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Die Antwoord - Ten$ion


by Roger Young / 09.02.2012

Every artist essentially returns again and again to the same themes. For Ninja it’s jealousy and fame (‘Jou Ma Se Poes In A Fish Paste Jar’, ‘I Fink U Freeky’), For Yo-landi, it’s identity and place, (“My naam is Yo-landi Vi$$er and I’m all up in this place” – ‘Fok Julle Naaiers’).  For myself it’s the role of memory and fiction in creating personal history (that is, always being the guy who has to review Die Antwoord albums).

In light of this constant exploration of one overarching theme, the successful artist is one that constantly evolves their approach to the theme. The artist that treads water, creating the same work over and over again, gets left behind. Until now The Artist Formerly Known As Watkin Tudor Jones junior has not been prone to repetition. Which begs the question: is Ten$ion an evolution, or is it a sequel?

In Die Antwoord’s paradigm, a sequel would have more zef cred than an artistic evolution; they are, after all, fiercely anti-intellectual, which is always the best defence when conceptually you’ve got nothing more than a costume and a mask. And that there is the grand Die Antwoord gambit; stay dumb, put your fingers in your ears and shout, ”I’m not listening to you because YOU’RE stupid” all the while pointing out to your detractors that you’ve got a bigger cock than them.


Ten$ion is a bold, brash chaotic jumble from opening track, ‘Never Le Nkemise’. Sotho chanting and harmonies are broken suddenly by Ninja wailing, “I’m indestructible!” Long dubstep stabs and a squelchy pulse quickly break it up, with Ninja telling us we won’t survive, that he’s gangster number one and, gasp, the shock of it, that he’s a “wit kaffir”. ‘I Fink U Freeky’ suffers without it’s video accompaniment, the rave histrionics, gabba beats and vicious electro jolts have to rely solely on Yo-landi’s charms in order to sustain interest. It’s a song about how everyone in the world wants to fuck Yo-landi and that they never will. It’s also about how all the dwankies (Ninja’s new entry for the Zef African section of Urban Dictionary, meaning people who are lame) never thought they would get famous, but they did, so fuck you, right?

‘Pielie’ is a skit that, I think, is meant to illustrate just how dumb their humour is, as well as, maybe, how dumb skits are in general. Or maybe their humour is just, um, dumb. Anyway it’s a joke that could have been culled from the archives at Wat Kyk Jy. ‘Hey Sexy’ is the first totally inconsequential track on the album, it’s a swinging trebly headache inducing attempt at rap comedy. It also includes the first Interscope diss.

‘Fatty Boom Boom’ represents, along with ‘You Make A Ninja Wanna Fuck’ and ‘Baby’s On Fire’, the direction that most makes sense. Sub bass, grime beats, and fast blips under an AK-47 flow rap battle between Yo-landi and Ninja. It’s exactly the kind of fast paced dance crap you want to fuck out to at 5 am when you’ve taken too much bad ecstasy. It also includes a throwback lyric from ‘Dagga Puff’, off their first album. ‘Zef Side’ is notable only for the familiar “Whatever” line from $0$, and some nice synthetic popping bamboo sounds.

Die Antwoord

Ninja opens ‘So What’ by calling it “old feel good gangster shit”. While it has a beat that brings to mind some late 90s’ Dre, the No Diggity-esque piano gives it a comic edge. “In South Africa they think I’m a criminal,” intones Yo-landi meaningfully. It’s “the most personal” track on the album and doubly so when Ninja occasionally slips into Max Normal voice, the accent falling away briefly as he takes us through his early history. But it’s less personal than descriptive; it talks of what happens without really allowing any emotional access. The early history of Watkin Tudor Jones is now just another creation myth to mine. The song ends with a series of boasts about the people they now hang out with and how they’re “so hot right now”. It’s the closet they get to an “Evil Boy, why’s your penis so big” style hook. ‘Uncle Jimmy’ is a skit with Ninja as Jimmy Iovine trying to mack on Yo-landi. It’s clear by this point that Die Antwoord feel their greatest achievement is turning down Interscope.

