The guardian called them “Fantastic, if bemusing,” Pitchfork compared them to the insanity of MTV’s pop phenomenon Jersey Shore, and their front man has a Lady Gaga-esque drive to take over the world. You might be asking yourself who the hell Die Antwoord is.
I was asking myself the same question as I stood on New York City’s Governor’s Island this summer, in a crowd of ten to twenty thousand hipsters waiting between sets by Sleigh Bells and M.I.A., when a tiny woman in a sliver dress and a man in a white robe took to the stage. At first I thought it might be a couple of high schoolers about to go streaking, but was soon corrected when a heavy synth beat dropped and Watkin “Waddy” Jones (the scrawny white lead) began to sing his anthem “Enter the Ninja”.
The group consists of three characters (or perhaps caricatures?), Ninja (Jones), Yo-Landi Vi$$er, and their “next-level” mixer DJ Hi-Tek. Die Antwoord (which means ‘The Answer’ in Afrikaans) hails from South Africa, and represents “Zef” culture, something foreign yet familiar to the United States. “Zef” has been compared to the what Americans refer to as “white trash,” a culture originating in the lower middle class and characterized by tacky displays of wealth, “clapped-out Ford Cortinas with fur on the dashboard, tight mom jeans pulled up too high, synth-heavy ringtone rave, mullets.”
At first perhaps soliciting laughs from their audience with their over the top beats and lyrics that sound like the fantasies of a 12 year old boy, it only takes a couple of listens to their latest release $O$ to realize that there are deeper values behind their music. Although at times it’s hard to tell where the joke ends and the meaning begins, everything they touch seems to drip post modernism, rendering their tacky appearance more a statement for the virtues of hedonism within an existential existence. When asked in the Beat Boy music video what their name is “the answer to” Ninja (Jones) pauses, and then responds “Whatever man. Fuck.”
Watkin Jones is no amateur to hip-hop, as he was part of the group MaxNormal.TV, a conceptual South African art-rap group that was dissolved on the formation of Die Antwoord. Because of their artsy roots, the group has been called fakes, as some view their work as a parity of Zef culture. However, in an interview with Pitchfork, the group refutes these claims. “The other rap albums we made were a bit stupid. Then we tapped into our inner Zef and discovered Die Antwoord and became next-level.”
The group seems to have big plans for itself. They currently claim to be filming a feature film about Zef called The Answer, and have also scored deals with big name label MCI. Though some people cannot see past the outrageous aesthetic, Ninja and Yo-Landi are both incredibly talented and practically ooze charisma. Ninja could make you believe that Afrikaans was created to rhyme over house music, and Yo-Landi could convince you that a haircut she got from her mom is sexy.