fresh and fierce charisma of the next British rap star
ArrDee has wronged himself. As the 19-year-old rapper strolls through his label’s central office in London, he cradles his head before gently collapsing into a large sofa. The day before our interview, he was partying in his beloved hometown of Brighton – but he will only offer a conspiratorial smile instead of sharing details of the antics of the previous day with us. It’s a deliberately cheeky brushstroke: as one of the UK’s most exciting new rap hopefuls, ArrDee understands he has a healthy dose of mystique to uphold.
But for this curious and charismatic young artist, talking about music is the perfect hangover remedy to spend the afternoon. He even gets more animated at the prospect of this discussion than the delivery of his Nando which he so badly needs, which he is duly polishing in front of NME. Mention any of ArrDee’s five Top 20 hits of the past year – which include the Digga D collab “Wasted” and “Oliver Twist,” a lively show of explosive beats and drills – and he’ll draw statistics like a paintball gun. “I make music for listeners all over the world. There is a legacy being built here; I will still be recognized in 20 years,” he says with easy confidence.
ArrDee is famous for his quick displays of his versatility and his dashing rhymes, which he unfurls to tantalizing beats. On his first mixtape “Pier Pressure”, he oscillates between various sounds that define British rap at the moment: drill and grime, as well as pop ballads with Lola Young on “Who Woulda Thought”. Earlier this month, he even appeared on stage with Afropop superstar Davido at London’s O2 – “I’ll be headlining this arena sooner than anyone thinks” – to perform his verse from the remix of the hit by Tion Wayne and Russ Million, “Body”.
He insists that this genre-hopping approach, which has undeniable crossover appeal, is merely a matter of general taste rather than an attempt at mainstream ubiquity. “This mixtape is like an autobiography in that it shows me so many different sides,” he explains. “The idea is to break boundaries and always level up: not just as an artist, but to push the definition of music itself.”
ArrDee was born Riley Davies and was raised by his “badass” single mother, a black belt kickboxer whom he holds in very high esteem. Growing up, she taught him to believe in the power of witchcraft; he now wears a black sapphire ring, which he says has brought “grace and purpose” to his career. But throughout her teenage years, ArrDee struggled to settle in school and refused to attend counseling sessions – instead, the escape came from a desire to gamble.
He found an outlet on the local pub stages of Brighton, where he honed his extremely nimble and dexterous flow. He soon started rapping with friends in the parks, mostly working with drill beats and a £1 microphone – which he used to record ‘Jiggy (Whiz)’ last July, a Top 10 hit, in his bedroom – and building relationships in studios across London. whenever he wasn’t working in a warehouse.
In 2022, ArrDee’s popularity is a testament to how thriving rap scenes beyond the capital are finally catching mainstream attention. Similar to how Bad Boy Chiller Crew carry the bassline flag of the north, or Aitch’s work with Northern Quarterz, a Manchester-based company that seeks to uplift local up-and-coming rappers, ArrDee is uncompromisingly proud of the place where he grew up. He has also remained community-minded since beginning his career with freestyles ‘Cheeky Bars’ and ‘6AM In Brighton’ early last year. The latter even describes how growing up in an inclusive domain by the sea is what kept him grounded and far from being “Your average rapper thinks he’s the bullshit of the dog“.
“I wouldn’t have the head on my shoulders without coming from Brighton,” he said. “The city made me feel like an outsider, but in a good way, because I don’t necessarily feel the desire to be accepted. I have so much love for the British scene and the people who make it up. But I want to say that I’m part of [the scene] puts a limit on how far I will develop. It’s about becoming an international superstar in the world.
He’s not afraid to lose sight of where he came from, even as his status and wealth continue to rise. For ArrDee, London is a “myth” where “people don’t thank bus drivers”, and working in the city has made him realize that he has no interest in changing his lifestyle: “I don’t don’t want to act like even though I’m a superstar. I will do anything to stay in Brighton. I’m even going to buy my own land and build my huge mansion there. I will never, ever leave.
Beyond the freedom his upbringing gave him, ArrDee’s reluctance to play by the rules, he says, is also governed by a lifelong fascination with “true rockstars who define history.” His heroes include Freddie Mercury and Amy Winehouse, as well as members of Mötley Crüe and the Rolling Stones. “I feel like [as musicians], we are here to leave a mark, to make noise and not necessarily to conform to what is normal for society, ”he says, pointing to an XL size microphone tattoo on his forearm. Does ArrDee eventually want to be considered one of the great rockstars? “Absolutely. I would love to be able to pick up my guitar, and I have a lot of songs that have a rock edge to them. I really want to be considered a modern rockstar one day.
BBehind the not-so-silent displays of confidence, ArrDee hints that he struggled to find his moment. On “Pier Pressure,” he’s intentionally boastful and daring, instigating beef with his enemies on “War,” Aitch’s sneaky team, and knocking the bird off his doubters on the towering opener “Locker.” “I feel like Rocky the moment he got up / That’s some champ shit“, he repeats on rhythms rich in bass.
Part of that bravado comes from the feeling that he still needs to prove himself, he explains: “I know that the bonds I create [in the industry] are for business. Not everyone who shakes your hand is your friend. It was weird having to figure out that the people I looked up to – who maybe aren’t doing so well now [in their career] – need something from me. I don’t want to feel like I don’t trust anyone, but the more love and attention I get when I walk into a room, the more I question myself. In my head, it’s like, ‘Does money change things, because people look at me differently?’ »
A little defensively, he continues: “I have a job, so I should have as much respect as a doctor who saves a life, or a lawyer, or other people who have also put 10 years of transplant in their work, like me, but in other areas.
ArrDee won’t be pushed on specific names though: there’s clearly no conversation to be had about who has tried to exploit him in the past. However, as our interview progresses, he becomes open to discussing the origin of another controversy. When NME asks why he chooses to paint himself controversially in his lyrics – from a dodgy anti-condom punchline in the aforementioned “Body,” to the romance of toxic love on the Destiny’s Child and Sweet Female Attitude “Flowers” sample. (Say My Name)” – he says he wants to improve.
“I am in no way disrespectful or misogynistic towards girls, and everything you hear in my music is completely honest,” he says. He goes on to explain that he didn’t start spending time with his dad until he was 9 years old, which skewed his approach to relationships: “I’m always growing and finding new ways to express myself. what I’m learning along the way.”
It all comes down to this feeling that ArrDee is still figuring things out, while quickly becoming an internationally acclaimed rapper. “Pier Pressure” is underpinned by a tacit acknowledgment that as his shows (and hangovers) get stronger and collaborators become more famous, the city he loves will always be there to bring him back to life. Earth.
ArrDee’s Debut Mixtape “Pier Pressure” Out Now
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