Village Voice cover causes controversy

    Via: Brooklyn Vegan
    Just when it seemed the whole “blipster” scandal was behind us and we could try and renew our collective focus on the quality of music rather than the ethnicity of the people who make it, the cover of the Pazz & Jop issue of the Village Voice is stirring up controversy. Martin Perna of TV on the Radio and Antibalas wrote a scathing letter to the Voice, calling the cover “racist, unfunny, mean-spirited and inaccurate.”
    Let’s address the latter three accusations first because, well, they’re easier. I can’t begin to pretend that I know what the intentions of the artist, David O’Keefe, or the Voice staff were. However, I assume, besides the obvious fact that Dylan beat out TVOTR in the poll, it’s meant to poke fun at the “old guard” one-upping the “hot new band.” Is this funny? To my taste, no. Maybe that’s just me, though.
    I think we can all agree though, that the letter is unnecessarily mean-spirited and, I suppose, inaccurate as well. As Perna states in the letter:
    “Why such a nasty way to portray two fantastic musical entities who made award-winning records last year? Why only portray Kyp, when TV on the Radio is composed of four other equally talented core members plus a small army of extended family (including myself) who have contributed to the indescribably ecstatic sound of TVOTR onstage and on record.”
    I can’t help but agree with this sentiment. The cover, complete with “Blood on the Tracks!” caption, seems unnecessarily combative. It also needlessly singles out Kyp Malone who, whether more recognizable or not, is hardly the only member of the group. Is the cover racist though? Here, I’m less convinced.[more:] On the one hand, I can certainly see how it can be interpreted as offensive, and for no other reason than that, it should have been reconsidered. While I find the comparison a bit stretched, there’s some underlying truth to the uncomfortable similarity of the caricature to the cases of James Byrd and Arthur “J.R.” Warren that Perna mentions.
    Where Perna loses me, however, is in his assertion that this is in any way comparable to “ghetto parties” taking place on college campuses, or that the cover somehow sends the following message: “Make something too unique, make something outside of your assigned place-role, and get run over by a white man.” I sincerely doubt that, consciously or otherwise, the intent of the parties involved was to send a message to TVOTR to “stay in their place,” as it were. I agree that where there’s smoke, there’s fire, but Perna seems to be lighting the match himself on this one.
    Of course, in the end, whether or not a Canadian, caucasian male from the suburbs finds the picture to be racist isn’t really the point. What matters is whether or not the members of TVOTR–and black people in general, really–do. Ultimately, they have every right to be offended by the cover, based on how they feel it speaks to their portrayal in society. If that makes the cover racist to someone, then they certainly aren’t “wrong” in thinking so.