I know it’s not the popular opinion. Just like I know I’m supposed to be stunned every time Lady Gaga dons another outrageous outfit, I know that I’m meant to be shocked and a little disgusted by every video Die Antwoord releases and every line of their lyrics.
Watch their latest video, then carry on reading my rant:
It’s a great video. Wonderfully styled, directed, conceptualised. It’s strangely beautiful. I’m not criticising the video, not really.
But, I’m afraid, I’m a little bored of Die Antwoord. No, I lie. I’m a lot bored by Die Antwoord. Like Gaga, they try so hard to live their “product” – which sure, takes a lot of dedication – but the problem with their product is that it’s unsustainable. Once they have milked their zef-ness to death – or the world becomes desensitized to their bizarre nature – Die Antwoord will be left with what I would guess is a small fan base. For their sake, I hope I’m wrong.
It is, I don’t hesitate to say, a pity. Ninja (Or, as he’s also known, Watkin “Waddy” Tudor Jones) has been part of some fascinating musical projects here in South Africa and Yo-Landi is bizarrely beautiful and exceptionally talented. Their move from the fascinating, heavy “hip hop-ness” of their earlier material (Enter the Ninja went viral for a reason) and into a slightly more club-inspired genre shows their versatility and their eagerness to reinvent. Their breakaway from Interscope Records displays their commitment to artistic control. I just wish they would be more “real” in more of their material.
This concerted effort to shock/awe/offend is wearing thin. Much like Gaga, their attempts to stand out from the crowd so consistently has become their normal: There is nothing new in the video for I Fink U Freeky. Which is a pity, ’cause it’s a helluva catchy song.
The black and white, we’ve done before with Enter the Ninja. Yo-Landi drapes herself in rats and dons her Pikachu outfit. Ninja cavorts in his tired boxer shorts, imitated by the other stars of the video. It makes them recognisable – but it’s a far cry from the WTF impact of Enter the Ninja and Zef Side.
I watched the video for I Fink U Freeky, I wrote a small article on it, I trawled for pictures, I set up a poll. But what struck me the hardest today were lyrics I saw typed out from So What? in an article in Rolling Stone South Africa – penned by a friend of Ninja and Yo-Landi. Stripped of the show and the pretence, they were all the more impactful – and I’ve thought of those lyrics more than the video I watched:
“Rapped for 20 years, never made a cent/Borrowed money from my mom to pay the rent/Now how’m I gonna get out of this mess/Yo- landi shows me two stripes on the fucking piss-test/Broke-ass Ninja gonna be a daddy/Little baby Ninja gonna need some nappies.”
To me, that “reality” is infinitely more fascinating than the construct that is Die Antwoord.