‘Baby’s On Fire’ has the 2Unlimited shit right there. It’s like a sokkie version of a Technotronic track, with Ninja the masculine Robin S croon/chanting “BA. BEES. ON. FI. YA.” It’s deliciously mad, playful and dumb without being self-conscious. You can already see the dance tent crowds going ape-shit. ‘You Make A Ninja Wanna Fuck’ is Ninja’s best moment on the album, his flow is controlled, fast and nuanced like nowhere else, Yo-landi implores “maak my jus,” the production of the electro glitch is excellent. And when Ninja sings “I think we’re alone now, the beating of my heart is the only sound,” you know he’s referencing the Tiffany version. ‘Fok Julle Naaiers’ is another song about being famous and telling people they don’t care about how much they hate them. It’s nice that they wrote a song about it. Makes me think they care.

‘DJ Hi Tek Rulez’ has DJ Hi Tek quoting Mike Tyson’s “I’m a gonna fuck you til you love me, fuck you til you love me” over and over again. It’s about as shocking as Ninja saying “wit kaffir” on the opening track. ‘Never Le Nkemise 2’ is the rave meets massive dubstep, wait for the drop, closing track. Ninja uses his new word, dwanky, again. Then it fades out with the opening Sotho harmonies.

Yo-landi Vi$$er

Artists build on what other artists have done. They pay homage to their influences, they steal, they reinterpret, all in the aim of exploring the themes that haunt them. Die Antwoord do that, but what haunts them is themselves, so they steal from themselves, reinterpret themselves, pay homage to themselves, and they duplicate themselves, like some 90s’ chill-out tent fractal projection.

Ten$ion lacks the hooks that made the first album; there is no ‘Evil Boy’ here, no ‘Super Evil’, no ‘Wat Kyk Jy’ and no ‘Enter The Ninja’. In fact without the live presence of Die Antwoord or without the visual backing of Roger Ballen, most of the album will come off as a second rate Die Antwoord knock off. It might be intentionally bad, but it is still bad. Die Antwoord have gone from being a music act that was also a conceptual art performance, to a conceptual act with second-rate music. Conceptually Die Antwoord have not evolved, the only thing next level about Ten$ion is that they’ve moved on from dissing Spoek Mathambo and Markus Wormstorm to dissing Jimmy Iovine.

Ten$ion is an eclectic, occasionally brilliant, uneven, incoherent, controversy seeking 101, in your face, pounding mess for dullards and trash humpers. Which makes it perfect fodder for a long summer in the dance tents of America, Australia and Europe.

On Ten$ion Die Antwoord put on their image in the same way as Deadmau5 puts on that stupid headgear. It’s big, loud, dumb music to fuck out to, but its dressed up to make you think that there is more to it, that there is mystery, so that when you’re not fucking out to it you’re still thinking about it. But the mystery, the answer, the message is nothing more than this: We make big, dumb, stupid, aggressive dance music. Fuck out to us.

The boldest thing about Die Antwoord used to be the hidden assertion that all cultures of South African belong to all South Africans, to appropriate and remould as they wish. The hidden assertion on Ten$ion is that that was never their intention, they just wanted fame and dancing; and I don’t buy it. Producing a second album in the face of such sudden and massive fame would throw anyone. In Ninja’s taunts about fame and jealousy, one could read disbelief that he has actually arrived. In the listing and boasting about their new famous friends, one might also see an artist finally finding his way into a pool of successful misfits that understand him. We can only hope that Die Antwoord eventually stabilise into their new paradigm and make real their true potential for greatness; but for now, Ten$ion, as an album, is merely a sequel, and a pretty dwanky one at that.

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  1. JM Koet$ee says:

    The difficult ‘second’ album.

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  2. Adolph says:

    ‘ one could also see an artist finally finding his way into a pool of successful misfits that understand him’ – that is giving the dipshit WAY too much credit than he deserves.

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  3. Mick says:

    Cain’t wait.

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  4. SihleMthembu says:

    I hated this album

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  5. SihleMthembu says:

    Is it me or does Ninja sound like he is Eminem in the late 90’s, maybe its a caricature of sorts cause Em work with interscope, Very bad album overall

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  6. sad says:


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  7. Anonymous says:

    It’s hilarious and catchy, I love it.

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  8. your mom says:

    great review. Roger, I take it all back man. you got this spot on.

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  9. Anonymous says:

    The album is fokken seek mate. Dwankies gonna hate

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  10. Ala$tair says:

    Wish I had money like them.

