VIPER’s founder Lily Mercer spoke to Brighton rapper, ArrDee on the set of the JD King of the Game Christmas campaign. We’ve got interviews with the stars of the advert dropping on site every day until Christmas, stay tuned for chats with Ethan Matthews and Amaria BB…
You’ve been running through festivals and party islands, what’s been the best show of the summer?
It’s a toss between either Belgium’s festival, Pukkelpop and crowd-wise Reading and Leeds, that went crazy! The tent was so overly rammed and the whole crowd interacted.
This was your first billing at R&L, but you were a special guest for Aitch and Tion Wayne last year.
Yeah I didn’t do Leeds last year, I already did Reading, that was quite a trek at the time. But Aitch brought me out on the main stage and Tion brought me out on the 1xtra stage, that was my little warm up. Nerve wracking isn’t the word but I was never pressured. I did that last year but because I’m being bought out, there’s no organisation [or] preparation needed for me. Whereas when it’s my own set, I’ve got to think about what the order of the songs is and how we’re going to keep the crowd pulled in but also bring it down so they’re not knackered all the time. I have my slower tunes that come and go, I’m interacting with them between songs and keeping them locked in so there’s a lot more going into it. But also a lot more excitement, performance is one of, if not my favourite things to do with putting on my shows. Without blowing my own trumpet I definitely do put on a wild show and crowds go crazy; we have some mental stuff going on. So it’s always more fun to have that little bit longer on the stage. No matter how long I get on stage, I always stay on for longer, sometimes that’s because they’ve cheered. I might just stay on for a minute and take it in and chat to some people and stuff, it’s a whole different feeling to be honest, especially the more intimate shows, like some of the party island shows I’ve done like Ibiza Rocks, were a much more intimate set. Obviously the festivals are sick as well but for a different reason, it’s more the power I feel in the crowd control and everybody coming together, that many people tuned in at once.
You’re entering your twenties in a few weeks, what do you think you’ll do differently once you’ve ended your teenage years?
As a young adult we’re always trying to improve on ourselves and learn to grow up so I think I’ve been doing that bit by bit. Even in terms of my music I feel like if you tuned in from the start of my career with my ‘Cheeky Bars’ and ‘Body’ and ‘6am’, my fan base – or even consumers in general – have slowly semi matured and you’ve ended up getting songs like ‘Early Hours’ and ‘Come & Go’ and ‘Pandemic’ on the mixtape. I think it was time for another transition and to still have the mix with the older part of music that everybody loves me for. Just to grow up a bit and show different sides to me as an artist and my personality and what I can do musically.
A fan wrote an interesting request on his body at Reading and Leeds. Has a fan ever asked you something or done something wilder?
Obviously it comes with the brand. Wilder than that? No, absolutely not. I’ve been asked some crazy stuff but definitely not wilder than that. Maybe they’ve sent a message or something but I haven’t seen it. I’ve never seen anything as wild as that. We literally spotted the boy out of a crowd.
You featured Kyla on your recent single ‘Hello Mate’, will we be seeing more link-ups with you and singers?
100%, we’ve got some in the bag already. We’ve been working on a project, an album/mixtape. We’re kind of up in the air right now but we’ve got quite a few singers on a few tracks already. I don’t know how much I should give away but we’ve got some big ones, we’ve got some that I’m just a fan of personally that I’ve found who are up and coming artists. I’ve got some crazy talent that I’ve been quite proud to work with, I always enjoy a little melodic hook and I’m not the greatest singer. Maybe I’ll get some lessons and try to improve but for now I’m happy to use some female vocals and some strong voices on hooks. 100%, I’m trying to tap into that industry and learn my way through it all.
You’ve already tapped into many different sounds, is it important for you to have a global element?
