Doef Doef, Danger and Hot Sexby Andy Davis / 09.02.2010
Friday night was Die Antwoord’s first gig since they exploded on computer screens around the planet. In the matter of a few days they went from being Waddy Jones and Yolandi Visser’s weird, barely understood Cape gangster hip hop project to a global pop phenomenon. There’s no arguing with over a million hits on Youtube. Die Antwoord’s cheesy rave beats, rof ska rhymes and zef so fresh has catapulted them to international fame, if not yet fortune. But it’s surely coming. And in retrospect it’s easy to see why. DJ Hi-Tek’s “next level beats” that Ninja frequently praises are really nothing more than a post-ironic take on techno rave sounds. They seem to reference early 90s dance cheese like C+C Music Factory and Technotronic. It’s the same kind of electronic pop schlock that gets parties started from Warsaw to San Francisco – but the approach is, perhaps, a little bit sardonic.
Add to that Yolandi’s school girl sexuality, bowl cut fringe and trashy Afrikaans accented gutter mouth and you’ve got the ultimate hook. Doef doef and hot sex. Then chuck in Ninja. The danger man. Occupying the damaged persona of a bullied kid who grew up tough in the ghetto and came out on top. Riding his talent like a snake on those zef beats. “All up in here on the interwebs”. It’s an intoxicating mix. Say what you like about Waddy Jones but the man has presence. When he takes to the stage he’s like an eye magnet. A fierce, brooding presence all prison chops and wild eyes. He varies between being overly self-consciousness and then flips it with instinct. He’s a natural on the mic. It’s not a question of whether he believes in the persona. He is Ninja. Just like he says:
“Ninja is poes cool
But don’t fuck with my game, boy
or I’ll poes you”
“This is not a game, boy
Don’t play with me”
It’s all there in that song, “Enter the Ninja” the anthemic track that pushes the whole crowd over the edge. Online and this Friday night in Durbanville. It’s a track that has people going mental from Chiba, Japan to Buenos Aires, Argentina and the white boys in the front row are screaming every lyric straight back at the man as he delivers it. Those dudes are living proof of the viral seduction, they’ve literally sat with that song on repeat, playing it over and over until they know every one of those rapid fire rhymes by heart. It’s a moment that crystalises things. Maybe it’s just me but certain songs, at certain times, have a way of overwhelming, sweeping you along in their revolution. It chokes me up, like I want to cry and roar at the same time. That’s how “Enter the Ninja” kicks me in the diaphragm. I know it won’t last, but right now, this is the shit on everyone’s high rotation.
And it’s almost like he’s addressing all the petty South African media hipsters who’ve made it a sport to diss Waddy’s projects.
“Fuck, this is like the coolest song I ever heard in my whole life
Fuck all of you who said I wouldn’t make it
Who said I was a loser
Said I was a no-one
Said I was a fuckin’ psycho
But look at me now
All up on the interweb
World-wide, 2009. futuristig”
That last line is almost prescient in it’s accuracy. And regardless what you think of the music, you got to give them kudos for their creation blowing up like this. Ad agencies spend millions of dollars each year trying to achieve the same kind of viral response as Die Antwoord, and fail. But even with all that recognition and the terrabytes of data flowing through the undersea cables that connect our electronic economy, Friday night was a weird affair. A lesson that massive internet traffic does not directly translate into punters through the door and cash in the till. A lot of the city’s internet scenesters and middle age creative types made the trip North to see what the fuss was about. Hedging their bets before the rest of the country and the world pop this bubble of cool. The venue could only really hold about 300 people, and on the night only 250 arrived. So while many mingled around the crush for the bar, the margins could not have been that great. The lesson is that in South African music, even instant internet celebrities must satisfy themselves with just a few hundred dollars per gig. When you overhear the owner claiming he had to pay Die Antwoord double what he pays most bands, you get a real understanding that music is a poor career choice in this country.
But really it wasn’t about all the middle age hipsters, the guy tweeting on his iphone, the other dude emailing his story from the bonnet of the car parked out front, or the cool guy with the Canon 5D filming from the hip while bopping his head in the front row. This gig was about those young shirtless dudes in the front row trying to impress Ninja by spitting his lyrics back at him, like religious zealots. It was about the cute, drunk Afrikaans girls who got so loose they started throwing bottles at each other in the mosh pit, and almost causing a fight, while stumbling into cigarettes and spilling people’s drinks. It was about the whole crowd coming together to catch Ninja as he launched himself headlong into a stage dive, and like some rof gam deity, they held him aloft and set him back down so he could continue the show.
All images © Andy Davis / Mahala