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Bangs

Car Crash Music

by Andy Davis / 06.09.2010

Australian/South African rivalries have simmered for centuries. Whatever they do, we can do better. And vice versa. So it is with little surprise that the big island down under has produced an internet hip hop meme. Similarities abound between the Australian their revelation Bangs and our very own Die Antwoord. Primarily, there’s a whole legion of people who don’t know what to make of it. Is it a parody? Or is he just really bad? Fake or real? Sounds kind of familiar, right?

What we do know is that Bangs is a 19 year old Sudanese kid, born in North Khartoum, who moved to Egypt and then on to Australia with his family in 2003. On arrival in Melbourne in 2004, like so many, he started writing and recording hip hop. In around May 2009 he shot a music video against a green screen for a song called “Take You to the Movies” and released it on Youtube. It includes visuals of bling and expensive cars. It’s unsophisticated, cliched and very watchable. Things were quiet for a few months and then it started to erupt. It has now had well over 3.5 million hits (Die Antwoord’s “Enter the Ninja” has had 7 million).

Ever since then Australian media have been trying to figure out what to make of their Sudanese rap “sensation”. The attention snowballed; from culture and hip hop blogs to mainstream newspapers. Bangs has even featured in a new Honda Jazz commercial. Even American hip hop magazine XXL jumped in. Predictably he’s polarised the opinions of the Australian hip hop community and attracted a lot of hate.

But Bangs appeals on a number of different levels. The majority seems to react on “so bad that it’s actually good” level. In a post-cynical world, where everything is manufactured to a polished “global standard” it’s refreshing to see and get behind something that’s unpolished and uncomfortable. It’s like a great “fuck you” to the pillars of society. “We’ll elevate this to the level of ‘high art’ and there’s nothing you can do about it”. It’s contrary, rebellious, cringeworthy, post-postmodernism. It might also succinctly sum up our social moment. So bad it’s good. Did Die Antwoord inadvertently invent irony hop? Cynical hipsters are pre-programmed to lap this shit up.

Then there’s the sympathy vote. Those who find the slow, simplistic, accented rhymes of the Sudanese Australian kid kind of charming. The lyrical content is sweet. He’s nice to women, he wants to take you to the movies. He’s not crass and sexually explicit like so much contemporary hip hop. You can see that he’s a sweet, shy guy behind the cliched hip hop posturing. Add a war torn country and a sprinkling of famine, he looks and sounds different to the average cheesy Australian hip hop group and already has a legion of haters who frequently post the most disgusting racist vitriol on his Facebook page and you can quickly understand the sympathy vote.

Bangs at work

Then there’s fad momentum. A huge constituency of people who dig it because it’s popular. Love it or hate it, they just add to the momentum. Caught in the hipster undertow. They’re the bank. They’ll go to the gigs, buy the album, check it out. It doesn’t matter if they love it, hate it or remain indifferent. These are the foot soldiers of capitalism. Bangs can thank them later.

The major sticking point in the Bangs vs Die Antwoord comparison, is that Die Antwoord is a calculated hip hop personality, a protracted piece of performance art, whereas Bangs is just Bangs. A 19 year old kid who likes hip hop, speaks funny and recorded some rhymes over his own cheesy beats. It’s hard to know whether he’s in on the joke, although one suspects that he is by now, at least. One also suspects that he wasn’t in the beginning.

Whether Bangs and Die Antwoord have staying power remains to be seen. We reckon the smart money is on Die Antwoord, but maybe that’s just the old antipodean rivalry thing. What is very clear is that the internet has spawned a new paradigm for igniting rapid pop success. And the artists who are blowing up tend to be freaks and weirdos who challenge the dominant wisdom of what is cool and what is acceptable. And it’s pushing culture, society and capital harder and faster all the time. God bless the interweb.

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RESPONSES (23)
  1. Rook says:

    Oh man that’s good. Bangs just got a new fan.

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  2. Brett says:

    I hope it’s for real, otherwise the entire “Take You to the Movies” choreographed dance routine I’ve worked out for the next time I wait in line with the minions of Sauron at Cavendish Square for a movie will be a big waste of time.