Yeah, 1,000,000% I always say that before I blew and was in the rap industry, obviously I used to listen to loads of rap music and now I’m in it I’d probably say less than half of my playlist is even rap because there’s so many different components that go into making a hit or a radio song that lives 15 weeks rather than two weeks. Especially in the dynamic of TikTok and the way people digest things now, I’m always trying to keep a global set, especially with the album. I’m showing different sides, different tempos, hip hop and then sometimes a bit more pop and just be an all-around artist rather than a rapper or a drill artist or whatever you label it. You’d get bored in a club if they were playing just rap or just drum and bass or whatever.
So is there anything surprising in your playlist?
That is a good question. I’ve got a lot of Post Malone but not not really much of his new album, there’s a lot more quiet heartfelt, sing along stuff that’s very acoustic, I’m a massive fan of his old and new stuff from XXXTENTACION. I’m a massive fan of Pink.
Your trip to Nigeria was obviously quite an inspiration. What was your favourite part?
There was a lot, it’s literally one of the best trips I’ve had even though I was knackered. The flight was quite long there and back and we had no time to rest. Getting off the plane we couldn’t check into the hotel room because it was kind of early. But we basically just spent a week in 24 hours in Lagos. When I did my set, crowd wise they were so much more there for the music than a lot of different countries and cities I’ve performed in. It wasn’t so much to film to say I was here and tag it and put it on their Instagram and get X amount of likes. They were just there to have fun and be there for the festival and the show and the music, everybody was bonded together by that so the vibe was immaculate.
I always felt that in London, sometimes with shows they want to be in the room but they don’t want to sing along in case the person next to them isn’t singing along. London’s definitely the hardest crowd to get to interact with you in terms of festivals or shows and stuff. But sometimes the intimate ones in London can be some of the best ones because once a few people do it, everybody joins in. They don’t want to be the one person that’s not singing but they also don’t want to be the one person that is singing so it’s hit and miss. North is always vibes, I’ve done a club in Newcastle, one of the best crowds. I think up north is a little bit more relaxed, a bit crazier up there as well. I feel like they have it off, up north crowds go wild.
This Summer was your first Glastonbury billing, what was the experience like?
That was the one time I wasn’t nervous, but I was more impressed by the show than I thought I was gonna be. Because on the stage that I was on, I was one of two rappers for that whole day and the crowd that have been going to Glasto for 10 years, they were sat there holding hands and the act before me were proper Glasgow festival goers. So they had all the babies on their heads and they were sitting down, and there weren’t any standing up crowds. There could not be more than 100 people in that crowd and this is like the set before my set. So me and my DJ were like, right, we’re just gonna have to put on a mega show as if there’s 30,000 people there and we’ll just see what happens. Then by the time I was coming on, he’d warmed them up. Glasto was one of my best shows I’ve done, it was a crazy set. Obviously it’s a monumental moment in my career; nuts.
You also appeared in a Premier League advert, was that a bit of a dream for you?
It was so nice. Every single one of my friends from home was in the pub watching it on TV like “you’ve made it.” I thought I made it a little while ago but for a lot of my friends that completely trumps any other achievement I’ve ever had. That is a dream for me, especially the way the advert was put together and what was spoken about, definitely one of my top five moments in my career. If you asked any of my friends they’d say, “yeah that’s the best thing he’s ever done he’s never gonna do anything better.”
What is top of your bucket list?
I’d like to do my own beach festival in my hometown Brighton, you know Fat Boy Slim did one and 200,000 people turned up. That looked crazy and made headline news everywhere. Obviously [mine would be] a bit more tamed and less dangerous than it was 10 years ago but that’d be a big thing. He came to my Brighton show when I did my UK tour. Brighton was the second to last stop and he came, so we’re friends.
You dropped your mixtape ’Pier Pressure’, have you been working on an album since?
Yeah I got some songs with some up and coming singers, some very well established singers. I’m always working and if it’s not performing then my second favourite place would be the studio. If not performing then studio, if not studio then performing. Otherwise I get bored and I end up going off on a tangent and partying too much, as some people already know. I’m definitely always working. We’ve got quite a few tunes, there’s definitely a project, I’m yet to decide whether we do another mixtape or an album or both. Maybe I do an album and then the ones that don’t make it get slapped onto a remix tape and give them the lost files as well.
