If you’ve been on the “interwebs” in the last couple of days you will have noticed that DIE ANTWOORD are blowing up, with a combined youtube hit count approaching 200 000, mentions on Boingboing, Buzzfeed, Metafilter, Dlisted, Yimmy’s Yayo, the Guardian UK, Vanilla Vinyl and on television in the states on G4’s Attack of the Show, where they were referred to as a South African performance art ensemble called DIE ANTWERD, “which is Dutch for The Answer”. Comments all over these international sites are a mixture of disgust, misunderstanding and mindblown-ness. What this interweb explosion has led to is precisely what Ninja predicts in the song ‘Enter the Ninja’, “taking over the interwebs, world wide”. They’ve gone viral. But to what end?
Ninja has said on DIE ANTWOORD FB page that “jissis my blaare!!! DIE moerrefokken ANTWOORD blowing the fok op innie USA… UK… EUROPA … OZ… fokken ORALS my blaar… wat die fok is annie gang? US tour… UK tour… EURO tour… OZ tour… coming up nou nou nou!!! zee you zoon zapperz! one time pappi! NY x”.
A mix of cheesy late eighties rave and rap music, rhyming with a slightly bad coloured accent, misspelt prison tattoos and some pretty extreme visuals. You have to ask yourself, why is DIE ANTWOORD so fascinating?
Many have tried to penetrate the question, to unpack DIE ANTWOORD, with a particularly over thought and apt analysis such as the one in Rapport a couple of weeks ago by Annie Klopper. Klopper was clever, she didn’t try to get answers from Ninja himself, she stood back took it all in and said basically; this is what I think DIE ANTWOORD is. The Guardian UK took a different approach, trying to question Ninja directly, the result; “I asked Tudor Jones if Die Antwoord was another conceptual project, if he and Visser had taken on new, more subversive roles. He declined to answer and politely withdrew his co-operation. They may be the answer, but it seems Die Antwoord is not necessarily the truth.” Ninja it seems doesn’t want to unpack DIE ANTWOORD. I, myself have tried to draw the Ninja out, we tried to do an interview with him a couple of weeks ago, mainly because I was fascinated with the polarization of opinions about him on our comment boards. The net result of a couple of emails back and forth was this statement, “Die Antwoord needs no explanation. It is what it is.”
And therein lies Ninja’s genius (You will note that I decline to call him by his previous name, this is not because I am a rabid fan, but because I recognize that Ninja is so deep into this shit, it’s pointless to do anything but accept it at this stage of the game), he refuses to explain, because after all he is providing the answer, if an answer is true it needs no explanation.
One of the most persistent disparaging comments about DIE ANTWOORD has been that he wouldn’t last in Pollsmoor, or on the Cape Flats, that the numbers gangs will eventually get him. I, too, was of this opinion a few months back, the only saving grace possibly we (myself and someone from another magazine) thought back then would be if this shit blew up internationally. It seemed that there was a real danger that someone in some gang would not take kindly to the cultural reappropriation. Does that danger still exist? Was there ever a danger. Who can ever know what’s going on in the heads of Cape Flats gangsters. Or Ninja for that matter. But if DIE ANTWOORD follows through on this internet explosion the chance of any danger will definitely lessen, but it will never entirely go away. The appeal of Ninja and Yo-landi is in this danger, in the knife-edge between cheese and brilliance, between horror and humor, between make-believe and reality and the refusal to explain. You cannot deny that, whatever you think of it, Ninja’s strategy is working, that it really is some “next level shit”. They’re playing Kunskafee in Durbanville this weekend, it may be the last time you get to seem them in a small venue and being so flooded with internet love, maybe Ninja won’t be so closed and hardcore, but I doubt it.
Images © and courtesy Sean Metelerkamp.