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  3. irony bru says:

    post-postmodernism does not equal hyper-postmodernism. out.

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  4. Missy says:

    This is kind of sad. I think Australians are just nasty. This whole thing seems to be underpinned by a mean streak. Pick on the earnest Sudanese refugee who loves hip hop. Make him a laughing stock. It’s like they’re amplifying an embarrassment.

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  5. Andy says:

    thnaks irony bru… my knowledge of “isms” isn’t what it should be

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  6. K says:

    He’s pretty cool, I thought the Facebook track was pretty funny when I first heard it, but I think there’s something slightly problematic with constructing parodical rappers as the posterboys of anti-establishment that defecate on the concept of ‘high art’. All the analysis and the interpretive meaning might be valuable among cultural critics, but young artists like Bangs are also in some ways anti anti-establishment thought; its a ‘shut up, don’t think and just listen to my poptastic music’ kind of thing.

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  7. Schmatthew Schmeriksen says:

    Agonising over whether this is real or fake, or ironic, or whatever, is really agonising over whether or not we enjoy it, or meta-enjoy – whether we enjoy the art itself, or the artist’s RELATIONSHIP with the art. It was once interesting as a thought-experiment, but after Die Antwoord and Jack Parow, et al, it’s become a boring exercise.

    If music isn’t pushing any sensual buttons, it isn’t music. Period.

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  8. Schmelon says:

    This isn’t funny enough to be worthwhile. It’s the sort of thing people might force a laugh at while trying to look inconspicuously over their shoulders to make sure their friends are laughing too. It’s humor pitched at people who want to think they’re funny and ironic and can’t see when the whole thing’s been carried too far. Personally, I can barely raise a bored snicker. xo

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  9. Andy says:

    uh ja Schmelon that’s the problem. It’s got 3.5 million views. He’s got a record deal and he’s not trying to be funny. I think it’s more like what Missy said…

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  10. Post Toasties says:

    Firstly, it isn’t post-postmodernism, it’s just plain postmodernism.

    And also, ‘post-cynical’; Andy what’s with you and your obsession with ‘post’? I remember you once saying ‘post-race’.

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  11. Schmatthew Schmeriksen says:

    He’s FROM the future.

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  12. Roger Young says:

    I’m more into Neo

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  13. Andy says:

    I’m post race. I am from the future, bit like Waddy Jones.

    Roger…

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  14. Roger Young says:

    Neo-Post-Modernism

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  15. mike says:

    People tired of being fed the same stuff over and over again where there doesn’t seem to be choice involved. We recognize the humanity in these people. It could be us, trying to crack it. Big dreams. Aspirations. But, pure aspirations. Like flight of the conchords, they’re so bad that its awesome. Pathos.

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  16. joe says:

    It’s interesting that we’ve reached a stage where being bad, is actually good. How far will the need for something different drive us and what will the cost be to those who’ve devoted their life to worthy creative contributions. If this is anything to go by… very high!

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  17. irony bru says:

    P-Toasties, my point exactly. Post-anything implies something unlike the suffix. Now when you raise that to the second power it’s bound to confuse the hell out of someone.

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  18. muerte says:

    The so bad it’s good dynamic has been a vital part of popular culture for a century by now. There were B-movies in the Hollywood studio system. There was a hit parade before downloading. There were dime store novels and pulp fiction. Long pedigree of liking shite.

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  19. Anonymous says:

    no one fucking quote from this rap genius…take you to the movies is a timeless piece. “especially you girl” and of course that laugh…aahhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhaaaaaaaaa. Bangs is like Max Normals black kid without the idea of abstract art.

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  20. Ingamla YaseKapa says:

    Eish!
    It. Him. Y’all!
    But worth a chuckle.

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  21. The Oracle says:

    This is all so simple. As I’ve told you before, Mozart is much
    better. Can we please have an article on him.

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  22. Tim says:

    Hey hey, dig the article Andy. and I must agree on the point that people are probably just taking the piss but hey if it means lacing Bangs’ pockets with some cream then power to him.

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  23. melodie says:

    Bangs and Die Antwoord are performing TOGETHER in Melbourne next week!!!

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