Central Cee at Alexandra Palace review: a landmark moment for the UK’s next great rapper
Central Cee’s current world tour is titled Still Loading.“That ain’t just a phrase or a figure of speech,” the Londoner told the crowd at a bustling Alexandra Palace on Tuesday night. No, it’s a statement of intent from a rapper with so much more still to give.
Most of what the fast-rising star told the crowd at his biggest gig to date related to his journey to get here and how hard he’s worked, always quickly followed by the caveat that this is still very much the start of his rise. “This is one of those moments,” he said just a few minutes into his set, before showing across the next hour why many, many more are certain to follow.
Since breaking out in mid-2020 with single Day in the Life, Central Cee’s rise has been stratospheric, with his distinctive style of drill that often samples R&B classics making him an overnight star. With pyrotechnics, literal sparks flying and drones hovering over the audience (the show was streamed online via Amazon), he proved he already has an exuberant, maximalist arena show to match his chart-topping hits.
While the set was peppered with rowdy, energetic tracks with harsh beats, it was on his softer and more melodic material that the rapper’s talents shone best. Mrs, a highlight from new mixtape 23, saw him ruminating on a relationship with brilliant lyrical dexterity, while Obsessed With You, which samples PinkPantheress’ TikTok smash Just For Me, was a sugary hit of ‘00s nostalgia.
The show boasted far fewer guest appearances than traditional rap gigs of this size, but their absence came with intention, and the few friends who did join him on stage were perfectly picked. “I haven’t got no rapper friends or any of that bullshit,” he told the crowd mid-way through the show, going on to distance himself from “industry” circles.
Instead, he welcomed his little brother (who goes by the name Lil Bro) on stage for Lil Bro, the highlight of the show. For the track, the pair faced each other on stage trading verses like a conversation, with each back and forth getting more and more impassioned as Cee spoke of trying to keep his brother on the right track. “This is the shit we used to dream about, trust me,” Lil Bro said as his parting gift after the touching and stunning centrepiece.
While some may see it as self-deprecation, the constant nods to the future that peppered the show seemed more like a teaser to what the rapper has clearly got in his back pocket, and where he sees himself going next. “I wish I had more hits!” he said before ending with an exhilarating rendition of early hit Doja, going on to confirm what we all knew anyway: “I’ll be back with more.”