The U.K. DJ, producer and remixer of disco, whose real name is Dave Lee, adopted the pseudonym in 1990 to pay homage to the musical Pal Joey and early hip-hop artist J. Walter Negro. That context doesn’t matter to some members of the dance music community. Commentators on Twitter expressed outrage that he kept the name for 30 years without consequence, some saying they were shocked to learn that he was white.
Joey Negro you next! Cause you ain’t black either. Lmao!!
— H E V A L E N C I A (@extinctdaemon) July 20, 2020
Perhaps someone could have a word with Joey Negro? I remember being a child and GASPING when a presenter said his name on TOTP because I couldn’t believe that word was being said on TV. I sure as hell wasn’t allowed to say it, I knew what it was as a child
— Black Pat Butcher (@Sophielaaaa) July 20, 2020
— The black Curve Gotti (@Sorayea) July 20, 2020
Others have come to Lee’s defense, arguing that the “Negro” part of his moniker is pronounced with a long “A” sound as it’s simply the Spanish word for “black.” Among them is Carl Craig, an electronic musician of color and second-wave Detroit techno mainstay.
Before y’all get all bent out of shape, it’s not pronounced Joey “Neegrow”, Niggrow” or “Niggrah”. For those who are unenlightened, Negro is the color black in the Spanish language. Black Americans were called “neegrow” because stupid people didn’t know how to pronounce negro
— TECHNO TROUBLEMAKER (@carlcraignet) July 20, 2020
Matters of race and dance music have received more attention – and resulting action – in the wake of protests stemming from the May 25th, 2020 death of George Floyd, a black man. Video taken from passersby captured his apparent murder by since-fired Minneapolis police officer Derek Chauvin, who knelt on his neck for nearly nine minutes while he begged for his life. In June, demonstrations spread to every U.S. state and at least 13 other countries.
A spokesperson on behalf of Dave Lee did not immediately respond to Selector‘s request for comment.
UPDATE: Dave Lee has announced that he will no longer go by Joey Negro with the following statement: