Die Antwoord is one of those phenomena (yes I will admit that they are that big) that irritates my vibe. Why do you ask? Well the following facts set the background for this argument.
Die Antwoord (consisting of performers Ninja, Yolandi Visser and DJ Hi-Tek) became the first South African group to be invited to the absolutely massive (over 75 000) Coachella Music festival in Los Angeles, California which is an amazing thing… if you can overlook the fact that everybody from overseas now thinks that if you are South African you are Zef. Provided that this may just be down to ignorance and the inability of people from overseas to locate the Republic and realise that it isnt a jungle even after the World Cup, I am still concerned. So… what is so bad about being Zef???
Zef is a South African slang term that describes a unique South African style of living which is modern, extremely trashy and also includes way out-of-date cultural elements that should have stayed in the past.
Yolandi was quoted as saying, “It’s associated with people who soup their cars up and rock gold and shit. Zef is, you’re poor but you’re fancy. You’re poor but you’re sexy, you’ve got style.” – Thank goodness she’s got such a way with words (if she didnt have that undercut, she’d be quite tasty, I think, maybe).
I thought that their video Enter The Ninja, which was quite a lag when I first saw it, but after doing a little bit of digging and finding out a little bit more about their vibe I felt kinda cheated that these peeps were ones that were tasked with representing the South African brand globally. Now dont get me wrong- we dont exactly claim to be holier than thou around here at MyCityByNight but I like to think that we put forward an image that is still South African but far from trashy (most of the time). Die Antwoord’s fan page on Facebook and the 60 000+ members from all over the world along with the 3million other viewers of the Enter the Ninja video on Youtube clearly think they rock, but here’s more on why I disagree.
Their debut CD, $O$, will be released later this year by Interscope Records, the company which is responsible for, among others, Lady Gaga, U2, Sting, Eminem and the Black Eyed Peas and apart from having ”rympies wat sal jou fokken kop skop”. (loosely translated as- rhymes that will kick your fucking head) Die Antwoord plans to make 5 albums in total along with a couple of films and feature films about the albums and band inbetween.
Now hear what I am saying, if you are like Jack Parow- a genuine dude who speaks the exact same way as he does when he spits the venom on his tunes and in his videos- thats awesome… Go forth and be you.
On the other hand if you are Die Antwoord’s lead vocalist Ninja (born Watkin Tudor Jones- yes thats fucking right, not very Zef) who was a part of the South African hip-hop scene for many years, fronting such acts as MaxNormal.TV who then decides to become a crude and rather vulgar chap (not the type you’d think would be nice to check in an alley when you’ve just withdrawn your daily limit from the ATM) its somewhat questionable.
When asked in an interview whether Ninja was a character he said, “Ninja is, how can I say, like Superman is to Clark Kent. The only difference is, I don’t take off this fokken Superman suit.” - So what- he has now become the Ninja and embraced the Zef?!
I am all about entertainers who use personas to beef up the mystique and excitement around themselves (think Lady Gaga & Casper de Vries), but when you are famous for making music with good production, ok lyrics (Jou Ma se Poes in ‘n Fishpaste Jar springs to mind) and then go onto to make a series of films which are released globally, where you portray South Africans as being backward and a little bit country- I begin to question whether this really is the best thing musically that we have to offer to the world.
Granted I lagged at that Zef side video when there was a slow mo shot of Ninja’s swinging balls underneath Dark Side of the Moon boxers, I wont be rushing out to get their next album, or feature film, or foam sippy cup… But then again EMI Worldwide and Interscope Universal arent bidding for my soul hey Ninja?