There are so many things that separates ArrDee from other rappers. For one, he raps smiling. For two, he never tries to be anyone or anything other than himself. Pier Pressure marks the debut mixtape from this young rising artist in the UK drill scenes, who has never been so proud linking his hometown Brighton in his music. Quoting Eminem as one of his biggest influences, there are massive moments you feel surreal just how much he reminds you of the rap icon. Pier Pressure found him tackling bruises from his underdog journey, raising awareness to social issues around the countryside, and of course, women and relationships.
Surprisingly, hip hop wouldn’t be the first choice when it comes to the genre that influenced ArrDee the most. The young MC revealed a long journey listening to rock music. “That’s what I grew up on,” he said, “that’s why you can hear a lot of guitar in the majority of my songs.” Besides the melodic backdrops, there’s a kind of rawness in ArrDee’s music that feels very much cathartically align with rock n roll. Hard-hitting beats paired with lyrics that are tough, exhilarating but vulnerable while onomatopoeia fills in the spaces is an ArrDee thing that cannot be found elsewhere.
“Flower” finds ArrDee playfully unraveling his “playboy” attitude. As usual, he walks around the studio, pacing in circles, freestyling, throwing a line or two, vibing with everyone else in the room. “I rapped the first lines to my manger, ‘I don’t give girl flowers, I give you good wood though,’ and he laughed,” said ArrDee, sharing his writing process.
Speaking about his smiley rap style, which can be seen in most of his music videos, also earned him a nickname “Smiley Riley” around his relatives, ArrDee said, “When you listen back, you can hear it and feel it when someone’s happy, smiling and talking — it gives it that vibe — that little bit of magic or sauce that I put into my songs.”
As a Brighton native, ArrDee’s relationship with the town goes a long way. It’s at heart of his art and what makes him a unicorn in the UK drill scene. Of course, everything has a good side and a bad side, “At first, it was difficult in terms of making links. Everybody you need to meet in the industry weren’t necessarily from Brighton, but once I made my first break-in, it was an advantage because I’m different — I’m from somewhere different, I’m rapping differently, the visuals are different, etc. Being you and being unique is the best way to put yourself in this game,” said ArrDee.
With Brighton in mind, he dedicated “Pandemic” to the town, where he reflects on homelessness and toxic social patterns that have been going on for decades. “This is a song I’ve wanted to write for a long time, about a big issue going on right now [in the UK] with country lines—men coming from big towns, London and other cities, down to the countryside where I’m from. They call it OT or [country], but it’s pretty much young boys coming down, doing their thing and eventually linking up with all the naughty 17-, 18-year-olds around here. Brighton has one of the biggest homeless populations in the country, a lot of the seaside towns do, and that’s why people get sent down here. As much as it’s a vicious cycle from the London side, it’s the same around here. It all has an effect on my mates, and I’ve seen families hurt when people are involved with things they shouldn’t be. This is the ongoing pandemic here,” he said to Apple Music.
Written by Katrina Yang
Press Q&A with ArrDee
Q (Rising Artist): Who are your biggest influences and how did they help shape your sound?
ArrDee: I would say Eminem. Obviously he was the rap icon when I grew up. He was different and rapped about a lot of things I could relate to, from my perspective. But also, being able to rap and have that ability that everybody could appreciate and that at the same time making people laugh and having that come across life that will make you smile. From what I see, the idea of music is to inflict the strongest forward emotion that we’re trying to inflict, whether it’s happiness, sadness, or whatever it is. Then influences that wasn’t rap — I’d say Jack Black. I was a massive fan of Tenacious D when I was younger — his presence in videos, TV, films, and just him as a person. He has this massive personality that everybody could feel behind the screen, and you felt like you [knew] him. Everybody knows something like that guy. Just having that big personality that shone through the screen isn’t easy to do.
Q: What is something you’d like to achieve as an artist?
ArrDee: The ability to do global performance in countries that not everybody might understands the language I’m using, but a lot further places. The music itself is a vibe that brings everybody together and uplift. Not necessary uplifting but having the deep, intimate moments. Connecting all kinds of different people together through music.
Q (University Union): What genre has had the biggest influence on your music?
ArrDee: Rock music. That’s what I grew up on. My mom was heavily into that type of music, not heavy rock, but like Kings of Leon, AC/DC, Guns N Roses. That’s why you can hear a lot of guitar in majority of my songs. Before I started rapping, I actually took guitar lessons myself; it’s something I wanna pick back up so I can input it into my own music cuz there are always things I’m trying to tell my guitarists and producers what I’m trying to do with my songs.
Q: How do you approach your writing?
ArrDee: In terms of writing, I have to first make sure the vibe is right. Not just with me, but also with everybody in the room. Unless I’m writing from home, I’ve already recorded and I know the lyrics are certified and the song is a smash. I would just be like bouncing off bars out loud, almost like freestyling and rapping certain bits to people and gauging their kind of reaction. If their reaction isn’t that solid then I won’t write that one down. For example “Flower,” has that kind of vibe like everywhere. The first line I was just walking around the studio. I can’t sit still in there either; you’ll see in interviews and just in general, I’m always pacing around the studios, doing circles. I rapped the first lines to my manager, ‘I don’t give girl flowers, I give you good wood though,’ and he laughed, and that’s kind of how I write in terms of drill songs. They have to be vibey and jumpy. That’s how I recorded it as well. I think the difference between me and the other rappers, I have quite a different tone. I’m almost like smiling as much I can whilst rapping. I feel like tuning that into the song. When you listen back, you can hear it and feel it when someone’s happy, smiling, and talking — it gives it that vibe; that little bit of magic or sauce that I put into my songs.
Q: As an artist from Brighton, what was it like when you first break into the UK scene?
ArrDee: Ive been rapping since I was thirteen. I’ve been putting music on my channel. I’m from Brighton. It wasn’t much of a hip hop culture town, we were a little behind when it comes to the trending and the popping sound in the UK. At first, it was difficult in terms of making links. Everybody you need to meet in the industry weren’t necessarily from Brighton, but once I made my first break-in, it was an advantage because I’m different — I’m from somewhere different, I’m rapping differently, the visuals are different, etc. Being you and being unique is the best way to put yourself in this game.
Q: What role does crystals and manifestation play in your life?
ArrDee: I still don’t understand it entirely now, as much as I’m always trying to. It was the very first lockdown where obviously I was spending a lot of time with my mum that I took more of an understanding to it. Some people have religion and believing in God, and having faith is what keeps them going, because there is a greater cause and that’s each to their own. This is my one: my stones and my mum doing her rituals and everything … making sure I’m protected and grounded — I think it’s just calming for me, especially in an industry that’s so fast-paced and so cutthroat that you could be it today and gone tomorrow. I have a very very close relationship with my mum.