Pier Pressure

Pier Pressure

“I know when I’ve found the right track, because it has to feel like champion music,” Riley Davies—better known as ArrDee—tells Apple Music. “It’s the same phrase I use every time with producers: ‘I’m looking for that Rocky “champion” beat’. And they usually say, ‘What the hell are you talking about?’ But I know, in my head, if I can picture Rocky running to the top of the stairs, or getting up and winning the fight, then it’s the one.” Pier Pressure, the Brighton rapper’s debut mixtape, has plenty of those champion moments. A reflection on the tides of change that swept in for him across 2021, it also uncovers the bruises of ArrDee’s whirlwind underdog journey. Breaking through with witty freestyles and song-stealing guest spots (such as on Tion Wayne’s 2021 mega hit, “Body [Remix]”) showed the fight in ArrDee, and his persistence forms the basis of the 14-track mixtape, produced by LiTek and WhyJay. Here, the rhymer shoots down comparisons with Aitch (“War”), dissects the changing face of his hometown (“Pandemic”) and executes smooth, vocal-led tracks that serve to forecast the near-future (“Early Hours”). “I’ve shown time and time again, in a pretty short space of time, that I can drop bangers and create fresh sounds,” he says. “Now, it’s time to reveal the different layers to me as an artist. I won’t be the artist that’s here today and gone tomorrow.” Read on for his track-by-track guide to Pier Pressure. “Locker” “I wrote this in 2021, in 15 minutes, letting off steam in the kitchen. I was living with my ex at the time, and I had just blown up—‘Body (Remix)’ was out, and it was all moving too fast. So, we’re constantly arguing and falling out. After this particular row, I slap in my AirPods, play a beat from [UK producer] Hargo, feeling like, ‘Fuck yeah, I am the bollocks’. That’s what I put down first, and the rest quickly followed. Big her up, though—we don’t beef anymore these days.” “War” (feat. Aitch) “As soon as I stepped on the scene, parts of the media tried to pursue a narrative of ‘Aitch versus ArrDee: who’s better? Who’s going to come out on top?’ But our relationship has never been about competing; it’s been blessed from the first time we spoke. And later [in 2021], he brought me out [at Reading Festival] on the main stage, which he didn’t have to do. So, we’re spinning that narrative completely on this song. It’s not a battle; we’re bringing out different sides of each other, with proper bars, 16-for-16 and line-for-line.” “Oliver Twist” “Oliver Twist is embedded in my family history. We watch [1968 British movie Oliver!] almost every year at Christmas, singing along with the volume all the way up. They’re literally the first [songs] I ever performed in front of an audience, my family, so that makes this song, as my first big single, mean even more.” “Flowers (Say My Name)” “I know this track samples a love song [2001 single ‘Flowers’ by Sweet Female Attitude], but I couldn’t come corny on this. It’s a drill song, even if it is a little pop-sounding, so I needed to keep it authentic to me. I dropped the first bar to my managers, pacing up and down the room, which is how I usually write, and they burst out laughing, which was the sign for me!” “No Biggie” “I really like this song, and the story behind it is nuts. I won’t go into too much detail, but I’m literally rapping about what went down the night before. Every single thing really happened. I mean, she really was on badness, and it was like, ‘Wow’.” “Early Hours” “This is a song that I am massively proud of. I feel it shows there’s more to me to everyone who’s doubting me, trying to put me into a bracket or say, ‘He’s a TikTok rapper, just a drill rapper’. As much as fans want to hear a sound they fell in love with, I know they also want to hear me break it down in different ways. That’s what makes an artist to me: versatility.” “Late Night Driving” “This song is about a rare moment of having time to myself in the past year. It was a time when I just needed to zone-out and address how fast everything was going. I put my AirPods on in the car, didn’t speak to anyone and replayed this beat, and by the time we got to the studio, I had this song.” “Fruitella” “This is a really fun tune that came out of my first-ever label-booked studio session. I was paying 20 [pounds] an hour before this! And it was also my first time meeting the boy, LiTek. A lot of producers were sending drill stuff, but he didn’t give a fuck about that—he was ready, and I was hungry to prove myself at those sessions too. I fixed this concept up on the spot, almost showing off, I guess, as I’d just requested some Fruitella from a shop run. So, I stuck with it, developed it and here’s my spin on everything sweet.” “Come & Go” “This track samples a song my mum is probably more familiar with than I am [Ironik’s 2008 single ‘Stay With Me’]. It would’ve been played in the car when I was younger, for sure. When I heard the sample, it almost unlocked the hidden memory of those trips. Weirdly, I listened to the original for the first time in a long time, quite recently, and right at the beginning, on his intro he says, ‘People always come and go’. That’s still crazy to me.” “Pandemic” “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.” “Who Woulda Thought” (feat. Lola Young) “I’ve really enjoyed the process of making songs from scratch, and this might be my current favourite of the whole tape. Apart from the drum kicks, we’ve got real instruments playing here: There’s [UK producer] AOD on strings, and Lola, an incredibly talented singer, songwriter and multi-instrumentalist, is playing keys as well. I love the girl.” “Body” (feat. Tion Wayne, Russ Millions, E1 [3x3], ZT [3x3], Bugzy Malone, BU-NI, Fivio Foreign & DARKOO) [Remix] “Tion Wayne was very catering to me with this track. As well as putting his [Edmonton] set on, he still orchestrated my verse coming up first out of all the MCs. For a while, after we dropped, it felt like it wasn’t going to have much impact. Then I woke up, and it all switched. What’s even more crazy is that I was almost hated on TikTok for a long time. It was weird: If it wasn’t Aitch, then it was another rapper that sounds nothing like me who I would get accused of trying to be like. But this day, scrolling through my page, it’s everyone reciting my bars! Then I saw Americans jump on [the trend], and I knew we were gone! Everyone was calling my phone. I even had blue-tick chicks trying to DM me. I honestly felt like a new man!” “Wasted” (feat. Digga D) “This is a sick link-up here. The sample and general vibe of this song came at the perfect moment. Digga’s management hit me up when he was still in jail, but the track reached me whilst I was out in Ibiza. I wrote a bit of my verse there, in between partying, drinking and whatnot.” “Wid It” (feat. Tion Wayne) “I’m cool with everyone, but I know you can't always mix business with friendship. But Tion is someone that’s a genuine friend now. We chat all the time—he called at 1 in the morning to get me on this track. I was in my PJs, in Brighton, but he was insisting, ‘I’m in my G-Wagen, coming to get you right now!’ Eventually, we managed to set up [a session] for later in the week. Somehow, I ended up partying the night before, waking up really hungover, and I lost my verse! I wasn’t stressed, though—these things always manage to fall into place for me.”

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