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  11. cnut says:

    They’re visual geniuses… musically though not so much… a means to the end no doubt…

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  12. Anonymous says:

    Very well written + insightful review.

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  13. UsedtoLoveEm says:

    It’s the Dribble buying into their on hype… wake up and make music.

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  14. UsedtoIt. says:

    It’s the Dribble buying into their on hype… wake up and make music.

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  15. Michael says:

    It’s impossible to judge Die Antwoord based solely on their music, I don’ t think any music critics are going to rave about this album. But as an art project that incorporates short films made with visionary directors, eye-popping music videos, freak-mode live shows and the still to come feature films and toys, Die Antwoord is a bold and fiercely creative endeavour. Judged in isolation, the album does not immediately reveal there is more to this ‘become the enemy’ project than meets the eye. But it shouldn’t be judged in isolation. From this perspective, I find most of your criticisms kind of irrelevant, and see your major point, that this is merely big dumb and stupid dance music, as kind of laughable.

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  16. MAtthew Freemantle says:

    More than anything else I admire the way this was written. Shot Roger.

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  17. Arnold says:

    Actors. Not musicians. Not anymore.

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  18. Roger Young says:


    Please re-read this sentence: “The hidden assertion on Ten$ion is that was never their intention, they just wanted fame and dancing; and I don’t buy it”

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  19. mArile$e mAn$on says:

    BUT.. when viewed in light of what is currently out there passing as “rap” / “urban” / “hip-hop”, it all offers some much-needed parody and a return to the roots of these musics as being an outlet for the diss-possessed (real, imagined, or merely imitated). Taking it too seriously / trying to find the hidden message / meaning, is maybe the worst anti-pop reaction, believe in. entertainment. for its own sake

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  20. Thierry Guetta says:

    Haters are making them famous.

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  21. Fred Durst says:

    @mArile$e mAn$on

    Here’s the thing. Parody is much-needed, I totally agree. But how many times can you listen to a comedy record?

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  22. goema says:

    I suppose some people just really really want to be famous, and the “how” doesnt matter.

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  23. pedro de pacas says:

    Yawn. Predictable South African “taste-maker/hipster/insider” hate. The only difference between the music Waddy is making now and the stuff he was making 5 years ago is that people are paying attention. And of course, those “with taste” take the opportunity to shit on him, if only to show that they liked him back when.

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  24. Andy says:

    “hey man that’s just like your opinion, man.”

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  25. Sussie says:

    Facebook stats:
    Mahala: 6878 like this, 163 talk about this.
    Die Antwoord: 305 232 like this, 19 686 talk about this.

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  26. Roger Young says:


    I don’t know how this is hate. I’m actually a huge fan, just not of this album.


    Facebook stats, that’s how you evaluate an opinion?

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  27. Lisa says:

    insightful review i think

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  28. Michael says:

    @Roger Young. But why is that what you found so bold originally? South African and cultures and mixing and blah, blah, blah. People are listening to this all over the world. They don’t give two shits about that and don’t understand it anyway. And many frame it in a completely different context, as a comment on art and artifice, culture and commodification.

    And Tension does not try to make the point that it’s all about being famous and dancing. What it definitely is about, unlike his previous work, is being as pop as possible and not making music for a specific hipster scene. That’s what critics are reacting negatively too. And that’s why people love it. The layers are there for the more intelligent, but Tension is very specifically not making it required reading. You can go as deep as you want.

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  29. Roger Young says:


    Agreed. On all points. It’s great conceptual art, even if it’s not evolving. But as an album Ten$ion is sub par. I hold Ninja, as a musician, to a higher standard than this.

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  30. Stefanus says:

    Brilliant review, Roger.

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  31. Michael says:

    @Roger Young. Fair enough. While I think the album has some of their best tracks yet, my only criticism is that it feels a bit slight. Like it needed a bit more meat on the bones.

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  32. Anonymous says:

    Hahaha. Liking die Antwoord is such a taboo. Nevertheless, people are always talking about them. Genius.

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  33. Max says:

    Is it me or does the opening image of Yolandi kind of remind you of Daenerys Targaryen when she has to eat to horse heart to impress Khal Drogo and his Dothraki chums?

    Also, does anyone remember Scooter?

