South African Rave-Rappers Die Antwoord Keep It Real

By Elliott Sharp
Add Comment Add Comment | Comments: 0 | Posted Feb. 8, 2012

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Ninja, please: Die Antwoord's Yoland Vi$$er (left) and Ninja on the set of “I Fink U Freeky.”

Thanks to Lana Del Rey, who you probably know as “that awkward, puffy-lipped so-called singer who bombed on Saturday Night Live,” music critics have trapped themselves once again within the murky, moronic concept of “authenticity.” Is she really real, or is she acting? Is she a marketing gimmick? Is she, like Holden Caulfield’s bro, a goddamn phony? Such questions are only asked by gnawing little mice who want desperately to be metaphysicians. Here’s a response: Pizza!

The “authenticity” flames haven’t blazed this bright since South African rave-rap group Die Antwoord (The Answer) exploded the Internet back in 2010, when their “Enter the Ninja” vid went next-level viral. With choppy, shocking images and super-anti-hero gusto, nobody was ready for rapper Ninja and vocalist Yo-Landi Vi$$er’s disturbing (and hilarious) articulation of the all-encompassing aesthetic they referred to as “Zef Style”—a South African low-culture that Die Antwoord aimed to elevate, celebrate and proliferate.

Evidence that Die Antwoord was merely Ninja’s latest “conceptual” music project soon spread across the Web faster than a Kardashian sex tape, and the group was reduced to mere thought-fodder as critics ruminated their authenticity. Is Die Antwoord real? Is it an art proj? Is Ninja acting, or is he really real? Is Yo-Landi a butterfly? It was like a freshman comparative lit-class high on Roland Barthes and Four Loko.

Following irrevocable disagreements with Interscope Records about the direction of their follow-up to 2010’s $O$ , Die Antwoord self-released Ten$ion this week on Zef Recordz, and their North American tour begins Thursday night at the Trocadero. PW talked to Ninja on the phone shortly after they finished shooting a video for their new single, “I Fink U Freeky.” It’s online now. Watch it.

Hi, Ninja. Are you in South Africa?

I’m in Johannesburg. It’s 9 o’clock at night.

What are you doing tonight?

Sleeping. I have to wake up at like 6 a.m. or something. We’re editing a video. We just did a video with this guy Roger Ballen. He’s a photographer. He’s my favorite artist, or whatever, like, in the world. He directed a video with us. He’s a fuckin’ master of imagery. The only difficult thing’s the footage we got is really good, and we got a lot. When we’re editing videos we like to let it roll spontaneous style. Normally it’s kinda like shooting a kiddie dance competition and we try to see which kid dances the best, but this is like judging some fucking Olympic gymnastics shit where everything is fucking good. It’s exhausting. It’s the hardest editing we’ve ever done, but it’s the best footage ever. Do you know Roger Ballen, hey?

No, I don’t.

We started Die Antwoord because of him, basically. He’s like the best artist in the world. Hands down. He’s like Salvador Dalí and Hieronymous Bosch—those two painter guys from the old days—he’s like taking their place. Full-blown. He’s the modern-day version. He hits the roof. He is as wild as they get.

Where’d you shoot the video?

At a friend’s farm in Johannesburg. It’s on the outskirts of the city, so it’s mixed with urban decay or whatever. There were all these rats, cockroaches, bats and snakes and all this wild stuff. We told Roger Ballen to come check out this farm because we were staying there, and we were like, “Check out the wolves,” and everything looked really, like, fucked, and it was a good canvas with all these little fucked-up holes and stuff, and fucked-up wild animals everywhere. Yolandi caught like 40 rats and I caught these big fucking Madagascar hissing cockroaches. This kid caught a big fucking snake, this big fucking boa constrictor thing. We caught all these animals and we started off with that. We drew on all the walls. It’s, like, very reflective, like, you can see yourself in it. You can see all these things, and I saw myself deeper than I ever have. I don’t know if it will translate to other people, but for us it’s really heavy seeing all these things hidden in the imagery along with that in-your-face Die Antwoord style. It’s like the best thing in the world.

Read the rest of our interview at

Die Antwoord perform Thurs., Feb. 9, 8pm. $24. Trocadero, 1003 Arch St. 215.922.6888.

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