The South African group Die Antwoord has a new album coming out next week with a major American music label. You can’t but admire their hustle. Yesterday they debuted a new video for which they recruited a young black rapper called “Wanga,” allegedly a street kid they’ve known for years–flanked by black dancers in blond wigs–who rails against people coming to circumcise him and manages to offend gay people in the process. Here’s guest blogger Lily Saint take on them. I can already see the trolls going on how we’re too literal or not in on the joke.
Lily Saint, Guest Blogger
If it’s possible to judge an album by its cover then Die Antwoord’s forthcoming October 12th release— “$0$”—relies on clichés of naked blondes and male violence to sell a bunch of songs they’ve mostly made public already.
If you’re unfamiliar with Die Antwoord they also have a complicated relationship with black cultural expression and lived reality as this blog has suggested already. In videos they use clothes, gold teeth, spliffs and gangsta gesticulations to convey pretty superficial stereotypes about blackness that already over saturate global popular culture. If their recent Interview photo spread is anything to go by, the group’s appeal is increasingly wrapped up in the ways they mold and remold their image than in anything original they might produce in a recording studio.
But their particular magnetism (or repulsion) lies in the way they combine clichés about race with those of gender and sexuality.
Ninja’s phallic gyrations in “Zefside” (Yo-Landi Vi$$er looks on, biting her lip) assure us that white men in South Africa are still as concerned about their virility as ever. Ninja wants to appropriate the perceived virility of his “inner coloured” by highlighting his penis as much as he can. In “Ninja was here” he raps about drawing a penis on a female fan’s “boob.” And in the “Take No Prisoners” video, he sits spread-eagle in shorts that show his underwear, forcing our attention to the centrality of his bright white crotch. Meanwhile Yo-Landi perches next to him in a little ball, kissing and stroking a white mouse. Towards the end of the video posted on their new web site (click on the Parental Advisory label to get there), a still of (presumably) Ninja’s penis flashes briefly across the screen. Despite his claims to the contrary, showing his willy is about as badass as Ninja ever gets.
As the new album cover (see above) makes explicit, Yo-Landi demands we look at her body too. But still, she’s Ninja’s sexual adjunct, sitting silently by in the new film when he describes how he
fucked a lot of bitches, you know and you fuck this bitch and it’s hot, it’s okay, and you think it’s fucking popping and then two fucking seconds later you know she fucking bore you, like on to the next you know what I’m saying but then with Die Antwoord it was like, oh fuck… you know Die Antwoord is like my fucking bitch…until death do us part.
As if the point needed emphasizing, Ninja’s eloquent soliloquy is followed by a shot of a painting of a woman holding her vagina open entitled “Inviting Cunt.” Though he claims to be bored by women, the video devotes a lot of energy to demeaning them.
Die Antwoord seem just as good at using bigoted and predictable discourses of gender as they are at appropriating those of race and class. It’s the intersection of the three that probably contributes the most to their success. If working class whites see themselves in Die Antwoord (and by the looks of things whites constitute the majority of their audiences), they painstakingly parody that identity; if coloureds like their Afrikaans, the more the better; and their appeal to American and European audiences is at least one of exoticism if not something more sinister. While they claim to represent a small part of the world, their aim is in fact to be as malleable in interpretation as possible, to appeal to the widest audience—thereby to make the most $$.
I’m tempted to say Die Antwoord takes willy-slinging into the boundless realm of the sublime in Wednesday’s release of Evil Boy, except the racial segregation it implies insists that there are certain boundaries they’re still not willing to cross.
* “Lily Saint is writing a PhD dissertation on South African literature and popular culture at the CUNY Graduate Center in New York City.