Jay Style’s Blackface Faux Pas
Jay Style has found himself in some scorching hot stew after stirring up the social media pot with his recent marketing campaign. The French DJ released a number of promotional images this week through his official website and Twitter in an attempt to elicit votes for DJ Mag’s Top 100 DJs. Among the images is one where Style is covered in blackface, with the statement "I’m a music’s slave and I love it" emblazoned at the top.
Suffice it to say, people did not react to this well.
…Honestly, I myself am still trying to figure out if “a music” is a creature that specializes in exacerbating racially charged anger, or if it’s just an anger-inducing grammatical error. Despite a complete disregard toward proofreading content for an international campaign, Jay Style has succeeded in pissing a lot of people off. What’s more, the DJ has handled the aftermath without any style except to his actual name.
In a series of tweets, Style attempted to clean up his PR disaster in a less than graceful manner:
Blackface is nothing racist? This is news to me. In fact, that must completely negate the existence of American minstrel shows where blackface was used to degrade black society, right? The written content links skin color with slavery to comment on his relationship to music. So by the transitive rule, yes – it is absolutely racist.
The image is arguably the most offensive to Americans, who have a very well-known sensitivity to their slave history. Unfortunately for Style, this happens to be the exact place where the dance music scene is catching on like wildfire. Sorry, but obliviousness of another country’s sensitivities is not an excuse for producing racist promotional material.
To throw some more fuel on this fire of ignorance, Style apologized…for the fact that his slighted audience was offended. I’ve always been under the impression that apologies were meant to highlight one’s own failings, but then again, I’ve never thought to throw on blackface in an attempt to relay a “global message.”
One thing that stands out to me the most though is the fact that Style believes everyone is missing the "global message" of his ad. His statement drips with irony because when you think about it, EDM is a scene born in the generation of globalization. It’s a scene that embraces ideals of acceptance. It’s a scene where you are encouraged to be anything you want to be, without fear of judgment or mockery. In this light, Style is the one that totally misses the mark on communicating any type of global message.
Style’s campaign also attests to how contentious the legitimacy of DJ Mag’s Top 100 list is. His tactless PR stunt is reflective of how getting on this list is more about marketing and campaigning than celebrating genuine musical aptitude. While I doubt that the motive here was based on the framework that all press is good press, it would not surprise me if this ridiculous campaign pushed Style into the Top 100.
After stumbling around his apologies and justifications, I hope that Style has internalized a hard-hitting lesson about intolerance. In the same vein, I hope this incident provokes DJ Mag to at least reconsider their methods in selecting the top 100 DJs. Rankings produced by a process that catalyzes an avalanche of voting campaigns is ineffective. Artists should feel confident letting their music speak for itself. If they can’t do that, they shouldn’t be on the list. That’s as global of a message as you can get.
[H/T and Photo Credit: Harder Blogger Faster]