J Balvin removes Perra music video following backlash for having Black women on leashes

26 October 2021, 17:09 | Updated: 26 October 2021, 17:14

Jazmin Duribe

By Jazmin Duribe

J Balvin has now apologised to the Black community.

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J Balvin has apologised for having Black women on leashes in his 'Perra' music video after being accused of racism and misogyny.

The controversial song, which is from his fifth studio album José, was released in September and features Dominican rapper Tokischa. Tokischa was inspired to write "Perra" (which translates to "bitch" in English) while she was having sex.

In the music video, which was directed by Raymi Paulus, J Balvin can be seen controlling two Black women on leashes. There are also Black people in prosthetics and masks that make them appear like dogs, while Tokischa poses inside a doghouse.

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J Balvin's 'Perra' music video
J Balvin's 'Perra' music video. Picture: Alamy, Capitol

Soon after the music video was released, it received criticism from his fans, politicians and even J Balvin's own mother for reducing women to being dogs that need to be controlled. In an open letter written on October 11, Colombian Vice President Marta Lucía Ramírez stated that the video conveyed "direct and openly sexist, racist, machista, and misogynistic expressions that violate the rights of women, comparing them to an animal that must be dominated and mistreated".

On Sunday (Oct 24), J Balvin apologised and revealed that he had removed the video from YouTube, leaving only the audio video on the video-sharing site. In Spanish, he said: "I want to say sorry to whomever felt offended, especially to the Black community. That's not who I am. I'm about tolerance, love, and inclusivity. I also like to support new artists, in this case Tokischa, a woman who supports her people, her community, and also empowers women."

He added: "As a form of respect, I removed the video eight days ago. But because the criticism continued, I'm here making a statement. Mom, I'm sorry too. Life gets better each day. Thank you for listening to me."

In an interview with Rolling Stone, Tokischa also said she was sorry for how the video was interpreted. "I said that if I’m going to talk about ‘perra en calor,’ I’m going use all the language associated with dogs: ‘perro de raza’ [purebred], ‘Purina’—which is a word with a double meaning because here, that’s what you call a product that’s really pure… ‘la perrera’ [the pound]," she told the publication.

"It was very conceptual. If you, as a creative, have a song that’s talking about dogs, you’re going to create that world. I understand the interpretation people had and I’m truly sorry that people felt offended. But at the same time, art is expression. It’s creating a world."

Meanwhile, Paulus told Rolling Stone that the video had been "taken out of context" and was reflective of the environment. He said: "Everything that was represented is from the barrio: the Doña [an older woman], the Don [an older man], the men, and the women; in that video they were dogs because they belonged to that context.

"Our creative process never aimed to promote racism or misogyny. The Dominican Republic is a country where most of the population is Black and our Blackness is predominant in underground scenes, where the filming took place, and which was the subject of the video’s inspiration. ‘Perra’ was a video filmed in the neighborhood, with people from the neighborhood, and the use of people of color in ‘Perra’ was nothing more than the participation of our people in it."

Tokischa and J Balvin.
Tokischa and J Balvin. Picture: Capitol

He continued: "I’m an underground director and I feel like the video was taken out of context. I understand that there will never be a unanimous opinion about what constitutes art, but, for me, art not only communicates beauty and positivity—it also communicates the shortcomings of society, taboo subjects, and other ways of seeing reality that do not always align with the pop vision that dominates the current market."

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The Power of Little Mix.
The Power of Little Mix. Picture: PopBuzz