It’s easy to forget how young Dave is. Over four years on from Psychodrama, he’s only now turning 25, having built an extensive catalogue of music with a wisdom beyond its maker’s years. Central Cee, on the other hand, seems younger, his emergence more recent than Dave’s, and the irreverence of his viral success contrasting with the former’s gravity. Central Cee is in fact older, by a day.
Split Decision was released at the midnight straddling the pair’s 25th birthdays, following on from the single ‘Sprinter’ that arrived on Friday and was expected to be the extent of this collaboration. Instead, the pair team up on a four track EP that highlights both of their known abilities, as well as showcasing a genuine chemistry between them, Central Cee holding his own when faced with this most strenuous of challenges: trading verses with Dave.
The wordplay, from Dave in particular, is outrageous. There are clangers at times – Cee rhyming “Toyota Yaris” with “Lamborghini Urus” and, later, “uterus” being one; Dave asking a flight attendant if she’s “a Virgin or you work for them” another – but it’s to be expected and a price worth paying for the sheer number of obscure references to British culture the pair squeeze in.
Rhyming Jonathan Majors with Ivan Toney’s wages is the my favourite of the football references, but Dave also manages to namedrop Vinicius Jr, Tammy Abraham, Andrea Pirlo and, most remarkably, Amad Diallo – he rhymes the Manchester United youngster on loan at Sunderland with Canadian singer Nelly Furtado.
The opener ‘Trojan Horse’ is probably the weakest track on the EP. Dave’s line “She wants a man with decent P, Her ex is a factor, Misha B” is niche but I appreciate it; his pun “Give her the Trojan, give her the Trojan Horse, I felt like Troy” is less convincing. Still, it’s a good back-and-forth song and sets the tone for the EP, which only improves from here.
‘Sprinter’ is a hit. It’s expected to debut at number one in the charts and will likely stay there or thereabouts all summer. The two MCs are having fun, bragging about cars, clothes, women and money, yet it’s clear they’re both aware of the material nature of these pursuits, almost laughing at the young, rich, rapper stereotype while knowingly perpetuating it themselves. Central Cee changing his flow at the end of the third verse and incorporating Rick Ross’s ‘Maybach Music’ is particularly impressive, and sees the West London native reference the perception of him being “stupid”, when, it becomes ever more evident, he is in fact a clever, thoughtful bloke.
Were ‘Sprinter’ to have existed by itself, it still would have marked a successful collaboration, but their chemistry is made clear on the next track, ‘Our 25th Birthday’, which proves that Dave and Central Cee are comfortable exchanging more solemn, vulnerable verses as well.
It’s a setting we’ve seen Dave in many times before, and one that Central Cee has been trending towards, if not ever unloading like this, exploring his relationship with his mother, the way he treats women and the sadness he still experiences. Kamal’s chorus is the perfect, understated middle ground for the two to rap either side of. Dave’s second verse again demonstrates his unmatched storytelling ability, and “I ain’t going off a women addiction, I got body dysmorphia, a figure addiction,” is one of the cleverest lines on Split Decision.
‘UK Rap’ is the album’s outro and another likely to do well on the charts. The catchy hook, sung by each man in turn, shows where these two see themselves at the moment: “She don’t listen to UK rap, if it ain’t Dave or Cench”. It’s hard to argue with. This is a heavyweight collaboration between two stars at the top of their game.
And while I doubt ‘Our 25th Birthday’ will be the lasting memory of this project – not with the commercial accessibility of ‘Sprinter’ and the chorus of ‘UK Rap’ – you get the sense that it’s the track that pushed Dave and Central Cee to release an EP, instead of just a single. The two are joined by more than just a very close proximity in age, and it’s refreshing to see the mutual respect between them translate into a neat project like this.
Split Decision is a four track EP, so it’s never going to go down as a classic, but this is a quality collaboration to help kickstart the British summer.