In a Facebook post earlier today, British producer and DJ Dave Lee announced that he won’t be using his most famous alias of “Joey Negro” anymore.
In the post, Lee explains the history of the alias and exactly how he came up with it back in 1990, as well as why he continued using it for thirty years. Lee described creating the stage name for his 1990 single Do It, Believe It on Nu Groove Records, when the label owners asked for an artist name. “I had a pile of records next to my desk at work, amongst them was Pal Joey ‘Reach Up To Mars’ and J Walter Negro ‘Shoot The Pump,’ I wrote down a few of the names off the vinyl and put them next to each other.”
The decision comes in a week where Marea Stamper changed her alias from The Black Madonna to The Blessed Madonna as a response to an online petition that had gone viral.
Read the full statement from Lee below:
I’ve understandably been asked the question of how did you come up with the alias Joey Negro many times. If you don’t know, here’s the story. Back in 1990 I’d produced my first solo release and I wasn’t sure if it was any good or what to do with it. I was running a label called Republic (owned by Rough Trade) at the time and had licensed material from the NYC label Nu Groove on several occasions. They were a super cool label, so I sent my song to Frank and Karen there and they said they liked it and had a gap in the schedule so would be prepared release it. Normally I’m ok at thinking of names but I just couldn’t come up with anything and the label said they really needed all the credits by the end of the week. I had a pile of records next to my desk at work, amongst them was Pal Joey “Reach Up To Mars” and J Walter Negro “Shoot The Pump”. I wrote down a few of the names off the vinyl and put them next to each other.
The one time I’d heard a J Walter Negro record on the radio as a new release the DJ announced it as “Negro”, the Spanish pronunciation, and that’s how I heard the name as I used it. Why didn’t I use Dave Lee? In retrospect I should have done, but to be completely honest it just seemed boring compared to the likes of Junior Vasquez, David Morales or Frankie Knuckles who were making some of my favourite records at the time. The Spanish house label Blanco Y Negro had a big record with Real Wild House and there was another song Piano Negro, I felt Joey Negro gave it a Latin American feel so it would fit in peoples record boxes. Many of the disco records I bought in the late 70s/early 80s were producers under pseudonyms, there didn’t seem anything odd about not using my birth name. Back then I never ever imagined the name as a longterm thing that I’d ever DJ under or be addressed as face to face. It was just for the label of a record.
The Nu Groove release did ok but I didn’t plan to re use the alter ego. However a year later I had finished a new EP and I was going to use the alias Raven Maize, but I played it to a friend and he said it sounded like the follow up to the Nu Groove release (and nothing like the earlier Raven Maize record) and I should use the name Joey Negro. I saw his point and took the advice on board. A few months later I remixed a track off that EP into a song called “Do What You Feel” and that became a big club hit that got into the bottom end of the pop charts. The name suddenly became well known to clubbers and record labels. I then began doing lots of remixes and even when I put Dave Lee on the mix name credits, the record label would change it to Joey Negro – and in fairness to them this was the name the general public was familiar with.
Over the subsequent years I’ve collaborated with loads of black artists, and of course the name has come up many times whilst working in the studio. I’ve explained the history of how it came to be and no one has ever said anything on the lines that they find it offensive or I should change it – in fact quite the opposite. Like a lot of DJs there are photos of me on social media, flyers and in interviews. I’m obviously not Black and it would be wrong if I was pretending to be. I don’t think I have sold more records because people thought I was black but fully accept there could be confusion.
In truth I’ve not felt comfortable with the name Joey Negro for a while, especially as I’ve got older. I’ve stopped using it a few times but establishing a new name as an artist isn’t easy and I’ve ended up going back to it. I understand now though that it’s not appropriate for me to carry on using the name. I’ve recently received emails, tweets etc saying that it is unacceptable and people find it out of place in 2020 – and I agree. From now on I’m dropping Joey Negro as a pseudonym, and all those future releases that weren’t already in production will carry the name Dave Lee.
I’m sorry to have caused any offence. My whole life has been about music but particularly black music, I love soul, funk, disco, jazz in a way that’s impossible for me to articulate in words and I have tried to champion it with the best intentions. Please be aware the changes are not instant everywhere, Best Dave Lee”