Nursing a sizzling chocolate in a espresso store in his house city of Brighton, Riley Davies exudes ebullient pleasure, the identical ebullience you hear when he raps as ArrDee. Virtually uniquely among the many present crop of British rappers, the 19-year-old invariably seems like somebody who’s having the time of his life, as if he’s grinning from ear to ear at any time when he will get on the mic. He says he’s all the time been like that, ever since he was a child, when his kinfolk nicknamed him Smiley Riley, and what he calls “the entire cheeky chappie factor” helped at the least a bit in what seems like a turbulent adolescence. At one level, he says, the police had been on the door of his mum’s home so typically that “the owner began transferring a bit humorous” and so they had been pressured to relocate to a distinct city. “However then, as I acquired older,” he says, “I believe I realised that life will get a bit simpler when you’re not a prick to everybody.”
Even when it wasn’t in his nature, you couldn’t blame him for having a spring in his step. After we meet, his single Flowers (Say My Name) has simply entered the charts at No 5. It’s his fourth Prime 10 hit in 12 months – two solo, two as a visitor rapper, together with his meme-inducing look on the remix to Tion Wayne and Russ Millions’ Body, the primary drill monitor to achieve No 1. The opposite week, he says, he posted his Fifa Final Crew on his Instagram story, “and Ian Wright DMed me! I had him in centre-mid and clearly he’s not a centre-mid, however he’s like: ‘For you, I’ll play midfield.’ I misplaced my thoughts, after which Rio Ferdinand DMed me! He’s like: ‘Why haven’t I made the lower, I can’t be a defender?’ Rio Ferdinand! I used to be calling everybody, bruv. That is psychological!”
This time final 12 months, he was working the evening shift in an Amazon warehouse. “Ten pm to 10am. I barely noticed daylight,” he nods. “I’d get house, sleep all day, clearly, get up and have to return there. On the times off I had, I used to be bunking the practice to London to go to the studio.”
In equity, he already had a small on-line following – “about 8,000 individuals” – due to the movies he’d been posting on-line since he was an Eminem and Lil Wayne-obsessed 12-year-old, rapping within the native park after college. Within the early days, he thinks, “individuals had been sharing them primarily to take the piss”.
He’d additionally met his supervisor, who had helped hatch what he calls “a two-year plan” with him: step one was to launch a brand new freestyle, known as Cheeky Bars, with a video shot on the bandstand on Brighton seafront for £100. The issue, when you can name it that, was that the plan stored going utterly awry. “Cheeky Bars went mad, needed to change the plan,” he smiles (it has had 5.8m views on YouTube, and 6.5m performs on Spotify). He launched one other freestyle, 6am in Brighton, “and that went mad, needed to change the plan once more”.
After which the plan needed to be ripped up totally, due to the remix of Physique, a collaboration that didn’t start in probably the most auspicious circumstances. Having determined to have a good time signing a document deal within the wake of his freestyles’ success by hiring an aparthotel in London and throwing a celebration for his mates, Davies nipped outdoors for a cigarette and couldn’t keep in mind the door code to get again in. “So I’m attempting to kind the code, and these two G-Wagons pulled up, a great deal of huge boys jumped out and so they’ve all acquired balaclavas on. I’m 5 foot nothing, from Brighton, at one within the morning, I’ve simply acquired a document deal so I’ve acquired this little Gucci bag I’d purchased. I’m like: oh my God, it’s going to go mad. And certainly one of these boys, who’s like six foot six, begins laughing and goes: ‘You’re ArrDee, proper?’ He takes the bally off and it’s fucking Tion Wayne, staying in the identical aparthotel as me.
“When Cheeky Bars got here out, he’d preferred my publish, which was psychological. So I went to his room and he’s exhibiting me the unique of Physique and saying: ‘I see you’re popping, I wish to do one thing with you, I like your type.’ Lots of people suggested him towards placing me on that tune: he’d had Aitch on [previous hit] Keisha & Becky, who had a bit extra music out and buzz behind him. I used to be two freestyles deep and he didn’t know whether or not I may do a viral verse or something. However he took that danger.”
Due to a fairly blue punchline about condoms, ArrDee’s visitor verse did certainly go viral, serving to propel the only to platinum standing and fast-tracking Davies to fame: his first mixtape, out in January, is hotly anticipated. All of it took off so shortly, he says, some individuals thought he was “an trade plant”, till “the Brighton lot began saying: ‘No, he’s been rapping for 5 years.’ In my head, rap-wise, there’s no such factor as an trade plant, as a result of if London doesn’t fuck with you [appreciate you], it doesn’t matter how a lot cash labels pump into artists, it nonetheless don’t work.”
You possibly can see why he has taken off: Davies is a particularly dextrous and gifted rapper. His singles have an ideal musical steadiness – heavy on hooks, they perform as pop music with out ever sounding tacky or craven – and his Every day Duppy freestyle confirmed he may do extra socially aware materials and kitchen sink drama.
Furthermore, he cuts a singular determine: UK rap isn’t precisely groaning with diminutive rappers with a perception within the energy of crystals and witchcraft. “My mum practises witchcraft, not within the sense of magic spells however charging crystals, what crystals imply, which is why I’ve this,” he says, exhibiting me a black ring on his finger. “Black sapphires, my birthstone, are protecting and grounding. Some individuals would possibly assume it’s bullshit, nevertheless it works for me the identical method as being a Christian or a Muslim or no matter – that’s what they imagine and it really works for them. I discuss fairly closely about manifesting and believing within the universe doing issues for you when you imagine. My mum confirmed me that. When she was 15 she left the nation, got here again, acquired her GCSEs, went to school, turned as excessive as she may in particular wants instructing, then she acquired a black belt in kick-boxing, completed two beginner fights, went again to school … all of that, as a single mum, elevating two children, my massive brother with autism. It was monkey see, monkey do.”
Neither is it precisely traditional to discover a rapper repping Brighton, each the pleasures of life in “the ocean metropolis” and its more durable facet (“when you come down for the weekend from London, you’re not going to [famously deprived suburb] Whitehawk”).
“I positively had extra to show coming from Brighton. After we did the freestyle, 6am in Brighton, lots of people suggested towards calling it that. They had been like: ‘Brighton has acquired a little bit of a stigma.’ I used to be like: no, you realize what, it’s larger than me, so if I can shine a light-weight in town … as a result of my entire persona, me being snug in my pores and skin comes from Brighton, as a result of there are loopy characters out right here, however nobody will get judged, so I wouldn’t be me with out being born and raised right here, and I wish to be telling it like it’s.”
No, he says, he has no urge to depart the town for London now success has come calling. “I believe it’s what retains me so sane when the whole lot’s moved so quick. I get humbled right here. I am going to sure bars and so they ID me, and if I don’t have my ID they gained’t let me in, as a result of they know I used to attempt to dangle outdoors of there after I was 15, 16. They don’t give a fuck what I’m doing in my life in the meanwhile.”