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Erica Cody: Versatile's apology was a 'bulls**t PR stunt'

Irish musician Erica Cody condemned the racist behaviour of Dublin rap duo Versatile during her a...



Irish musician Erica Cody condemned the racist behaviour of Dublin rap duo Versatile during her appearance on Wednesday's OTB AM

There was nothing new to the controversy that has surrounded Casey Walsh and Alex Sheehan of Versatile in recent weeks.

Rather, as musician Erica Cody explained while a guest on the OTB Culture Hall of Fame in association with NOW TV, recent events elsewhere have finally led people to confront an uncomfortable reality.

"I was calling them out on that stuff last year and nothing was done about it," she recalled. "There were no apologies or pulling stuff down off a website.

"But it takes for something like this (the widespread reaction to the murder of George Floyd at the hands of a white US police officer) to happen for people to then go, 'Oh, this is actually very bad.'

"This has been bad for a long time but people were just being complicit. There's no room for complicity now. You can be either anti-racist or not and it is plain and simple."

In a wide-ranging discussion on Erica Cody's own experience of being the target of racism while growing up in Ireland, the Leoness singer-songwriter rejected the attempts of Versatile to justify their actions.

Alongside the overt racism of their 2017 Dublin City Gs, which contains sexually explicit language lyrics about black women and racial stereotypes about black men, Cody addressed an image that surfaced of the band members in blackface.

"A lot of people in this country know what blackface is and youth is not an excuse," she responded to the subsequent suggestion of band member Walsh that he had been oblivious to the history of blackface. "You're 17 and you're dressing up as Easy-E, I mean, come on. 'Oh, we're sorry, we were really young.' That's bullshit."

In its totality, Erica Cody remains skeptical of the band's sincerity in deciding to address these issues at a point where it would finally appear to be negatively impacting their careers.

"It was the biggest load of - I could say any curse word right now, but I won't - and reading that you just knew they didn't care," she said of the address they made via an Instagram post. "This is just for their own gain.

"For them to say that this is just part of the characters they play, the whole thing was just a waste of time. It was a PR stunt.

"When I was reading it, I knew it is only there because they don't want to be kicked off the Snoop Dogg show. When, in reality, this whole thing is an absolute joke because they were put on the bill in the first place with the lyrics they have."

*****

Beyond the recent controversy, Erica Cody had cause to lament the fact that the duo in question had managed to secure such a following - they sold out the 3 Arena late last year - despite the troubling lyrics in their songs.

"When you google Irish hip-hop, they're the first act that comes up," she said. "But that is not what we stand for here at all. There is some really good hip-hop here, and that includes white Irish rappers, that would be a much better way to spend your time than listening to those racist, homophobic and misogynistic lyrics.

"When you are a guest in the culture [as Versatile are in hip-hop], you need to understand where the genre your working within comes from. It wasn't made for this, so you could fetishise and dehumanise a black woman in an art form created by black folk.

"So, when you're a guest in a culture that comes with a certain amount of respect that you have to give back to that culture. If anything, Versatile have been disrespecting that culture for a very long time."

Erica Cody was speaking to Off The Ball as the latest guest on our OTB Culture Hall of Fame in association with NOW TV. You can watch back her appearance in full here

Catch up on previous episodes of The OTB Culture Hall of Fame:

Episode One - Andy Lee on the magic of Rocky III.

Episode Two - Dermot Kennedy on his obsession with Gladiator.

Episode Three - Stefanie Preissner on The US Office.

Episode Four - Kenny Cunningham on his love of classic British comedies.

Episode Five Derry Girls star Louisa Harland on Italian mafia series Gomorrah.

Episode Six - Joe Cole on starring in gangster drama Gangs of London.

Episode Seven - Writer Paul Howard explains his love for Columbo. 

Episode Eight - Director of Normal People Lenny Abrahamson inducts Detectorists. 

The OTB Culture Hall of Fame is brought to you by NOW TV, where you can stream classic Box Sets, the latest award-winning TV shows and unmissable movies with a new premier every day. Visit nowtv.com to check out the wide variety of great entertainment and movie options.

Download the brand new OffTheBall App in the Play Store & App Store right now! We've got you covered!

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Dublin Erica Cody Ireland Racism Versatile

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