Central Cee is conquering the culture from every angle, from music to style, starting with his debut mixtape Wild West which was released a week ago. In that time alone, the videos shot and posted back to back in honour of the release (lyric videos included), have amassed almost 5 million views. Surprisingly, that’s not all. He’s sold out merch collaborations with Trapstar and rising star brand Corteiz, all whilst going out on a full-blown, independently funded marketing campaign. I had to find out how he masterminded it all. So, on a call he filled me in, letting me know how he’s “still adapting to this new life”.
The name for his tape is a smart choice. Cee (also known as Cench) started the week by taking the deserted lockdown streets of West London on the back of a horse, fully colour coordinated with a personalised orange Lamborghini in tow and a large orange billboard to his name. Shepherd’s Bush, Goldhawk Road and its surrounding areas are where it started for Cee, so it only made sense to start from his roots. In his own words, “I’m a product of my environment…so my area made me who I am, and it’s been a wild journey. I always film in my area and named it that because the tape is bigger than me, it’s for my area”.
His takeover doesn’t end there. Cench is showing artists how to win over all types of crowds. With his campaign, which has been directed by the all-girl team over at 360 agency ‘Bayy Agency‘, Cench took his guerilla marketing to another level. Old-style ‘wanted’ posters have been popping up all over London. He then switched from the real horse to horsepower, circling London with an orange supercar fleet. On March 17 he gave out 200+ meals to those who could spot his location quickest, before taking off and giving an impromptu outdoor performance for loyal supporters who came out, all before police could catch him. And then there’s the bold move of creating miniature figurines of himself and having life-size wanted posters sent out to his music and style peers. Not a single day left out for rest, and he’s still going.
Those who are familiar with his recent hits (especially the supporters that contribute to his millions of streams and TikTok virality in his four month rise) know Cee is a straight shooter in this cowboy movie. You can sense honesty in his music. It’s a sound full of clarity and straight to the point, with lyrics delivered with passion and slight aggression in his tone. He gives subtle hints here and there of the pain and difficulty of his humble beginnings growing up, without seeking pity or sympathy in his words. Instead, it seems to be more of a reflection on how far he’s come, the risks taken, the past dealings that could’ve taken a bad turn, or even run-ins with the “feds”. He’s poetic in his storytelling, without saying too much or overdoing it. He agrees. When I shared with him my assumptions about his approach to rap, he responded, “I’m really a chilled person, and I think that translates in my music and style”.
It all works well against his signature jumpy, party-starting drill beats, that include horns, angelic orchestra and old school samples like Bob Marley here and there. Cee has worked out how to get this generation hyped, or in his own words “pinging”.
This isn’t his first rodeo either, as he explains in 6 for 6, “I put in the work for this, this ain’t a coincidence”. From a young age, Cench has learnt a thing or two about building a loyal fanbase, when he would do underground shows and gigs, short freestyles, experimenting with his sound and finding his voice. “I think it’s important to adapt to the times and experiment with different flows… once I jumped on a drill beat I felt comfortable and I think as an artist you make your best music when you’re comfortable… I’ve been putting in the work and I think the main message is to work smart and not hard”. Work ethic and the grind – regardless of what type – is a message that rings throughout his new mixtape too.
Now when it comes to his style, Central Cee is leading the pack of new schoolers that are reinventing the new hustlers or trappers uniform. Meanwhile, the New Gen are definitely taking notes. With the rise of Instagram “drip” pages that feature and showcase stylish Londoners, there isn’t a single one that doesn’t repost Cench’s daily fits. He keeps it simple with an on-the-go, affordable kind of style, topped off with a little luxury, like a personalised iced out chain, Moncler or Nocta puffer, Louis Vuitton backpack or scarf. “I don’t really look at brands too much… the culture influences me. If I like something I wear it, my lifestyle right now means that I’m always in a clean cut tracksuit which is always Trapstar or Nike. My favourite trainers right now are Jordan 4’s (No mids!) or white [air] forces”. It’s a style everyone can relate to and attain.
He fits the Trapstar image perfectly, and it makes sense when you find out why he keeps his loyalty to the brand, “Trapstar started where I’m from and my relationship with them started way before music. My first video at 14 was in a Trapstar tracksuit”. It was only right, then, that it would be the right team to design and sell his “Wild West” merch. Twice. He recalled the moment the first drop sold out almost instantly, “The website actually crashed so the first drop was only live for 30 minutes, but we still made 6 figures”. The merch includes a black track set, with the brands signature font in orange, and a small compass graphic.
Then there’s Central Cee’s appreciation for new brands with strong communities, something he can relate to. On March 17, Corteiz released black and orange balaclavas with details to match Cench’s face tattoos, along with socks and t-shirts. Of course, this drop was equally as successful.
Case in point. The West, and the Rest is Central Cee’s for the taking.