Die Antwoord Music Video Marathon
Nerdist Showroom inside Meltdown Comics
Better Than...Shark Week hosted by Dr Dre.
It's easy to dismiss South African rap group Die Antwoord as a novelty act, since at first glance, they come off as little more than an extended Ali G skit: silly hip-hop personas with some with dope music. Every song is backed by seriously gangsta beats, and in their videos they dance goofy and wear duds seemingly from the slums.
But if that's all you take away from this rave/rap group from South Africa, the joke's on you. These guys are pure art, celebrating all that is beautifully diverse about life, in the most creative, raw presentation they can conjure.
The line stretching down the block in front of Meltdown Comics last night shows what kind of impact they're having. This wasn't even a concert -- they played on Saturday at the Shrine Expo Center -- but rather a marathon of their music videos featuring live commentary from the group, screened for a small crowd of about 100 packed inside the Nerdist Showroom. The group roared in applause when the act's members Ninja and Yo-Landi Vi$$er took the stage (their DJ Hi-Tek wasn't around).
Ninja was strikingly meek on the mic as a regular guy, as opposed to the hip-hop persona he portrays in their music. As they introduced their first video "Wat Pomp" (above) he said: "it doesn't matter if anyone listens or not, because it's a fucking assault."
Before each work, they detailed the origins of its production. They explained how the first few videos were all self-produced, with no real budget, just picking up shots around their home towns in South Africa.
Then they got to "Fok Julie Naaiers," which translates to "Fuck you all." At this time they were already signed to Interscope Records, who had helped produce their last couple videos. But this was too much for the label to take, apparently because they say "faggot" three times. They parted ways with Interscope over this, and released the video and subsequent album, "Ten$ion" on their own.
The night ended with their newest video, "Fatty Boom Boom," which brings them back to a DIY approach, albeit with assistance of Vice and others. The video takes us back to South African neighborhoods, showing Ninja and Yo-Landi and little kids having fun dancing in their own, weird ways, while across the street, a lion, panther, a couple hyenas, and armed thugs cause mischief. (It also, of course, mocks Lady Gaga and is outrageous in numerous other ways.)
This humorous juxtaposition gets to the core of what makes Die Antwoord great. Yes, they're funny as hell, and yes, their music immediately thumps through your soul and forces your body to bob along. But even more than that, they give a fresh glimpse of humanity, an unfiltered show of life as seen through their eyes.
Personal Bias: I was first introduced to Die Antwoord through their hilarious short film directed by Harmony Korine, "Umshini Wam," which was made around their song "Wat Kyk Jy." Sadly, this was left out of the marathon.
The Crowd: For every person there "dressed to impress" with their matching hipster uniforms, there were three freaks there to bob heads to the music.
Random Notebook Dump: It's funny to see how uncomfortable even this crowd -- their fans -- get when Ninja casually says, "DJ Hi-Tek is gay, so he's allowed to say 'faggot,' and it's fine."
Set list (of videos shown) below
Enter the Ninja
Fok Julie Naaiers
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I Fink U Freeky
Baby's On Fire
Fatty Boom Boom