C’mon, dig a little deeper

An album that starts with the words “jealousy makes you nasty/ in your face” is announcing its attitude rather too bluntly.

Die Antwoord: $O$ (Rhythm Records)

An album that starts with the words “jealousy makes you nasty/ in your face” is announcing its attitude rather too bluntly, especially when the songs include gibes at the likes of Steve Hofmeyr and Koos Kombuis. Surely youth culture has enemies they’ve actually heard of? Sweat-X and Spoek Mathambo, sure, but come on, Steve Hofmeyr?

Never has South African hip-hop sounded more snide and parochial, more resolutely middle class, which is ironic given Die Antwoord’s attempts to pitch themselves as lower-class trash.

Sadly — and I speak as a fan — we might be seeing Die Antwoord’s schtick becoming threadbare here, especially when you have all the tracks together.

There’s just too much pettiness in the band’s parody. Enter the Ninja is still a fantastic song, with the right amount of weirdness and honesty, and a clever harnessing of the beat to the ethereal dirtiness of Yolandi Vi$$er’s vocals. Wat Kyk Jy has got classic rhymes from the ever-inventive “Waddy” Watkin Tudor Jones.

Song by song this album is cool. But listen 10 times in a row and you start to feel that marketing is trumping musicality with Die Antwoord and it has just blacklisted some South African journalists who dared to criticise it. In this tiny market, that’s beyond petty; it’s unnecessary. It’s also so entirely obvious a gesture — Waddy might as well go out and get himself shot to boost CD sales.

At one stage, Waddy says: “I represent South African culture. I’m like all these different people fucked into one person.” No, not really. As funny as his faux-colouredness is, and his mock-Afrikaans, and Yo-landi’s assured asininity, it would still be good to see something solid through the layers of satire. The track, Fish Paste, is “dedicated to the haters out there, jealous because we’re better than you”. Those who love it didn’t want Die Antwoord to be better than other South African bands — we wanted it to be something entirely different.

Given the alien talents of Waddy and Yo-landi, the Becks and Posh of South African hip-hop (kidding), we must believe they still can.

Subscribe to the M&G

These are unprecedented times, and the role of media to tell and record the story of South Africa as it develops is more important than ever.

The Mail & Guardian is a proud news publisher with roots stretching back 35 years, and we’ve survived right from day one thanks to the support of readers who value fiercely independent journalism that is beholden to no-one. To help us continue for another 35 future years with the same proud values, please consider taking out a subscription.

Chris Roper
Chris Roper

Chris Roper was editor-in-chief of the Mail & Guardian from July 2013 - July 2015.

Related stories

Digital pioneer whose kindness stood out

Matthew Buckland, 1974-2019

Twitter responds to Die Antwoord member’s Suicide Squad rant

Users of the social media platform have called the duo out for cultural appropriation.

Tribute: Peter Makurube, the gentle revolutionary

Nicky Blumenfield writes about her friend and mentor, the late Peter Makurube whose dedication to South African arts made a significant impact.

Blackface, white guilt, grey area

Awareness of cultural appropriation is much more widespread but for some white South African musicians it’s a rejection of Afrikaner stereotypes.

Eleven SA music acts making waves overseas

From Die Antwoord to Black Coffee and John Wizards, here are 11 music acts garnering critical acclaim internationally.

Christianity is the enemy of Christianity

Chief Justice Mogoeng Mogoeng's call for religion to influence the laws that govern the country could lead to the oppression of other religions.

Subscribers only

Covid-19 surges in the Eastern Cape

With people queuing for services, no water, lax enforcement of mask rules and plenty of partying, the virus is flourishing once again, and a quarter of the growth is in the Eastern Cape

Ace prepares ANC branches for battle

ANC secretary general Ace Magashule is ignoring party policy on corruption-charged officials and taking his battle to branch level, where his ‘slate capture’ strategy is expected to leave Ramaphosa on the ropes

More top stories

Under cover of Covid, Uganda targets LGBTQ+ shelter

Pandemic rules were used to justify a violent raid on a homeless shelter in Uganda, but a group of victims is pursuing a criminal case against the perpetrators

JJ Rawlings left an indelible mark on Ghana’s history

The air force pilot and former president used extreme measures, including a coup, enforced ‘discipline’ through executions, ‘disappearances’ and floggings, but reintroduced democracy

Sudan’s government gambles over fuel-subsidy cuts — and people pay...

Economists question the manner in which the transitional government partially cut fuel subsidies

Traditional healers need new spaces

Proper facilities supported by well-researched cultural principles will go a long way to improving the image and perception of the practice of traditional medicine

press releases

Loading latest Press Releases…