What’s the best thing anyone said about the mixtape?
A few people have come up to me saying they were blown away not just by the different songs and the fact that I’ve put a project out in X amount of time but just like the maturity of some of the songs. They didn’t know there were certain things that I could talk about and there were certain subjects I was touching on, like I was saying in ‘Pandemic’. You’ve got me on different tempos like ‘Fruitella’ and ‘No Biggie’ and I feel like everybody was kind of expecting different versions of ‘Oliver Twist’ on a mixtape which I was never gonna do. I’ve got loads of footage of me working in the studio, it will come out at some point. If you saw me work in the studio, I’m not blowing my own trumpet or whatever, but I’ve never seen nobody work the way I work and how tapped in I am to every side of it; production and engineering and each little sound and how the mic’s set up. When I’m saying certain things it’s almost like my brain looks at things in colours and numbers while I’m there. Like I turned into almost a robot. I think artists like that are great, their brains are wired in a different way.
Tell me about your early times getting into making music and recording it.
So the first ever time I recorded something, I must have been 11 or something. But that was just in a park at the youth collective group, I think it’s called Audio Active. They had some DJ decks, they would play you a beat and they’d have a mic set up. You kind of rap it into it and then they’d put it onto a CD. You can take this home and that was the first kind of time I’d ever fully solidified the fact that I’m gonna want to be a rapper when I’m older. But from there, I used to run a studio with one of my closest friends just out of a one bedroom flat. I used to record all my own music. So ‘Cheeky Bars’, and ‘6am’ was all done in my bedroom, sat on my bed with a microphone in front of me, editing it for hours to try and make it sound half decent. So I’m a very controlling person in a studio setting, I have to be hands on with everything. Even my music videos, a majority I’m editing not entirely myself because I don’t know all the little techie bits about it. But I have to be sat with it for an hour and a half to go through the shots. And with the music, I have to go through every take that I’ve done and I’ll go through each word and each breath. There’s a lot that goes in, hours and hours. It can get very intricate, it can get stressful sometimes but we make it work.
This is your second year in the JD Christmas campaign. How do you feel getting the call back?
Yeah definitely an honour, it’s gonna be a lot. Not like it wasn’t fun last time but if anybody remembers, it was a little bit chilly.
Have you ever had someone ruin your Christmas?
Yeah I’ve had my Christmas ruined before, it’s not too heavy. I spent Christmas one year at my dad’s when I was younger, and my dad had a partner at the time – it wasn’t a long term thing. But she decided she wanted to cook the roast dinner and had maybe a couple more drinks than you’re supposed to and completely incinerated the roast potatoes which is my favourite part of the roast dinner. So when it came out on the plate I literally looked at it and just went and sat on the sofa, I was not going to eat absolute charcoal potatoes thank you very much. It’s the most important meal, the most important thing about Christmas. I don’t even care about presents, the roast dinner has always been the biggest thing for me.
Do you know what you’re doing in the campaign, and can you tell me what you’re wearing?
I’m doing something with Bugzy which is mad because we ain’t seen each in so long. That should be funny because we get along… but a little thick North Face tracksuit, it’s a little bit warm because we’re inside, but like I said I was complaining about being cold last time so you can never win with British people, can you? And I’ve got a little gilet on, a little body warmer… I’m feeling it. Got the Air Max 90s, all black, I’m rocking it. It’s definitely an outfit I would step out in.
So what do you want from North Face under the tree this year?
I’ll go for one of the puffers; definitely have one of them. They’ve got that yellow on black one. I like that one, or I like the blue on black… definitely a bit of black on it though, so we can go with more than one thing.
Are you a competitive person?
So competitive it’s a joke, it’s a problem; It’s a real problem. Genuinely in every aspect and even in ways of life that you didn’t think you could even be competitive in, I am.
