by Bill Forman
Back in January, I stumbled across a fight between two music blogs that I follow on Twitter, about whether Die Antwoord and the whole South African Zef movement are, in fact, fake.
Since I hadn’t the slightest idea what they were talking about, I followed the links and ended up becoming fairly obsessed with Die Antwoord’s strangely endearing hybrid of District 9 aesthetics, hip-hop theatrics, blank parody, and art-school excess.
Described by lead vocalist Ninja — AKA Watkin Tudor Jones — as “rap-rave next level shit,” Antwoord’s music is hilariously weird, undeniably original, and surprisingly skillful. Along with his fetchingly bowl-coiffed accomplice Yo-Landi Vi$$er (who serves as a kind of Flavor Flav to his Chuck D) and deejay/painter Leon Botha (the man with the hood in the “Enter the Ninja” video below), Jones may well be a star in the making. (Hey, if Lady GaGa can do it, right?)
I could go on, and no doubt will if Die Antwoord ever expands its big-city tour to include Colorado. (Their recently announced San Francisco show sold out in one day.) But with the Capetown group signing to Interscope Records and a debut album on the way, there’s a good chance you’ll be hearing more about them soon enough.
In the meantime, scroll down further for a wry promotional interview/performance (featuring a semi-somnambulant substitute deejay), followed by Exhibit C, a song called “Doosdronk” that sounds a lot like an Afrikaner take on Kurt Weill and Bertolt Brecht.
And as for the authenticity question: Who can say? Granted, the Zef movement appears to exist primarily in Die Antwoord's heads, while previous projects and recent interviews suggest they are wiser and more self-aware than they first appear. And besides, the line between authenticity and artifice, especially in the realm of pop culture, is often a blur at best.
“They may be fake,” notes one online fan, “but the truth may be even more horrifying than the farce.”