Rock It: Die Antwoord to show Lolla the art of ‘Zef’

Posted on November 13, 2013

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Rock It: Die Antwoord to show Lolla the art of ‘Zef’

Yo-Landi Visser (Getty Images)

Yo-Landi Visser (Getty Images)

By Rachael Mattice

Metal heads, rappers, indie rockers, electros and rave-ers: All have undeniably agreed on the magnetism and freshness of a rap-rave crew from Johannesburg, South Africa, called Die Antwoord.

Die Antwoord (Afrikaans for “The Answer”), pronounced DEE ANT-werd, consists of gold-toothed, jailhouse-looking tattoo-covered Watkin Tudor Jones, who also goes by the stage name Ninja, and a modern-day mullet-sporting porcelain spitfire named Yo-Landi Vi$$er. A third group member, DJ Hi-Tek, is a supporting musician who guest stars at each performance.

Formed in 2008, Die Antwoord released its debut album “$O$” as a free download, but it went viral internationally and led to the music video “Enter the Ninja.”

After success from the video, they signed with Interscope records, but later backed out and formed their own label called Zef Recordz where they were free to expand their vision.

First impressions of the group’s music will probably involve confusion. Are the foreign rappers beyond cultural understanding, on drugs, ahead of the times or just crazy?

The conclusion is a mixture of all, a concept Die Antwoord calls “Zef.” “Zef” is the freaky, expletive, “poor-but-fancy” counterculture movement of post-apartheid white South Africa that can be referred to in American terms as gangster.

Ninja of Die Antwoord (Getty Images)

Ninja of Die Antwoord (Getty Images)

Rapping lyrics in Afrikaans, Xhosa and English, Die Antwoord is somewhat difficult to follow, but Ninja’s diction is crisp and Yo-Landi’s high pitched school girl voice brings variety and creativity that is not matched by any other performer today.

Coming from a racially segregated, slum-like area, they write about South African social issues with an underlying grit-punk attitude. Yo-Landi calls Die Antwoord “documentary fiction,” satirically exaggerating the experience so the group is thrilling to listen to and watch.

In an interview with Spin magazine, Ninja said, “People are unconscious and you have to use your art as a shock machine to wake them up. … You have to be futuristic. You gotta be a good guide to help people get away from a dull experience.”

The Midwest can experience the “next level” gangster intellect from Die Antwoord’s latest album “TEN$ION” with hits “I Fink U Freeky” and “Baby’s on Fire” Friday at the Lollapalooza festival in Chicago.

If the group’s music videos are any indication, Die Antwoord’s show is sure to be as hard and entertaining as any of the main acts at Lolla on Friday.

To download Die Antwoord’s albums and singles or to learn more about the Zef Side, hit up iTunes or check out their website.

If you are going to Lollapalooza this weekend, (unfortunately, tickets are sold out unless you bought them ahead of time) email me and let me know what you think of Die Antwoord’s set.

Mattice is a producer and music journalist for the Journal & Courier. She can be reached on Twitter @RachaelM_JC. 

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Posted in: "Rock It" Column