MUSIC The bass. The accents. A scary little man in a hooded jacket. On first introduction to Die Antwoord via the video for their breakthrough jam, "Enter the Ninja," I was officially freaked out: intimidated by their honest anger, rank lyrics and ultrahip haircuts. It was early February of this year when the Ninja, Yo-Landi Vi$$er, and DJ Hi-Tek of South Africa entered my life, and only days after we met on the 'interweb,' I was officially obsessed.
Blowing up their videos to full-screen, I inhaled their stench, injected their music-laden virus, and swallowed mouthfuls of diseased, infectious theatrical genius for hours on end, letting all that is Die Antwoord swim to my brain, pump through my veins, and wallow in the depths of my stomach. I felt sick, happy, and addicted — and apparently, so did the rest of the world.
Die Antwoord blew up almost immediately after a couple quick posts from influential music tasters. Only six months into their new-found fame, these sick bastards have already played — and wooed — Coachella, signed with Interscope, and gained shows with MIA on their first official U.S. tour. Even gross celebrities like Fred Durst and Katy Perry have typed their praises. Their show at the Rickshaw Stop sold out in less than an hour.
They're white trash with skills: super-slick production, extra-catchy hard core beats, and personas that should be employed by the traveling carnival. Images of sexpot Yo-Landi and her tween-like frame rotate between cracked-out fiend, a shy classmate I met in the fourth-grade, and a sexy, antiestablishment Swedish lesbian. It's probably not OK that I find her at all attractive. The tiny-lady MC is totally cool being covered in rats, freely kisses the critters, and holds them upside down by their tails. I am quite jealous of her ability to rock wicked-short bangs.
Then there's Ninja; a rail-thin, pasty man with a mouth as rotten as San Francisco's Sixth Street. His collection of tattoos are horrible. My favorites include a large, erect penis; his non-gangster "very secret fairy forest"; and phrases like "If you don't like funerals, don't kick sand in a ninja's face." His prime video moment: a close-up of his seemingly giant balls aggressively keeping beat to a sick bass line, hidden only under the thin fabric of his "Dark Side of the Moon" boxers.
Die Antwoord's third member, DJ Hi-Tek, is basically mute and/or hasn't fully developed his character quite yet. Stay tuned.
So nasty. So raw. So are they real? The Web is stocked with videos of Max Normal TV, Ninja's, a.k.a. Waddy Jones', former project that included Yo-Landi Vi$$er as his assistant. They're art punks and all their projects before now simply laid the groundwork for Die Antwoord.
People's concern with the legitimacy of the group is out of style. Since when don't we like people who take on alternate public personas? Would we really like them more if they were, as one Videogum writer put it, "actually borderline mentally retarded poor children from ghettos covered in generic Cheetos dust and meth crumbs?" No. Because either way they're fokken intense, intoxicating, absurd, and pumping some serious Zef flow. (Says Ninja: "Zef = flavor, ultimate style, fokken cool, more than fokken cool. A zone. A level. And we're on the highest level.")
What any fan needs to figure out is how to translate the crazy-thick accent and constant use of Afrikaans slang. Yo-Landi finds it hilarious that fans attempt to sing along, unknowingly screaming absurdities that would make anyone blush. The song "Jou Ma se Poes in 'n Fishpaste Jar" translates to "Your mother's cunt in a fishpaste jar," which, unsurprisingly, has a corresponding picture. Just don't go around spouting off the lyrics in front of Grandma.