When South African hip-hop duo Die Antwoord played "Fok Juule Naaiers," the first single off latest album Ten$ion -- the track that opened the group's Noise Pop gig last night at the Regency Ballroom -- for its LA manager, they were told it had some problems. The problem's name was homophobia, their manager ventured. US audiences, he said, don't take kindly to the F-word (I wish that were consistently true ).
In response, Die Antwoord released this video. It is entitled "F-word," the version of that term that lacks my lavish commitment to political correctness
Ninja, a.k.a. Watkin Tudor Jones, says the usage is all good because he has good homo friends, and that one of them is Hi-Tek, the group's DJ, who opened up last night's show with his charming "Fok Juule Naaiers" verse. Assorted lyrics below:
DJ Hi-Tek will fuck you in the ass, punk ass white boy
Look at you scared/Scared of a real man
Fuck it 'til you love me, [F-word]
So, was this song Hi-Tek's coming out party? What a bummer party.
Of course, the crowd (sold out to the gills -- I had press credentials and still had to beg, borrow, and perform mild thievery to get in) ate it all up. Die Antwood's stage show is less weird than its videos, because matching them would entail wearing coats made of live rats, which would be hard to get through customs.
Emcee Yolandi Vi$$er without her album cover blood-soaked visage is massively sexy on stage (the whole group looks like they hit the gym hard together). By the end of the show, she had stripped down to running shoes, spandex shorts, and a midriff-bearing pink tee with "zef" printed inside a heart. She always looks like her clothes are about to fall off. Next to Ninja in his orange running shoes and signature Dark Side of the Moon underwear (infamous jiggling penis beneath), they looked like they were hosting a really agressive workout video. Ninja crowdsurfed, constantly. Let no one say that Die Antwoord doesn't work it out on stage.
Yolandi Vi$$er at the Regency last night.
And, Ninja. Guardian photos by Caitlin Donohue
And it is a good show. Yolandi hype-chirps after Ninja's every line. She spins around five times and picks up her verse right on cue, and the two reverse roles with Ninja cooing after her lines end. New single "I Think You're Freaky" was a huge hit, particularly, one imagines, with the guy in a rubber pig mask sweating balls in the front row, a couple in the middle of the crowd wearing the hooded plushie onesies that Die Antwoord rocked -- weirdly, always weirdly -- in its "Umshini Wam" video. The front lighting blacks out after songs, silhouetting Ninja and Yolandi's distinctive haircuts. They are unapologetic in their stage presence, crowd love.
Earlier that day, afraid of not getting on the list for the show, I lurked outside Upper Playground's Fifty24SF gallery, where Ninja had spent the day painting the walls with the black chicken scratches and Evil Boy engorged penis characters that now adorn Die Antwoord merch, stage sets, and his own body. At 4 p.m., there was a line of Die Antwoord fans lined up to greet Yolandi and Ninja. You could cut the line if you bought a $200 Evil Boy latex toy.
Few people did. First-in-liner Stephanie Farrell, who came straight from school for the signing didn't. But she got what she wanted out of her wait: a really awkward experience with her idols.
"What was your interaction with them like?" I asked her while looking at the Die Antwoord's signatures, written in her wire-bound, lined notebook.
"They didn't say anything, it was really awkward. I was like 'hey,' and they were like 'hey.'"
"But are you still a fan?"
"Absolutely. I didn't expect it to be a normal experience whatsoever."
In the "[F-word]" video, Ninja says that people from the United States who are upset by the way they use that and other (N-word) offensive bullshit should quit being a little less PC and learn from "your brothers and sisters here in the dark depths of Africa," where a local saying is translated into "we are one." He then grabs his Evil Boy dolls, a black one and a white one, and knocks their monster toy dicks together while repeating the "we are one" phrase in a high-pitched voice. "That's why they say South Africa is a rainbow nation."
Photos of Die Antwoord's Ninja painting the inside of the Fifty24SF gallery are by John Orvis