ArrDee, the 19-year-old Brighton rapper, is here to stay

by Rei Firmin

Photos by James North

Design by Sheila time

“There’s no way they can box me in and I’ll continue to prove that I can rap time and time again.”

Brighton rapper ArrDee has been on the U.K.’s top 20 for four weeks now and doesn’t plan on leaving any time soon.

At only 19, ArrDee has already spent 13 weeks in the U.K.’s top 10 with songs like “Oliver Twist” and “Flowers.” After his verse on the remix of Tion Wayne and Russ Millions’ “Body” went viral, ArrDee saw a sudden rise to fame. So sudden that some people have even questioned him, calling him an industry plant. Despite how quickly things seemed to fall into place for everyone else, Arrdee has been waiting for over five years for a moment like this.

An assumption that often comes with success like ArrDee’s is that it happened overnight, but unlike his verses, the nights he’s spent in the studio didn’t go viral. ArrDee corrected this common misconception about his chart-topping hits by saying that he isn’t always ''Smiley Riley,'' a nickname his family gave him as a child. In reality, there’s a great deal of work that goes into music production, which requires the patience and precision of everyone involved.

The U.K.’s music scene can be critical and “humbling” if an artist doesn’t adhere to a certain sound, especially since it’s so small compared to that of the U.S. Despite the possibility of getting rejected by a wider audience, ArrDee remains as authentic as possible.

“Better that people don’t like the real version of you, than like the version of you that you’re trying to be,” he said.

When it comes to evolving his artistry, ArrDee is most interested in production, which he loosely described as creating something from scratch. On top of that, he attends all of his music video edits, hoping to learn more about various effects and how they impact viewers’ emotions and convey his message.

Many aspects of ArrDee’s writing are collaborative, as he feeds off of the vibes in the studio. He described his writing process as more of a freestyle for his drill tracks, keeping bars that get everyone in the room jumping. For certain lines, he even makes sure to smile while he raps into the mic so that people listening can hear the tone in his voice. ArrDee’s vocal delivery seems to be mastered to a science— there’s emotion and movement incorporated into every bar.

ArrDee’s “Daily Duppy” freestyle earned him the respect of people who didn’t see his potential before. It set him apart from artists with only one distinct sound because he added a layer of complexity to his storytelling.

Supporters in his comment section wrote things like: “This kid is proving why he deserves a spot in the game.”

“Part two done nothing but give me goosebumps, ArrDee really is something else, didn't rate him before but he went in on this still, nothing but love for the lad now, big up ArrDee.”

“That second verse leaves me more and more speechless every time I [hear] it. Grew up in Brighton and I drilled deep... this city made me intimidated because it's pretty on the surface but the underground is unimaginably broken.”

ArrDee’s lyricism and flow was enough to touch the hearts of people who wouldn’t even consider themselves fans beforehand. ArrDee said that any fans of his “Daily Duppy” should listen to “Early Hours” and “Pandemic” off of his upcoming album for a similar sound.

Passion radiated from ArrDee’s voice when he described his favorite memories after the success of the “Body” remix. For ArrDee, his hard work isn’t only rewarded when he hears the crowd shout his lyrics back at him, but also when he gets to see thousands of people in one place making memories because of his music.

Despite having an abrupt introduction to performing in front of large audiences, ArrDee doesn’t feel anxious before going on stage and instead has an out-of-body experience.

“I don’t really think about it,” he said. “Once that spotlight’s on and I run out it’s like my whole body and brain takes over and it’s almost like I’m watching myself do it. I’m not really there until I’m done.”

The same goes for his music video performances, as he said, “As soon as that camera switches on, I’m not really there. I’m watching it the same way the cameraman’s watching it— even though it’s me performing.”

ArrDee considers his latest music video for “Come & Go” a level up in his career. For the first time, much more acting was involved, including the work of two actresses. ArrDee had to work on facial expressions in order to physically tell his story. It probably helped that he has a close emotional tie to the song, which recounts the moments after his first viral verse. Many people wanted to celebrate with him, but only a few were willing to put in the work to do it again.

ArrDee sampled DJ Ironik’s “Stay With Me,” which is a song that evokes feelings of nostalgia for many U.K. listeners. ArrDee demonstrated how capable he is in taking a sample’s original message and making it his own. This song allowed ArrDee to communicate certain things through music that he wouldn’t really sit down and talk to a friend about. It was almost like a therapy session.

ArrDee recognizes the challenges he may face in the near future such as viralability, shortened attention spans, and staying in the limelight. With all of these obstacles in front of him, he’s trusting in his tendency to always want more. He “doesn’t have the ability to just stop and be happy with something,” which he finds has been both a blessing and a curse.

With a stuck-on-go mentality, ArrDee’s been working harder than ever to give his fans the “proper lyricism” they’ve been asking for on his upcoming project, “Pier Pressure.” From this upcoming project, ArrDee hopes to become much more personal with his fanbase.

ArrDee said this tape shows, “This is me innit. I’m here and I’m here to stay as well.”

Keep up with ArrDee on Instagram and Twitter and make sure to listen to his debut mixtape, “Pier Pressure,” when it releases March 18.