A long time ago, in a galaxy far far away, a group of white boys from the field of the arts (planet South-Africa, to add insult to injury) decided to develop an artistic project without comparison. It wasn’t about an existentialist performance with a model anally perforated by two pickles. Nor was it their intention to cut the German shepherd from Inspector Rex like a sausage and put the slices in a formaldehyde bath. Nothing like that. Other than 90% of their artist colleagues who feel transcending, these guys didn’t take life that serious, so they came up with an imaginary project called Die Antwoord (The Answer in Afrikaans) and created a delicious mime putting themselves in the place of a gang of inbred rappers from the trashiest part of South-Africa, an aesthetic/sonic aberration of dirty ghetto that not even the filthiest person could bare. And they had success like you wouldn’t believe.
It was pure hysteria. They created a musical cult over the black bible of what they called zef rap –i.e. an outrage that is purely South-African, from Capetown to be more precise, that would make the favela rap sound like the perfect Spongebob soundtrack. Their songs, a mix of humour, machismo, street tales, alienation, nymphomania and drug addiction thrown together under pressure in a greasy brew of rave music, gangsta rap, coked-up electro, African percussion, dodgy hardcore, hooligan choruses and Rumanian synthesisers. And they started to upload some incredible videos, pieces of electro-chav craftsmanship for the Dirtbag Brotherhood which harvested an obscene amount of visits and turned the group into a phenomenon many believed was real. The chav-raver aesthetic taken to the extreme, the touching of genitals (Ninja’s shorts were amazing, with the sleeve of Pink Floyd’s “The Dark Side Of The Moon” printed on and wide enough to do windmills with his member), the smokers’ humour, the dirty beats, the sexual references, the hardcore touch, the kung fu: who knows what attracted the people to this pool of filth, but the truth is that in very little time Die Antwoord have gone from being one big joke to a cool phenomenon, thanks to viral promotion.
And the major labels, which are like the Red Eye of Sauron, all-seeing and all-shitting, decided to take them out of the virtual world and make them real men. Interscope-Universal opened their doors to them. And the record that they had uploaded to their website for free download disappeared, only to be re-composed in special versions for the American, European and British markets, where they have been confirmed as one of the tastiest abominations of the electronic sewer, an abomination, by the way, that even the greatest artists want a piece of or part in. Aphex Twin has ogled them already. If you don’t believe it, ask those who attended Sir Richard D. James’ set at the London Electronic Dance Festival this year, where our heroes stumbled on stage with the master dressed in suits that looked like Pikachu with cirrhosis.
On this carousel of delirium, cosmic conjunctions, invented personae and music for lovers of tracksuits and goldie looking chains, we find ourselves with a collection of firecrackers on our hands that strongly reeks of South-African white trash; an album that is pure loutish jokery, a without safety net. “$O$” is not for those who think the music business is a place for nobility and feelings. Die Antwoord laugh at their own mother and they’re not what they seem, either. One thing is certain: they have a thing for rave sounds, as can be heard during the minutes hidden at the end of “Doos Dronk”. And they have a hard-on for violent, made-in-the-garage rap. “In Your Face” sounds like NWA, the Snorks and Jan Hammer jamming together. “Enter The Ninja”, their most celebrated hit to date, takes the legacy of Aqua y Marusha –Yo-Landi Ve$$er’s choruses are pure “Barbie Girl” a la Quasimoto mixed with “Over The Rainbow”– and they twist and squeeze it to the point of turning it into a sucker punch of crazy rap with an overdose of scrapyard synthesisers. “Wat Kyk Jy” is dagger-pulling, bomberjack wearing chav splendour, it’s a 10 am rave at a Peruvian garbage dump, it’s coarse rap with halitosis. “Evil Boy” –check out the video– has all the ingredients of their rhetoric: tacky keyboards, unintelligible bawling in the choruses, rhythms from the narco-controlled Brazilian shanty towns, the smell of cheap aftershave and poorly washed genitals. It’s brutal.
What these guys have done is admirable. Not only because of the music, what the heck, also because of the image. Ninja, the leader rapper figure, is like a junkie clone of Vanilla Ice with the face of a French boxer and two gold front teeth. The DJ, one Hi-Tek, looks like a nazi gym instructor from the digital era. But, without a doubt, one of the main attractions is an anorexic slapper who answers to the name Yo-Landi and looks like the thin bastard sister of Vásquez from “Aliens” – the raver version: with nits, the face of a bad-ass chick, and a helium voice that turns her into a kind of ultra-sensual skanky Smurfette. I like these people. They’re all mental, or at least they make it look like that. It doesn’t matter if they’re white trash or an act set up by people from the world of performance and the great contemporary art swindle: even Leonard Nimoy was a nobody until he put on a pair of pointed ears and spread his fingers in a V. Then the people applauded him and called him a god. Any similarity to reality is purely coincidental and Die Antwoord rule.