If all art is a mirror, then Fuck Versatile is the aged, decaying visage of Dorian Gray. While Irish music is in a self-described golden age on the surface, we cannot ignore the machinery behind, and popularity of, something so hideous. Indeed, much like Oscar Wilde’s titular character, locking Versatile away from view is not a solution. No, dear reader, you and I must face reality.
It would be easy to disregard Versatile. But as a society, we have been ignoring toxic masculinity and everyday racism for some time. Fuck Versatile is a symptom of a much larger problem, and the fact that such art has arisen from our scene while garnering a following is something that should worry us all. For this is an album that revels in its own problematic history whilst half-heartedly gesturing to loose definitions of satire in the vain hope someone will buy the excuse.
Let’s start with the title, Fuck Versatile. A reference to public outcry in reaction to racist lyrics found in the track ‘Dublin City G’s’. – “I fuck a black bitches. When my fat bitch is at home in the kitchen. All my side bitches are dark-skinned and kissing and licking my dick. They prefer it to chicken.”. There’s a provocative arrogance to the name, working under the assumption that despite their actions, Versatile is untouchable; perhaps they’re right.
Fuck Versatile is a challenging listen. A turgid forty minutes capable of setting perceptions of Irish hip-hop back decades, Fuck Versatile sounds every bit like its creators. There’s nothing inventive, or lasting, or memorable about the beats. ‘Man On’ sounds like someone turned on an Ableton tutorial, shrugged, and said “good enough”, while ‘Loaded’ and ‘Raytown’ are as phoned-in as the production. Based on sound alone, Fuck Versatile would be laughed out of hip-hop scenes the world over, regardless of context.
However, it is the lyrics found within Fuck Versatile that are the most damning. Closing track and lead single, ‘Terminal 1’ is a microcosm. Lines like, “Them boys can’t keep our names out their mouths, their girlfriends can’t keep my dick out their mouth. We don’t have to havе a straightener, it’s not my fault she’s likе that when she has a bit of paint in her”, and, “Make a fat hole bounce, make a fat hole bounce, all the coke whores want a tester from me ounce, baby show the cash or the boys will show you out” find new ways to merge misogyny and classism. This track is by no means alone, ‘Ballymun 2001’ features the line “I keep it raw like Ballymun in 2001. I’m known to disappear. I’ve made more women cry than cum. I’m like the only Irish rapper with the hired gun” while ‘Fantasy’ contains “she used to have a fat hole, now she’s just fat”.
Versatile, of course, will do what they always have, claim satire. And indeed, it may be. While satire is a means to punch up at the powerful and oppressive, it can be used in the opposite direction. Simply being satire in and of itself does not denote its intentions. Fuck Versatile punches down, and never for a second does it take aim at Versatile themselves or the group it’s intended for. This is an album that rolls around in toxic masculinity and dares us to do something about it, fully aware it’s in a position of power. A tactic that’s worked so far. At no point does the album lyrically or thematically treat its creators as horribly as it does others.
And so it goes, Fuck Versatile is challenging to experience. Listening to the art form I love be so gleefully twisted by hate was sickening. But this is no outlier. Versatile is popular; this attitude is as pervasive and insidious as the group themselves. ‘Terminal 1’ was featured in a Hotpress article featuring claims they had “matured”; the duo will open for Snoop Dogg, and people will listen to this album on purpose. This isn’t going away.
Let’s be clear, I disagree with the censorship of art, no matter how ugly. Art says something about us, and it’s not always pretty. Fuck Versatile was not made in isolation, and parts of the Irish music industry are happy to let it pass because there’s still money on the table. Whether it’s Fuck Versatile, ‘Dublin City G’s’ or their numerous videos, this frame of mind has an audience. Art is the fruit on the tree of our society, and if such poisoned fruit features so prominently, you can bet its roots go deep. Oscar Wilde once said, “bad art is a great deal worse than no art at all” I tend to agree.
No link given, no link needed.