A young king sits on his throne before his people, puffing his chest, chin lifted to the sky. ArrDee has been hoisted atop the shoulders of a security guard, and is cheekily mimicking a royal wave, shirtless, only stopping to take selfies with the fans circling below him. “Brighton, make some noise for the best city in the world!” he hollers, his face glazed over with pride and hunger. A rapturous crowd offers a hero’s welcome in return, screaming with ecstatic glee as if they’ve just hit the big drop on Brighton pier’s Turbo Coaster.
At The Great Escape’s TikTok showcase, the rapper (born Riley Davies) is rounding out an unbelievable 12 months. After he landed a verse on the remix of Tion Wayne and Russ Millions’ record-breaking drill hit ‘Body’ last year, the 19-year old has scored a further five Top 20 hits, appeared on Reading Festival’s Main Stage with his pal and fellow rap star Aitch, and dropped his debut mixtape, March’s ‘Pier Pressure’. The catalyst was his viral ‘6AM In Brighton’ freestyle, which currently stands at 8.5 million views on tastemaking YouTube channel GRM Daily; he cracks a knowing grin as he nails the song tonight – little surprise that last year feels a lifetime ago.
Tonight is a recognition of how far ArrDee has come and how much he has achieved – he’s a freshly minted superstar performing a lap of honour in his beloved hometown. Part autobiography, part motivational speech, throughout a strobe-lit ‘Locker’, he demands for the motivations for his hard-won success – caring for his single mum; repaying the community that raised him – to be acknowledged and understood. ‘War’s wickedly feisty manifesto of bravado (“I come from the struggle and love all the trouble”) is also a total victory. Using a sound effect of shattering glass, the DJ works feverishly to the right of him, running reload after reload, as both the track and its response are so fiery they demand to be reprised.
‘Fruitella’s staccato raps come straight back at him breathlessly from the front rows. He lassoes a sweaty towel above his head before throwing it into the audience to further squeals of delight. They chant ArrDee’s name over and over again in between songs, while he ups the crackling intensity of ‘Oliver Twist’ by tirelessly circling the stage so as not to short-change any section of the 600-capacity Concorde 2.
The anthemic melody of the Destiny’s Child and Sweet Female Attitude-sampling ‘Flowers (Say My Name)’ closes the show on a note of glorious carnage, as ArrDee stands at the lip of the stage, jumping on the spot and psyching himself up to leap into the moshpit erupting before him. He suddenly launches himself into the air, leaving Brighton’s most beloved – and chaotic – son suspended above a sea of flashing phones and animated, proud smiles.