London’s Central Cee stamped himself as the hottest rapper on the planet last month, releasing a collaborative EP alongside Dave and becoming the first male UK artist to join a XXL Freshman class.

When Central Cee said “they think I’m the one that can bridge the gap” during his memorable LA Leakers freestyle last year, it was the first in a long time that the pendulum felt like it swung in favour of the UK—however this time, not temporarily. 

Like almost all international markets, UK hip-hop wasn’t taken seriously by the rap Mecca that is the US, although recently, it’s hardly a stretch to say the best hip-hop music is currently coming out of the UK. The scene is certified, and there’s an over-pouring pool of talent who, arguably, have been making better quality music than a lot of the American artists. Names like Little Simz, J Hus, Headie One, and so many more are some of the best at what they do, and it’s been evident for a minute. The UK’s global dominance is no longer loading, it’s the wave and it’s not crashing anytime soon.

Over the last three years, songs like ‘Commitment Issues’, ‘Doja’, and ‘Obsessed With You’ have made Cench a globally recognised household name. Last year he was heating up and still riding the success of his debut mixtape Wild West, before dropping its subsequent follow up 23 while embarking on a world tour.

Despite each project garnering an overall positive reception, one thing was abundantly clear—we didn’t really wanna hear a full length project from Cench. Some artists are more suited to singles, and some are far more suited to albums. For example, it would be far more exciting to get a Pusha T album than it would to get a single, because he’s so technical and layered flow wise, lyrically, and sonically, albums are where he shines. Central Cee on the other hand – if we’re talking 365 days ago – his lyricism was definitely there, but sonically and style wise, he didn’t leave his comfort zone. The formula works, so why change it?

To put it in basketball terms, Cench has been averaging a triple double in the singles lane, and no-one’s been able to guard him for a hot minute, yet despite the success, Central Cee entered the year with an extra large chip on his shoulder. He was easily the most viral rapper on the globe, but questions surrounding his overall rapping ability remained a talking point. So to put any doubts to rest, he surprise drops ‘Sprinter’ last month alongside easily the best lyricist in the UK, Streatham’s own, Dave.

‘Sprinter’ reached the top of the UK charts in weeks and was being celebrated across the globe by basically everyone. Six weeks later, it’s already Certified Gold, a feat that’s hard to achieve so quickly especially for two UK artists.

Both Dave and Cench are elite in their own right, but it’s fairly rare for either to frequently collaborate with anyone. Alas, ‘Sprinter’ was a whole moment, a moment that both artists seemingly foresaw, because just three days later completely out of nowhere, the pair dropped a four-track EP titled Split Decision.

If you’re across UK music, you’d know why this is so significant. For starters, Dave is regarded as arguably the best active rapper in the UK at just 25 years old. For Central Cee to receive Dave’s stamp of approval and do a project together is major, and at this stage of his career, it’s exactly what he needed. 

On Split Decision, Cench impressed further as he kept up with Dave throughout. Despite being unsurprisingly outshone on some parts, Cench’s contribution was nothing short of undeniable excellence. They have great chemistry together, a healthy competition, and a hunger to one-up each-other as each verse flows. 

“She don’t listen to UK rap if it ain’t Dave or Cench.”

– Central Cee on ‘UK Rap’.

Split Decision is exactly what Central Cee needed at this stage of his career. He proved that he’s A-list material in so many ways, firstly by keeping up with one of the GOATs, and secondly by even getting his stamp of approval in the first place.

Everything seems to be panning out perfectly – he’s mastered marketing, he knows the recipe for virality and now, he’s slowly developing into an artist who is more than capable of dropping a cohesive studio album, which hopefully, will come in the near future. 

As of July 2023, it’s safe to say Central Cee definitely bet the 1 hit wonder allegations. We’re at a crossroads within the hip-hop universe, as the Drake’s, J. Cole’s and Kendrick’s are (very slowly, but still) reaching the end of their career, and it’s the first time the rap game has never had a clear ‘next up’.

There always seems to be one, or a few, young stars that everybody agrees is going to be a superstar. But we don’t necessarily have that right now. Or do we? For the first time ever, consider this: What if that person is from the UK? And what if that person is Central Cee? He has everything, and he’s already a ready made superstar. It looks like a collab with Drake is on the way, and he’s already received other co-signs from the likes of Travis Scott.

It’s rare that people are in such agreement of Cench’s ability, so with a debut album pending and a potential AU/NZ visit before the end of the year, we may be about to witness something special. 

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