/ 3 December 2010

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.