Much Ado About Die Antwoord
Warning: The content and many of the links in this article lead to videos, music and websites that some may find offensive. The videos and music are definitely NSFW, and definitely not suitable for minors. You have been warned.
Who, in zefs name, is Die Antwoord?
If you’re wondering that, you’ve clearly have been living in a cave for the past three weeks. A cave without an “interwebs” connection.
Die Antwoord bill themselves as a “next level zef rap-rave krew”. They are also perhaps the first truly home-grown South African internet sensation. Formed in 2009, the group have been playing the under-ground Afrikaans music circuit for a while now, appearing at Oppikoppi and Ramfest 2009 together with the likes of Jack Parrow and Fokofpolisiekar.
The three members of Die Antwoord are front-man Ninja, vocalist Yo-Landi Vi$$er and beat master DJ Hi-Tek. ‘Zef’ will be familiar to Afrikaans readers, but essentially equates to redneck, trailer park, common, white trash. In Die Antwoords’ case zef is a life-style, an essence of being, a way of life and lingo. And for good measure, they throw a big chunk of Cape Flats gangsta in there as well.
Viral video makes waves
About three weeks ago, Die Antwoords’ music video for “Enter the Ninja” (a single off their soon-to-be released debut album $O$,) went globally viral on YouTube after influential entertainment blog Boing Boing posted about the band and the video early in the month.
Within hours, the bands’ website had been brought to a shuddering halt necessitating a quick shift to a US-based server able to handle the flood of traffic. At time of writing, the video has had close on 1.4 million views. And it’s not the only one now being watched around the world.
Their world-wide fame was cemented when, a few days after the Boing Boing article, first Fred Durst of Limp Bizkit mentioned them by name and then Katy Perry quoted the hook line from “Enter the Ninja” via Twitter. Things got ‘fokken crazy’ after that.
High quality (Hi-Tek?) production values
Listening to the ‘background’ of the group at the start of their “Zef Side (Beat Boy)” video, we learn that they have been friends “forever, since very small”, that Hi-Tek “lives with his granny down the road”, Ninja lives “with his mom and dad” and Yo-Landi is the “next door neighbour across the road”.
DJ Hi-Tek “owns a pc computer and makes next level beats” and Ninja has “some serious gansta skills on the mic”.
The inserts and video, and much of the groups publicity material, were shot in the Brooklyn neighbourhood in Cape Town and feature a number of locals and Cape Flats-style locations. Ninja’s gold caps and rough prison yard gang-style tattoos add to the street image mystique.
A quick visit to their official website and the incongruous slick production values are again evident. Something is beginning to not click, my broers.
Will the true Ninja please stand up, please stand up?
A little more reading, and it quickly becomes apparent that not all is as it seems in the world of next level street beats.
Ninja is the new persona of one Watkin Tudor Jones – a somewhat less than zef moniker if ever there was one! Jones, or Waddy as he is generally known, is in fact the long serving mixed-media hip hop artist who has fronted many of South Africa’s more off-beat acts over the years including such acts as The Original Evergreens, MaxNormal.tv and The Constructus Corporation.
The dimunutive elfin-like Yo-Landi Vi$$er is Jones’ real-life wife Anica, whist Justin deNobrega portrays the ‘role’ of the ever silent DJ Hi-Tek. Both also played a part in the now defunct MaxNormal.tv.
In fact, the Max Normal phase of Jones’ life was probably where a lot of the Ninja/Die Antwoord image was sown. Watch the video for “Total F**k Up” on YouTube for some very obvious evidence of this.
Courting controversy breeds success
Perhaps the biggest attraction for many of the newly converted Die Antwoord fans is the controversy courted by the group through their lyrics, actions and live performances.
With song titles such as “Dagga Puff”, “Doos Dronk”, and especially “Jou Ma Se Poes in ‘n Fishpaste Jar” there is no way they weren’t going to attract the attention of the grumblers. (Visit the local site Way KyK Jy? for a wealth of information on Die Antwoord, and a possible cover image for the last mentioned song. WKJ are Die Antwoords’ biggest local supporters, and home to many of their fans too.)
Lyrical, the group do not shy away from anything that would be considered radio-friendly. From “The Ninja” for example:
No fuckin’ around
I’m cutting down anyone in my path
Trying to fuck up my game
With razor sharp lyrical throw-stars
Here my flow’s hot ho style
Wild out of control
Ninja skop befokte rof taal
With rough rhymes for rough times
And that’s probably one of the tamest extracts I could record.
It’s not been all rave reviews and adoration for Die Antwoord either. No less a luminary in the Afrikaans musical milieu than Koos Kombuis lambuisted (I know – I couldn’t resist that) the group in a Rapport editorial recently. At the same time, NME was shattering the carefully crafted myth over in the UK, branding the group as South Africa’s “Biggest Non Existent Scene”.
I’ll leave it up to you to decide. If I haven’t given you enough material to work with in this post, a quick Google search for Die Antwoord will return another 8 million+ avenues to explore.
An aside for those curious enough
Yes, the guest artist ninja in the white hoodie in the “Enter the Ninja” video (and in various other places in the groups’ media) is non other than the inspirational Cape Town-based artist and DJ Leon Botha, the progeria sufferer featured recently on Carte Blanche: Medical. Love his response to an ignoramus commenter on Die Antwoords’ Facebook page: