Die Antwoord is Badass

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.


39 thoughts on “Die Antwoord is Badass

  1. Waddy Jones has been in SA hip hop for a long time. He has that weird ‘evil white boy’ thing that sometimes make headz think ‘wtf are these white kids doing again’ but he is RESPECTED by people in the scene.
    people dont always identify with lyrics but they love his flow and his energy.
    WADDYs hustle in underground hip hop should tell you that he is an artist, pushes boundaries.
    Check out his stuff under Max Normal – its very similar to what other hip hop headz were doing at the time – that weird industrial electro sometime sheavy stuff.
    he was an abstract cat.
    its not surprising that he has come up with another persona.
    as for the race gender analysis – i think its off.
    how you read die antwoord is how you read something like coetzees disagrace.
    you can either take it literally or see that it merely reflects back at you what you want to see.
    personally i dont enjoy the music.
    but i love waddy jones. last saw them in grahamstown at the suite with dj f*ck
    brought the ‘multiracial house’ down.
    the guy has earned his underground hip hop dues.
    and as for mysogyny in hip hop. we’ll have that debate another time.
    for now, lets just watch waddy he’s too interesting, too difficult to pin down.

  2. I would just like to add – in terms of the Lily Saint analysis

    The worst thing for white male supremacy is precisely DIE ANTWOORD

    I don’t think Verwoed would like to see this insane representation obviously oversexed poor white boy who puts on blackness very badly and has this oversexed nymph with a thing for rhodents on his side.

    when i see Die Antwoord as a black person i personally see them hammering and mocking white supremacy.

    like jerry springer.

    i mean – also there is an affirmation that of ‘poor whiteness’ here.

    takes it out of that stupid obsession by middle class afrikaners to sanitise and uplift die volk.

    its like actually ‘no we’re fine; we’re not ‘poor’ white; we’re neighbours and people and we’re making fun’.

    it totally subverts any notion of the Strong, masculine, sturdy, white male who civilises the world and makes clean offspring with biblical habits.

    Die Antwoord totally fcks up that whole identity.

    If I was Die Broederbond I would get rid of Die Antwoord quietly.

    I mean also, i find as a black person that whites in S.A. are so bent on pointing fingers at the blacks in some kind of strange apartheid denialism
    or they are busy being liberal helping blacks to develop.

    Die Antwoord cuts through all that crap. It’s so post-racial in many symbolic ways.

    Although materially only a white rapper could have pulled off something this crazy at an international level! Big Up Waddy; he gets all sides of this game!

  3. This whole thing reminds me of a Riza De Wet play.

    Hammers straight into the heart of white and other stoopid supremacist ideas.

    I dont always agree with what they say because I think they are an act that draws from middle-class postmodern art weirdness

    but certainly they are Riza De Wet for MTV

  4. You’re reading alot into what is essentially a big, silly piss-take of hip-hop culture. And you have missed the joke by the way, or at least a big chunk of it.

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