J Balvin issued an apology after the controversial music video for his song “Perra” — a collaboration with Dominican musician Tokischa — was taken off YouTube amidst claims that it was racist and sexist.
The song appeared on Balvin’s album José. It features lyrics where Tokischa refers to herself as a “female dog in heat” looking for “a dog to hit it,” according to Billboard.
In the music video, the Colombian singer walks two Black women on leashes, and a group of Black people are dressed like dogs. Tokischa herself delivers some of her lines from a doghouse and later licks Balvin’s cheek while on her hands and knees.
Criticism for the visual rolled in. Colombian Vice President Marta Lucía Ramírez published an open letter alongside Gheidy Gallo Santos, Presidential Council for the Equality of Women. The pair condemned the song and video for featuring “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,” according to Rolling Stone.
The publication noted that even Balvin’s mother did not seem to be a fan of the release.
The video was removed from Balvin’s YouTube account earlier this month, and the singer took to his Instagram story to explain why and apologize over the weekend.
“I want to say sorry to whomever felt offended, especially to the Black community,” the hit-maker said. “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 that he removed the video “as a form of respect.” Previously it was unclear if the removal was Balvin’s choice or if YouTube pulled it, according to Billboard.
Balvin also publicly apologized to his mother. “Mom, I’m sorry too,” he said. “Life gets better each day. Thank you for listening to me.”
While the “Perra” music video was removed from YouTube, an audio version is still available on the platform.
Tokischa opened up about the song and music video in an interview with Rolling Stone. She explained the song’s sexual inception (the idea came to her while she was having sex), and that the visual was a way to build out the lyrical allusions.
“It was very conceptual. If you, as a creative, have a song that’s talking about dogs, you’re going to create that world,” she said.
While she apologized for the way that the visuals were perceived, she appeared to stand by the artistic decisions. “I understand the interpretation people had and I’m truly sorry that people felt offended,” Tokischa added. “But at the same time, art is expression. It’s creating a world.”
Tokischa told Rolling Stone that she was not involved in the decision to pull the “Perra” video. She also said that she’d been in touch with Balvin and implied that she felt some responsibility for the controversy.
“He came here to record with me and to share his platform with me,” she said. “Now I’m like ‘what did I get Jose in?'”
Raymi Paulus, the video’s director, also told Rolling Stone that the video “never aimed to promote racism or misogyny.” He also stated that he believed the video was “taken out of context.”
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