They had the “the crowd eating up their every word” at their Friday show at Longitude earlier this month, arguably outshone Kendrick Lamar at Electric Picnic 2018 with an “explosive” event, and have sold out a headline gig at the 3Arena in November – Dublin rap group Versatile have revolutionised the Irish hip hop scene.
Aided by producer and DJ Evan Kennedy, 21 year-old Alex ‘Eskimo Supreme’ Sheehan and 20 year-old Casey ‘Casper’ Walsh have become common names amongst Ireland’s youth. The pair started recording Youtube videos in 2014, and are notorious for their adoption and exaggeration of the supposed archetype of working-class drug dealers in inner-city Dublin.
Their lyrics, deemed satirical by dedicated fans, often feature themes of racism, homophobia, sexism, classism and toxic masculinity. This former is most explicit in their 2017 hit single ‘Dublin City G’s’, where the young rappers unequivocally objectify black women and fetishise black men.
Furthermore, ‘Scorching Again’ opens with a glamorisation of toxic masculinity:
“Sick of all these young fellas, acting like birds
Bunch of f*ckin’ lick arses, now its absurd
What happened to the shootings and stabbings at night?
These days kids now are too afraid to fight”
… and ends with a needless drop of “f*ggot”, a normalisation of homophobia that’s entirely lacking of substance.
Rising Irish R&B star Erica-Cody bravely called out the popular duo in a thread of tweets retweeted by Irish journalist Una Mullaly.
Absolute trash lyrics. Lowest common denominator, cringe, offensive, and that’s not even delving into their nonsense, gleeful misogyny. Embarrassed for everyone involved with Versatile. Grow up. https://t.co/QezjqWfZRT
— Una Mullally (@UnaMullally) July 24, 2019
“This is not ‘ah it’s only a joke’. This is the normalisation of classist, racist, homophobic and sexist lyrics that have now managed to become a part of mainstream Irish media,” wrote Cody.
Artist Nealo added to the conversation, tweeting that “Hip hop is an African American art form. By being hip hop artists we are borrowing from their culture and need to show it some f*cking respect. That includes surrounding yourself with different ethnicities and cultures, not just a bunch of white chaps on the mic”.
This discussion on cultural appropriation and Versatile’s disrespect towards the same genre they’re spearheading amongst Ireland’s youth was expanded in the latest episode of Popsessed, where Conor Behan commented on the danger of the normalised attitude that “we get to decide what is or isn’t funny even if we’re not from the groups affected”.
Even beyond problematic lyrics, the very nature of Versatile’s supposed ‘rag to riches’ identity has been called into question – clear by responses received by the duo after sending a tweet of gratitude to their fanbase:
We’re after sending a lot of people gammy the past while hahaha sorry about that fellas but you’ll never find a more grateful team of inner city degenerates honestly thanks so much to everyone supporting us you’re all after making history life is like a dream these days boys ??❤️
— Versatile (@outburstpal) July 19, 2019
From Ringsend, Sheehan and Walsh’s brand as “inner city degenerates” is based on their flimsy adoption of the working class drug dealer cliché. In reality, Alex Sheehan was a pupil at the fee-paying St Conleth’s in Ballsbridge, clear from the designated page in homage to Eskimo Supreme‘s work on the school’s website.
Rather than the ‘rags to riches’ front the duo have claimed, this privileged background changes the very dynamic of Versatile’s music, the references to the “smack heads on Abbey Street”; the dehumanisation and demonisation of drug addicts, that, hilarious or not, only further stigmatises a serious issue.
Still, many are open to accepting the misogyny, homophobia and racism prevalent in Versatile songs. In fact, a description of their energetic performance at Longitude this year by Hot Press glamorised the group’s degradation :
“Versatile are beloved in part at least for their profanity and humour. In an era of political correctness gone insane, these guys stick their two fingers up to it all with great effect.” As artists with an enormous fanbase amongst largely impressionable youth prepared to belt their offensive lyrics, many deem this attitude as problematic.
© 2019 GCN (Gay Community News). All rights reserved.
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