In early 2010 this strange rap group from South Africa exploded onto the “Interweb” with a series of off-the-wall YouTube videos, setting off an international debate as to whether these guys were for real or just in the vein of Sasha Baron Cohen’s character work. The band categorizes its sound in the Zef genre. That’s new. The buzz stems from how seriously fucked the act is. The group is a boy/girl rap duo and a DJ. The male vocalist is Ninja, a 6 foot-plus, super skinny white dude sporting a future crew-cut and two gold incisors. He also has “pretty wise” tattooed on his throat and has a torso and arms also covered in chicken scratch tatoos. One of the tattoos on his left arm says “If you don’t like funerals don’t kick sand in a ninja’s face.” All the tattoos are fake, and he refers to himself as “a motherfucking ninja” throughout $O$, DIE ANTWOORD’s debut LP. This guy is amazing.
He is as good as Cohen when Cohen is in Ali G’s skin. This is fake like Ali G is fake, but who gives a shit?! And this is not entirely like Ali G, or at all fake like MILLI VANILLI. The rappers adopt characters for their performance, sure, but they’re not the first rappers to hide behind characters. EMINEM doesn’t really murder people and LIL WAYNE is not from Mars. DOOM doesn’t really wear a mask either. The fake tattoos are akin to LADY GAGA’s costumes. Besides, this is some of the best music to come out of 2010 so far, so just embrace it. $0$ boasts great beats, dope flows, amazing energy and it’s all from South Africa. The album is English language but there is a lot of Afrikaans sprinkled throughout. DIE ANTWOORD is super unique. Think Ali G if Ali G could rap and had an odd, cute chick partner who could also rap.
Remember, DIE ANTWOORD is a duo. It only begins with Ninja. The non-ninja half of the group is Yo-Landi Vi$$er, a five-foot-nothing blonde chick weighing about as much as a stack of wet nickles. Her bangs are cut shorter than Julius Caeser’s and the sides of her head are shaved. She’s kinda cute. Her vocals are often manipulated to make her sound smaller, with a higher, squeakier pitch. It all works. This whole thing works to perfection because Ninja and Yo-Landi are clearly top-notch actors and never break character. But more important than their adhesion to their characters is the fact that they’re excellent rappers. And the lyrics throughout their debut LP are as odd as their haircuts. Those haircuts were chopped by SCAR HAIR, by the way. DIE ANTWOORD gives the hair stylist a shout-out on its website.
$0$ is a stunner. It’s so surprising that such great hip-hop would come from what is essentially an amazing comedy act. It’s clear that the production from South Africa is behind the game, sounding more at times like late 90s techno and house than anything in the new America hip-hop community. But the new American hip-hop community either sucks or is incarcerated, so that $0$ brings a different sound to the genre is actually a good thing, and maybe it’s what rap needs. The LP’s first track is a 30-second manifesto of sorts, where Ninja explains his origin, essentially analogizing himself to a blank canvas that all people have been fucked into. His language only becomes more colorful as the album moves forward.
The first hit on the album is Enter the Ninja, which is the most viewed of DIE ANTWOORD’s YouTube videos. It’s actually a very catchy song. The first time you listen to it you are caught by the gimmick and fixate on the identity of the rappers. After a few of listens you start to see DIE ANTWOORD as a legit rap duo, not just a bunch of odd YouTube videos. $0$ transcends that. Their songs are weird. Beat Boy is the strangest song you will ever hear in your life. But EMINEM’s songs are weird, and LIL WAYNE is “a goblin,” so just accept this. This shit is amazing. Ninja’s flow is on fire on Enter the Ninja and it shows that he’s a killer MC. On that track, Yo-Landi Vi$$er has a high-pitch, vulnerable sound. She croons “I am your butterfly, I need your protection, be my samurai,” to which Ninja eloquently replies “I’m a fucking Ninja.” This shit is absolutely amazing. Ninja even stops before the end of the song to reflect out loud, saying, “Fuck, this is like the coolest song I ever heard in my whole life.”
Before you have a chance to realize what just happened, Wat Pomp begins. It only takes about a minute for you to realize this may well be the Best Dance Track of 2010. DJ Hi-Tek is serious. His beats are a bit dated but they work so well, sorta similar to early DIZZEE RASCAL. Wat Pomp and the rest of the production on the album works because it sticks the hook in the front and bleeds it dry. You know where the song’s going and you get hooked in from the get. Wat Pomp is followed by Wie Maak die Jol Vol, which I hate but also love. It’s like a Sour Patch Kid.
On Rich Bitch, Yo-Landi Vi$$er takes the reins and rocks it solo. DJ Hi-Tek provides his typical minimalist beats and Yo-Landi raps with the sass only a girl with her haircut could. “Fuck the upperclass . . . Fuck a rich bitch . . . I’m a rich bitch, a motherfuckin’ rich bitch . . . I shop at Woolworths.” DIE ANTWOORD are hybrid brilliant comedians and brilliant rappers. The world has never seen anything like this. They are rumored to be upper-middle class cats from South Africa, just like Cohen in England. With this act they purport to adopt the voices of different South African communities and advocate from those views.
I couldn’t believe it when I heard I Don’t Need You, where Ninja sings “I don’t need you, you’re like see-through” while accompanied by an auto-tuned backup.“You’re like see-through.” How funny is that?! “You’re LIKE see-through! Ninja injects a colloquialism where any other singer would just have said “You’re see-through.” This is an enormous flag being waved saying “we’re comic geniuses.” And always remaining true to character, DIE ANTWOORD even makes sure they insert a pot song into the album. On Dagga Puff, the production rumbles, Ninja fits his flow in between the beats with the precision of a samurai and Yo-Landi is on the highest of all pitches. Ninja exhales, “Early in the morning smoke a big fat spliff, nothing quite like it like a spaceman spliff.” The beat under this song is heavy, and it’s covered with flute whistles and weed coughs. DIE ANTWOORD. Get on that. Stop watching their YouTube videos and get $0$.
by: Brad Horenstein