    That aside, good review, Roger, all your points are valid. Yet, I can’t help but feel that Ninja and his bitch have left the critics far behind. Their record is clothed is self-referential armour and your criticisms, however on point, fall a little short. It’s that silly concept of “it’s so purposefully shit that it’s good” and it works fucking well for them. Too dismiss it as ‘dumb’ is an error.

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  34. Roger Young says:


    There are three brilliant tracks on the album, they’re all in the “drive fast cars play music poes loud” vein. But the album IS slight.

    I do want to restate something that I said in my previous comment. I stated that they were great conceptual art. I take that back. They’re great performance artists. Conceptually I still think they’re to reach their apex.


    Saying that they’ve left their critics far behind is exactly the point I make early on in the review.

    Clothing sub par music in “self referential amour” does not save it from being sub par. as I said in the review. But I don’t know how you can not see that “dumb” and “it’s so purposefully shit that it’s good” are essentially the same thing in this regard.

    This idea that they have left the critics far behind is a little first year no? I critique the album, but I am not scolding them. I am being critical but I am not being critical of them. Also, I don’t give a flying fuck if they read me or not (and let me tell you, they most definitely do not read me), it is not the point of critique to engage in a conversation with the artist.

    I also would not call Yo-landi Ninja’s bitch. They’d both fuck you up for that.

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  35. Max says:

    Fair enough, fair enough, Roger.

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  36. Die Melkman says:

    If more sixteen year-olds had a functioning brain and read articles on Mahala, Die Antwoord wouldn’t have 300,000+ Facebook fans and I still would’ve had faith in humanity. All good and dandy that they’re successful, but the fact remains, if you listen to them frequently and not just when you’re drunk, you probably grew up in the caravan next to them.

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  37. The Fnord says:

    Haven’t heard this yet (I will) but I think it may be time to move onto their next set of characters.

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  38. Andy says:

    Is seems that Roger is actually a closet fan of Die Antwoord’s music, but he has to kak on it 80% and like it 20% in order to stay in with the Mahala crowd.

    You guys should just get on with it and open a new website called wehateandtrollmusic.co.za

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  39. pdxian says:

    Their effect on Americans is priceless, though. I thought they just looked oddly cute to me because I know and love the Cape, I was astonished to find them bouncing from Boing Boing to actual world tour. It’s the internets who love them, I saw them live in Portlandia, it was delightfully surreal even for a town which kinda specialises in odd. I would have bet good money against ever seeing a bunch of local Portland kids jumping up and down singing ‘jou ma poes inna fishpaste jar’ in the Crystal Ballroom, wow.

    I’m not trying to defend them as musicians, I’m not qualified and really it’s not my style of music anyway. But I find them hilarious and delightful as a sort of weird cultural emissaries. Slim Shady from District 9. Plus they give me the rare opportunity to hear Afrikaans accents worse than mine. I would laugh my ass off at him teaching Americans that accent if we didn’t mangle it so badly it doesn’t matter.

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  40. cnut says:

    Then you’d get zero hits Andy… and you’d have to up little projects like your embarrassing Wok obsession.

    Moving on Roger Young nailed this album review from it’s music value after visual separation.

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  41. Andy says:

    Jesus Andy how many times have I told you I am the real Andy… differentiate yourself as Andy_rt1 or some shit. People are thinking you’re me and it’s embarrassing. Now you’ve gone and upset cnut.

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  42. Dplanet says:

    Great review Roger.

    Against all my better aesthetic judgement, I can’t help liking everything they do. It’s ironic and trashy, but I don’t feel like I’m being conned – like I do with so much commercial pop music. It defies logic and taste.

    I’ve stopped trying to analyse what they’re doing and just enjoy it on a purely superficial level. How can you not be entertained by Ninja spazzing out doing his bad rave dance on Letterman while Yo-Landi looks angelically at the camera singing, ‘I fink u freeky and I like you a lot’? I don’t care if it’s a joke, an art concept or a performance piece, it just makes me smile.

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  43. Alibaba says:

    I am a fan of this band, but I think your review is thoughtful and well-written and it contains a lot of truth. It deals with the music and it is not prejudiced. I like that you measure them against their own potential. Thanks!

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  44. Skyler says:

    Totally agree with the above. His skinny white boy getting electrocuted dance in Letterman even made my parents smile… Good review though – and I think we are actually on the same page. It is “dumb”, but compared to other pop tracks/albums it’s fucking Mensa material.

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  45. Andy says:

    Great review. Nailed it!

