The Bigger Issue Behind J Balvin and Tokischa’s “Perra”

SAN FRANCISCO, CALIFORNIA - OCTOBER 31: J Balvin performs during the 2021 Outside Lands Music and Arts festival at Golden Gate Park on October 31, 2021 in San Francisco, California. (Photo by Tim Mosenfelder/Getty Images)

When I first noticed J Balvin and Tokischa’s “Perra” video after they premiered it in September, the cynic in me could not assist however concurrently lament over and be impressed by a up to date reggaeton quantity with all of the nuts and bolts of a 2000s perreo observe. Complete with deep bass and sexually express poetics, “Perra,” which goals to be a sex-positive, women-empowering report taking part in on the phrases “canine in warmth,” sonically appeals to reggaeton heads of yesteryear however visually fails to disrupt the longstanding anti-Black points plaguing the style and its communities.

As a journalist who’s lined each Balvin and Tokischa early on of their respective careers, it’s apropos to say the author and music fan in me is — at greatest — triggered by the perpetual whitewashing of Black genres like reggaeton and its inherent offshoot dembow. At worst, I’m detached and I might care much less for the smoke within the courtroom of public opinion.

Throughout the “Perra” video, set in Tokischa’s native Dominican Republic, Black actors are seen carrying masks and prosthetics that depict them as canine. The spectacle reaches a fever pitch when Balvin is filmed strolling two Black ladies on all fours on leashes, a flagrantly racist act and subject of dialog that solely made traction over a month after its launch. I really feel like if that went down by an enormous artist within the English-speaking world, it would not have taken as lengthy to gas criticism.

My fast response to what I noticed was to take to Twitter and publish a scathing tweet condemning using negras as mere props — sexually objectified and exploited in ways in which promote dangerous stereotypes. What I did as an alternative was hit backspace till oblivion, as a result of what was I going to say that hasn’t already been stated? “Make reggaeton Black once more”? “Discontinue the exclusion and erasure of Black folks and pioneers from their very own brainchilds”? “Pay and middle Black ladies creatives in order that “errors” like these are averted all collectively”?

Balvin issued an apology on his Instagram Stories for individuals who felt insulted, “particularly ladies and Black communities,” whereas Tokischa, a Dominican artist who fancies herself antiracist and pro-LGBTQ+, instructed Rolling Stone: “I understand the interpretation people had and I’m truly sorry that people felt offended. But on the similar time, artwork is expression. It’s making a world.”

The “Perra” video, which has been removed from YouTube as of late October, not solely highlights the anti-Black points lengthy plaguing reggaeton, it begs to query the answer to an issue Black folks didn’t create, and requires the collective sacrifice of its gatekeepers all the identical. The truth is, Balvin and Tokischa are items to a bigger puzzle, and canceling Balvin, or any of his contemporaries for that matter, is not going to repair the business that upholds the ideologies being protested.


While public criticism by figures like Colombia’s personal vice chairman and chancellor, Marta Lucía Ramírez, who released a public statement deeming the music video’s expressions a violation to Black women and people, warrants suspicion on the grounds of performative rhetoric, one truism stays unwavering: your so-called #LatinoGang — a track’s catchphrase that is developed right into a “motion” for right this moment’s Latinx youth — loves Black tradition however hates Black folks.

Appropriating visuals and photographs that hark again to slavery and the abuse of Black our bodies underneath the guise of creative expression is on model for ladies like Tokischa, whose Dominican nationality would by no means be questioned in her nation. Which is to say, she would by no means be ostracized or othered by her compatriots due to how she racially represents. It’s additionally on model for Balvin, a white Colombian man who coopted a way of life out of Black tradition and made tens of millions creating byproducts of Black music. Never thoughts he as soon as truly diminished our lord and pop savior Rihanna to a sex object devoid of “wifey material.”

Yet, Balvin & Co. are merely a mirrored image of contemporaries corresponding to Karol G, as an illustration, who was egregiously tone-deaf during a deadly political climate. Even the queer-positive purveyor of perreo himself, Bad Bunny, was radio silent for weeks earlier than finally speaking out in support of the Black Lives Matter protests that have been taking place through the peak of the pandemic.

Latinidad rejects Blackness so exhausting that even when a track is about Black folks, like in ChocQuibTown’s newest, “Morena,” a non-Black artist like La Ross Maria is fronted as stated morena after being touched up with darker-skin make-up and textured hair. “They put Ross Maria in some very ugly curls so she might allegedly cross for a brown lady for that video with ChocQuibTown. But for every other event, she’s white,” chimed in socio-cultural critic and educator Zahira Kelly-Cabrera, in Spanish. “I can not stand the mestiza; all the things is in accordance to what’s handy for the time being.”


Pretending to cancel mainstream-by-design artists just like the J Balvins of the world does little to nothing within the macrocosm of reggaeton and the so-called Latin music business at giant. There must be a concerted drive for a bigger, extra impactful dialog and name to motion, which by nature would require the aforementioned artists and their colleagues to deal with the house they occupy on this enterprise and on this world. To really act on accountability on any degree, non-Black artists with profitable careers in Black genres like reggaeton can begin by de-centering themselves; deliberately creating house for Black artists and their experiences; and paying them in capital, fairness, and protected visibility and credit score.

Image Source: Getty Images/Tim Mosenfelder


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