That Weird Shizz: Die Antwoord

Earnest-Pettie by Earnest-Pettie on Jun. 29, 2013

That Weird Shizz is a new recurring feature that will cover many of the weirder things the Break editors come across online.


Die Antwoord. If you’ve seen this South African rap group’s name before, you don’t need to read any further because you already love Die Antwoord, or you already hate them. If you hate them, you don’t want to know anything more about them, and if you love them, you already know everything there is to know about them. For the uninitiated, here’s an introduction, their first huge video, Enter The Ninja: 

My first reaction to that music video was WOW. WTF? I had been publishing the homepage of Break for just a couple of months, and I thought “Could I post this on Break?” That was 2010, and the answer was probably not. Three years have passed, and Die Antwoord have managed to create a huge internet following through their music videos and short films, which have only managed to build on the aesthetic launched with this first video.

Die Antwood are:

Ninja

Ninja has been rapping around South Africa for about 20 years. He's fronted several rap groups, all highly conceptual and very different.

Yo-landi Vi$$er

Yo-Landi was actually in a group with Ninja before Die Antwoord. It was a conceptual group called MaxNormal.tv. She's married to Ninja.

DJ Hi-Tek

DJ Hi-Tek is the man behind Die Antwoord's rap-rave beats.

Die Antwoord call their music rap-rave, and they kick a style called Zef. Rap-rave is... well, take Aqua's Barbie Girl and add gangstafied lyrics to it, and you've got Rap-Rave. Zef is the South African equivalent of Ghettofabulous, the celebration of those things that identify you as a poor or marginalized person. For something that is coming so far from left field as to seem almost amateurish, Die Antwoord is actually a fully-fleshed out idea and business. Aesthetically, the group is deeply indebted to Roger Ballen, one of South Africa’s most respected photographers.

A Ballen photograph from 1994

 

A shot from the music video, I Fink U Freeky

 

Like America's Diane Arbus, Ballen takes pictures of “regular” people that can come off as creepy. In fact, Ballen shot Die Antwoord's first album cover and directed their video for I Fink U Freeky from their second album, Ten$ion. They’re so devoted to their zef vision that they walked away from a million-dollar-deal with Interscope records when Interscope began asking for more radio-friendly material for Ten$ion. For groups like Die Antwoord, success doesn’t come from radio play. Their video for Fatty Boom Boom racked up 12 million views without the promotional muscle of radio or a major label.

 

Die Antwoord is the kind of group for which the internet was made. Without their videos, they’re nothing, but they make the kind of videos that are weird enough that the underside of the internet slurp them up like ramen. Like Insane Clown Posse, the internet made it possible for this decidedly off-kilter group’s fans to find each other and build a groundswell of support for the group. Their music videos are immediately recognizable. They’re filled with ghoulish imagery and grime, especially around Yolandi, who comes across as gross or scary as often as sexy. For my money, it's her tweety-bird-chirp rapping and singing that makes Die Antwoord work. Their most recent video, Cookie Thumper, was released last week, is all Yo-Landi, and it's as strange and good as anything Die Antwoord has ever released. 
 
Die Antwoord are the kind of group that you just suspend disbelief and buy into. The crazier the idea they're pushing, the more fun it is to just accept it and roll with it. I tend to forget about Die Antwoord between music videos. Rap-Rave isn't exactly filling up my Spotify playlists. Whenever Die Antwoord release a new music video, though, I'm right there to check it out because I know it's going to be different from anything else I'll see online that day, which is why I wanted to share them with you. They're just a little bit of that weird shizz I see online that keeps the Internet fun.
 
-Earnest (Follow me on Twitter @earnestp and let me know what weird stuff you like)