’t write this as the outro but it works perfectly. It’s a bit of a summary, and it touches on more personal subjects, stuff I didn’t want to talk about too much on this tape. I do have a lot more heartfelt songs sitting in my notes, but I’m waiting for the next tape or for the right time to drop. On this one—I feel it gives a good balance between the jumpy drill sound and me telling my story. It works well to close out the tape.”

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