Is there a game that you will literally assassinate everyone in and would you choose that game just so you can win?
Probably beer pong to be fair, that’s what my family normally plays at Christmas time. We have weird, fun, family games as well, that are kind of made up on the day but yeah, everybody always wants to be on my team.
Is there a game that you have a little bit of PTSD from?
Monopoly; I refuse to play it. Ever. No thank you; I’m good. Just from childhood memories of flipping the board – if it’s not me kicking off, it’s my brother, or my auntie… whoever’s not got any dough left will accuse someone else of cheating. Monopoly has never not ended in tears, I refuse to believe it, unless your family functions a lot better than mine.
What’s the worst L you’ve ever taken?
We were in Kavos, really recently, it was like two months ago. We were all playing volleyball in the pool, and obviously we’ve made friends with this bunch of girls, and I’m really trying to get these girls to play, but they’re like “nah, we’re not like that, I can’t do it,” just trying to play it off like they wasn’t ready to play. And I was like “come on, just do it,” and so I kept throwing it over, and they pushed it back, and this girl hit this volleyball and slammed my face so hard it broke my Louis Vuitton shades. I had to swim underwater to get them, all the while everyone’s watching, everyone’s laughing…I got out the pool. I was like ‘alright, I’m not gonna play anymore’. I obviously had to tell her it was fine, but it wasn’t fine.
If you were to be gifted a retro arcade game for your house, which one would you pick?
Pac man. I feel like that’s the go to one. Or, there’s one with a little plane at the bottom and you have to shoot stuff that’s falling down… I can’t remember what that one’s called, but that one’s sick as well.
What is your most treasured possession?
This is going to be so cringe and cheese, but I’ve got a little binky, baby blanket. I’ve had it from the very second I was born, and I’ve never got rid of it. I still sleep with it somewhere on my bed. I call him Pablo; if I lost Pablo I would absolutely kick off.
If you could invite three people to your dinner party, dead or alive, who would it be?
Freddie Mercury, Jay-Z, Michael Jackson. That is an expensive meal…I don’t know where we’re eating, but I’m not getting the bill.
What is the most important lesson that life has taught you?
Not everybody that helps you is out to be your friend.
What would you consider your greatest achievement?
So far, there’s two. Being able to buy my Mum her forever house, that’s something I used to say when I was 10 years old, I used to say to my Mum and Nan, “when I’m big and I’m famous, I’m gonna buy you a house Mum,” and [I said] I’m going to take my Nan to this cafe every Sunday. I haven’t taken my Nan to the cafe yet, cause obviously I have been so busy. I didn’t deep the concept that if I was big and famous I might not be around every Sunday, but I ticked one off the list. I gotta take Nan to the cafe soon. That, and probably my first ever body of work going silver – it just went silver in March. Before I blew, I made 30 songs that got 3,000 views; 4,000 views. But I’d never attempted to make a body of work, so ‘Pier Pressure’ was a new challenge for me to overcome. As a project, it was my first attempt at putting a body of work that flows together; like each song collects into each other but [doesn’t sound] similar. For it to go silver in the amount of time it has is something I’m massively proud of.
What colour is your aura, and would that be the trainer’s colour-way?
It depends what mood I’m in, what day it is, what I’m up to. Quite often I’m red, because I’m quite fierce; I try to be as powerful as possible all the time. But certain days I might be a light aqua, kind of laid back, kind of let whatever happens happen.
Have you always loved streetwear, and if so what did you like the most as a kid?
Yeah, definitely always loved streetwear. I remember wearing my first pair of Air Max 90s to primary school, and Macklemore had made some kind of song where [they] made him jump higher, and I genuinely believed for a solid term that I was jumping higher than all the other kids because I had this pair of 90s on; I refused to believe otherwise. So that’s my earliest memory of streetwear. I remember saving up money when I was in secondary school and doing stupid things like spending all my birthday money on one tracksuit or something out of JD. So it’s always been apparent in my life.
Interview by Lily Mercer