Review Summary: Die Antwoord are three South African kids rapping about ninjas who aren’t actually South African kids. However, they do rap about ninjas.
A lot of people are going to use Die Antwoord as a reason to muse on modern pop culture, and how this couldn’t exist any other time than right now. I’m going to do that. Die Antwoord are the latest band to get the internet hype treatment: 1.5 million YouTube views in a week, a full-length Pitchfork article, numerous blog reviews, and some people even caring that Fred Durst tweeted about them. What initially sparked this interest was people watching and asking, “r these guys fo real"” The answer is that they’re about as real as your grasp on the English language. Their popularity continued, because we all love things that admit that they’re fake (because that’s the truest form of honesty), e.g. Lady GaGa and Sacha Baron Cohen movies.
In the introduction track “Whatever Man,” frontman Ninja announces in his faux-African accent, that he “represents South African culture.” He then lists groups of people (black, white, African, et cetera) and he says, “I’m like all these things – all these things ***ed into one person.” Then it becomes outrageous in a way that these words can’t fully translate to you. Female member Yo-Landi Vi$$er’s digitally altered squeaky vocals enter and a simple beat begins “Wat Kyk Jy.” The first understandable word said is “ninja,” and the lyrics remain both obscene and ridiculous from then on. One can only make out some of what is being said, considering all of these funny voices dropping in to contribute only a few lines. There are a lot of “guest rappers” on this album – which isn’t uncommon for rap music at all. The reason I use quotations is because it’s been speculated that all of the guests are just the guy who plays Ninja making other sounds with his face.
The next track, “Enter the Ninja,” is their most popular YouTube video, probably because it’s one in which the lyrics can be heard completely. After Yo-Landi croons the chorus for the first time, Ninja yells, “Yo I’m a ninja. My life is like a video game.” He elaborates on this premise for the remainder of the song. At one point, he stops rapping to contemplate exactly what is happening around him. “***! This is like, the coolest song I ever heard in my whole life… Look at me now, all up on the interweb! Worldwide! 2009! Futuristic! Enter the Ninja!”
The album continues with stomping beats laid down by DJ Hi-Tek, catchy choruses, high-pitched vocals provided by Yo-Landi Vi$$er and obscene lines from Ninja and his multiple personalities. (Personal favorite: “I fit right in! I fit cock in your mother!” from “Wat Pomp.”) It’s not monotonous, though. Die Antwoord don’t exclusively stick to this formula. In “Rich Bitch,” Yo-Landi takes the mic for the entirety of the song and tells us that she is, guess what, a rich bitch. A mother***in’ rich bitch, in fact. “I Don’t Need You” is nowhere near as frantic as the tracks that precede it and humorously uses auto-tuned background vocals in the chorus. By the way, auto-tune is acceptable as long as it’s intended to be funny. “Dagga Puff” is the obligatory rap album homage to marijuana. Its beat sounds like it came from a music box in a nursery school, and its chorus goes “Early in the morning smoke a big fat spliff, nothing quite like it, like a spaceman spliff.”
Towards the end of the record, things begin to fall apart. “Beat Boy” starts like most of the rest of the album. Someone decided to let Ninja take the microphone for eight minutes almost uninterrupted, over the albums least involving beat, which also doesn’t change much. “Doos Dronk” is barely a hip-hop song, but more of a horror film’s interpretation of circus music. It’s the soundtrack to the scene in every kid’s cartoon when the old person is telling the scary story of the family of drunks who caused a major ruckus in the olden days of the town. At one point I think it’s about Ninja beating Yo-Landi, because there’s a slapping sound effect and she screams and the police sirens pass. I can’t make out a single word of the song, which makes it all the more disturbing. While it’s not exactly mixtape fodder, this is an excellent way to end the album, rather than just more of what existed during the rest of it. Oh wait, “$O$,” (that’s the title track) ends the album, and it’s a completely uninteresting four minute instrumental. For the best effect, turn off the album when “Doos Dronk” ends and get into your bed. Stare at your ceiling with eyes wide as plates all night long like in the aforementioned kid’s cartoon.
Like everything else in our viral video culture, Die Antwoord have a good chance of not lasting for too long. Hopefully, though, their audience will grow even more before they fade away. $O$ (the album, not the song) is a damn good time and, if anything, it gives you and whoever else is listening a chance to yell in poorly-imitated African accents at one another about one another’s mother’s vaginas. That’s a necessary life experience.
Stream: http://www.dieantwoord.com/ (Hit “Player” at the bottom right hand corner. Site also has the videos mentioned.)