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  46. claireangelique says:

    my 14 word review
    is it a joke or a concept
    its a joke

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  47. Roger Young says:


    Title is not included in word count. Hence your title is wrong.

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  48. Niall says:

    Take a look at Bjork’s new album (Biophilia), conceptually brilliant, but musically disappointing. I think this is the point here. Thanks Roger.

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  49. cnut says:

    Claire I thought you of all people would appreciate the Ballan collaboration…

    Got any browns?

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  50. claireangelique says:

    hey roger but is that a concept or a joke

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  51. claireangelique says:

    hey roger but is that a concept or a joke
    its a concept

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  52. claireangelique says:

    yeah i;m cookin come on over

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  53. goema says:

    album is getting bad reviews. tattoos and all.

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  54. Kameraad Mhambi says:

    Die Antwoord are the most talented artists to come from Zef Africa since I don’t know when, but I have to agree with Rodger that in this specific instance the music does not match their abilities.

    I think Ninja strayed too far down the American Rap road, too much naval gazing and aggression and not enough of the Zef African playfulness and gekskeerdery, which were all over the earlier songs. The musical aesthetics is just too much bluster and bang and not enough grappies and subtlety.

    It has to be said though, for a second album its still quite an achievement, and the Freaky video is sublime.

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  55. ToBeFrank. says:

    I think we’re out the window peeps, to keep a local fringe following engaged, their music and concept would likely have to keep evolving to keep a little lukewarm following. But to speak to the masses in the overseas it’s enough to ‘fink u freaky’ and get Katy Perry to like you alot. We, all of us reading are no longer the intended audience, and we resent that they perhaps no longer need to up the musical stakes, just the production value. Which is all they’ve done really. And our Waddy Jones turns out not the be that hip-hop christ who lives in the car next door, but santa claus, He could wow us at the next turn, but he just may not ever need to again.

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  56. sakkie says:

    Excellent review

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  57. Panties says:

    Ninja is a genius.And so is Spoek.Those two have serious vision and that is why they are heralded abroad and fully minted and also why all these jealous cunts are hating on them.

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  58. Kameraad Mhambi says:

    Pitchfork kind of says what I felt – “it’s still hard to process Die Antwoord as an idea, especially on Ten$ion where they replace what made them sometimes intriguing and slightly subversive with tired and tropes and lazy lyrics.”

    I wonder if Ninja actually did not grasp what gave Die Antwoord version 1.0 its authentic ring, even if it was obviously an elaborate show.

    South Africa is so full of tension of all kinds, is so fucked up, weird, mangled – somebody like David Lynch should have a field day here, and so should Die Antwoord. If they want land another knock out blow – they should forget Mike tyson and look up Gerrie Coetzee.

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  59. Kameraad Mhambi says:

    …and to labour then point, LastFM says I listed to Die Antwoord well over 500 times, which puts me right up there with their biggest fans. There were times last year and in 2010 that I had them on repeat.

    I have listened to the latest album twice. Not feeling it. Perhaps its because it too polished, it certainly is the entitled aggression that grates. But the basics is missing as well. I don’t want to sing along.

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  60. Nico says:

    Fucking idiots, they be tripping on the wrong shit. Anybody that buys this is idiotic… No wonder were regarded evil, they just confirmed it

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  61. wwwiT says:

    Roger Younge – you are next level ou pal

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  62. Don Dada says:

    Nice one Roger.

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  63. claireangelique says:

    my 14 word amended review
    is it a joke or a concept
    its a joke…
    no its theft

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  64. DarkJoker619 says:

    If u want to listen good SA rap, then Jack Parrow is the man, his sound is much better then this shit.

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  65. Swart Skaap says:

    Who the fuck wrote this shit?

    In any event, different strokes for different folks. I’m a twisted motherfucker, and this hits home to me. You’re obviously not, and couldn’t handle it…

    They have their fans, and that’s all that matters. Who the fuck are you btw?

    South Africa’s got this ‘phobia’ or ‘stigma’ attached to local afrikaans artists, and it makes me sick. Why judge the people we have that are actually doing something? Now you want to hate on them when they take their shit abroad? Of course there’ll be an adjustment…

    I’m serious… you’ve got some issues, “reviewer” dude. And if you guys don’t publish this comment, it shows exactly… You can call some stuff kak, but not allow criticism?

