For months, I’ve been receiving e-mails about the South-African rap-rave group Die Antwoord, saying something like “OMG theirr illumanaty!!” Since the release of their new video Fatty Boom Boom, e-mails now say “OMG therre anti-illumanaty!!”. So are they for it? Against it? Don’t care about it? What’s the answer? (Get it? Die Antwoord means “the answer” in Afrikaans – so clever).
At first glance, it is hard not to be weirded-out by the visual esthetics of the group, which seem to be tailor-made to piss-off the parents of rebellious kids. Their videos always deliver a whole lot of shock-value coupled with a “don’t give a damn” attitude that is pleasing audiences around the world.
They are credited for having popularized Zef, a South-African counter-culture movement that I can only describe as “South-African-trailer-trash-ghetto-fabulous”. Yolandi Visser of Die Antwoord said, “It’s associated with people who soup their cars up and rock gold and shit. Zef is, you’re poor but you’re fancy. You’re poor but you’re sexy, you’ve got style.” In short, it is about glorifying and making stylish the cheap things that are associated with the lower class.
While many love and identify with the group’s style, others have claimed that members of Die Antwoord are “fake”, that it is all an act, as they are not the ghetto-dangerous crew they claim to be. While the group’s official website describes rapper Ninja as a “fat cash-stackin, hydroskalonic weed-blazing, all kinds of crazy fully-automatic heat-packing, bad-ass rhyme animal“, others remember him as a member of “corporate” conceptual group MaxNormal.TV.
Die Antwoord fans obviously don’t know or don’t care about these critics as the group obtained great viral success when they independently released their first album $O$.
In and Out of Interscope
Die Antwoord’s shocking and original style generated a huge worldwide buzz, which lead to their signing with Interscope records in 2011. From being an unknown South-African group, they became label mates with Lady Gaga, the Black Eyed Peas and Eminem. Die Antwoord’s partnership with the prominent label however quickly dissolved as the group claimed that record execs were trying to change them and to force them into a particular mold. In an interview, Ninja stated:
“So anyway…Interscope offered us a bunch of money again to release our new album TEN$ION. But this time, they also tried to get involved with our music, to try and make us sound like everyone else out there at the moment. So we said: ‘U know what, rather hang on to your money, buy yourself something nice…we gonna do our own thing. Bye bye.’”
Knowing the way major labels proceed, it wouldn’t have been surprising to see the group forced to produce more radio-friendly music or to incorporate “elite-friendly” symbolism and messages in their act. In fact, some of the group’s promotional material of that era featured imagery that VC readers might find familiar.
In an interview with MTV Canada, Ninja stated:
“I think they thought we were just like a weird, strange act, then like: ‘Let’s just let them have their fun for a while, and then when it comes to their second album we’ll have them play games’. “They were looking at Lady Gaga and The Black Eyed Peas and that type of sh**ty pop music, and were thinking we could like twist into that.”
Free from Interscope, Die Antwoord released its second album entitled Ten$ion, under their own label named Zef Recordz. Their anger against the industry is more than visible in the video Fatty Boom Boom, as it visually assaults today’s music business, especially the group’s ex record label, Interscope (which happens to be one of the biggest distributor of Illuminati imagery nowadays). If the group was about to fit in the mold of other pop acts, Fatty Boom Boom can be interpreted as a big middle-finger to the industry.
Fatty Boom Boom
Fatty Boom Boom is about South-African pride, complete with tribal rhythms and imagery and a (controversial) reference to the country’s racial diversity with the rappers wearing black and white body paint. Also, and mostly, the video disses the hell out of the group’s former label mate, Lady Gaga. Here’s the video (don’t watch if you don’t like weird, twisted stuff).
The video begins with Lady Gaga doing some sightseeing in South Africa. We quickly get a feeling that she doesn’t belong in the savage “urban jungle”.
When the tour guide shows Gaga some local street musicians (Die Antwoord), she says “Oh my god, look at their freaky fashion! I should get them to open for me!”. This is a reference to Gaga asking the group to open for her in the past, to which they replied: no. In an interview with MTV, Ninja stated:
“Weird shit’s been happening, like fucking Lady Gaga asked us to tour with her and we’re like, ‘No, don’t worry about it.’”
In that interview, they went on by implying that she was doing “weak, superficial shit”. So, obviously, they really don’t like her.
So, the tour bus then gets hijacked by armed men and Lady Gaga runs away in the concrete jungle. That will also be a mistake.
The lyrics of the song express anger against the music business, today’s rap music and its lack of originality. In the first verse, Ninja says:
“What happened to all the cool rappers from back in the day?
Now all these rappers sound exactly the same
It’s like one big inbred fuck-fest
No, I do not want to stop, collaborate or listen”
The most striking element of the video, is the mural that appears during about half of the video. It is definitely not subtle nor nice to some major figures of the music industry.
Is this multi-headed satanic “evil thing” the music industry? The message is rather clear.
The rest of the video is about Lady Gaga having a prawn extracted from her privates (a reference to her Born This Way video) and her being eaten by a lion (which was probably attracted by her meat dress).
So, with this video, is Die Antwoord genuinely going against the music industry or is it simply seeking media attention (because its working)? Rejecting Lady Gaga’s offer to open her Monster Ball Tour and leaving Interscope records were gutsy moves but were also a great way to gain notoriety and loyal fans. Will these moves pay off and will the group keep waving the proverbial middle finger at the music industry? We’ll see what kind of material they’ll release in the future. Once thing is for sure, they will keep pissing off a lot of people and cause controversy… Because that’s their thing that they do.