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  66. lilywhite pete says:

    Ekke gaan a groot kak vang op Zuma se stoep,Ek gaan Malema nooi vir a Heineken en a lyntjie cat,Ek soek n stukkie van Amor se koek

    I smaak my cherries in a crotchless panty,etv porn makes me jags,Jack and Ninja can suck my cock cos I will lay a smackdown on the harder than the rock.

    Now I am off to go sample some beats quickly come up with some so called conceptual art and The Vraag will be born

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  67. JayJay says:

    I must say that this is some serious shit… although not as good as $o$, it rocked my world. I fink u freeky and fatty boom boom are the stand outs but i like the whole album. My very favorite moment is the tempo change from Ninja in i fink u freeky, he rocks that shit. Baby’s on fire and U make a ninja wanna fuck are also memorable. i do agree however it is a sequel, having built a shrine to Die Antwoord after $o$ i expected more, if only in quantity…. 38 min was just not long enough. I love it; but i long for more!

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  68. Tim Lester says:

    you’re actually spot on.
    but there was some measure of tactic in it

    “We make big, dumb, stupid, aggressive dance music. Fuck out to us”

    is exactly that this album is meant to do and meant to say.

    Die Antwoord have been pulling crowds of over 50 000 at festivals . . these crowds are made up of they’re all pill popping euro dance junkies . . the market for techno rave in europe is massive. so they made a “big, dumb, stupid, aggressive dance album” specifically for those tools to fuck out to . . this album is aimed at Europe. and is probably gonna make Die Antwoord fuckoff wealthy


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  69. Dplanet says:

    @Tim – so your argument is that they’ve created a market driven piece of pop music that will make them rich?… just like Lady Gaga and Black Eyed Peas?


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  70. Tim Lester says:

    prrrrrrrrrty much yeah . . more like Black Eyed Peas though . . I mean . . “I fink you’re Freaky” . . . sounds like that early 2000’s dance song “satisfaction”

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  71. ninja hattori games says:

    Hello, Neat post. There is an issue together with your website in internet explorer, may check this? IE still is the market leader and a big element of folks will pass over your great writing because of this problem.

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  72. Andy says:

    what’s the issue?

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  73. you says:

    seem to have missed out on a lot of things that make this album great. sorry for you!

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  74. Beyonca Valencia says:

    Being American, I’ve been given regurgitated shit to listen to my whole life — spending the majority of my youth retracing my era’s “musicians” to see THEIR mentors — who are way more attractive to listen to (The Cure, AFI, Chameleons, Depeche Mode, Death in June, Underworld, +++++).

    (NOTE: notice how many of these are actually American. Mmhmm.)

    I’m just finally fuckin’ stoked to be into something NOT AMERICANIZED TO FUCK. Zef so freshhhhhhh fresh fresh! Fok greedy american labels throwing shit at me. Over it. Fck.

    “no need to get so deep; there’s nothing quite like a motherfuckin’ techno beat.”

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  75. Johnny Chimpo says:

    So many twisted panties over a fuckin cd? Youre all hating on ten$ion, and maybe thats the point. they can produce stupid dance music and people will still lap it up, love it or hate it.

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  76. Die Vraag says:

    Die Antwoord… is die grootste pot kak op die mark

    Wat de fok gaan met SA aan as mense nie skaam kry vir daai 2 tappits nie

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  77. Winston says:

    I remember them from 2009 just before they became huge, they would print their pics at my photo shop and I asked them what they did. Afrikaans Rap Group didnt quite sink in but man o man they are the best export since Charlize Theron

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  78. Influ Hence Ill says:

    I am a Waddy fan, but not a fan of Ninja and Die Antwoord (Bunch of naaiers, hehehe). Either way, I appreciate what his doing for us. His paving the way for us… Defi(g)nition, will no doubt accept this gracious offer by grabbing this opportunity he’s created/emphasised.

    As for Die Antwoord’s music (not their art), i’ll be a critic and say, if the intention is to make kak music stupid people will piss themselves to, that’s what you’ll get.

    No doubt, Waddy is a master of his world, and like a true Ninja, a great illusionist in character.

    His fan based betrayed him in a way, by being silly dead heads who just wanted to be cool. This is, i believe, his middle finger to us as well :).

    Much love, and awe joe ma se perd piel.

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