Die Antwoord (Afrikaans: "The Answer") is a South African rap-rave band formed in Cape Town in 2008. Fronted by vocalists Ninja and Yolandi Visser, their music is produced by DJ Hi-Tek. Their image draws from the zef counterculture movement and the works of Roger Ballen.
Die Antwoord released their first album, $O$, online for free, and attracted international attention for their music video to "Enter the Ninja". After briefly signing with Interscope Records, they founded their own label in 2011, Zef Recordz, through which they released their second album, Ten$Ion.
Background and style
Die Antwoord lead vocalist, Ninja, was part of the South African hip-hop scene for many years, fronting acts such as The Original Evergreen, MaxNormal.TV and The Constructus Corporation. Ninja told Rolling Stone, "Everything I did before Die Antwoord was me experimenting, messing around and trying to find Die Antwoord... Everything before it was disposable. It was all throwaway."
Die Antwoord observed that journalists and critics, particularly in the United States, frequently ask if their creative output is a joke or a hoax. When asked if he was playing a character, Ninja said, "Ninja is, how can I say, like Superman is to Clark Kent. The only difference is I don't take off this fokken Superman suit." They have described their work as "documentary fiction" and "exaggerated experience" designed for shock value. Ninja told Spin:
People are unconscious, and you have to use your art as a shock machine to wake them up. Some people are too far gone. They'll just keep asking, "Is it real? Is it real?" That's dwanky. That's a word we have in South Africa, "dwanky." It's like lame. "Is it real?" You have to be futuristic and carry on. You gotta be a good guide to help people get away from dull experience.
Die Antwoord is known for their cult following, in particular the unusually prolific creation of fan art by their followers. Some of their music videos have incorporated artwork by the noted photographer Roger Ballen.
Die Antwoord's musical and visual style incorporates elements of zef culture, described as modern and trashy, appropriating out-of-date, discarded cultural elements. Yo-Landi said, "It's associated with people who soup their cars up and rock gold and shit. Zef is, you're poor but you're fancy. You're poor but you're sexy, you've got style." Their lyrics are performed in Afrikaans, Xhosa, and English.
Watkin Tudor Jones aka Ninja
Anri Du Toit aka Yo-Landi Vi$$er
Justin De Nobrega aka DJ Hi-Tek
DJ Vuilgeboost (Live DJ)
Debut album: $O$
Die Antwoord formed in 2008. Their name was Afrikaans for "The Answer" Their debut album $O$ was made available as a free download on their official website. $O$ features Cape Flats rappers Garlic Brown (aka Knoffel Bruin), Scallywag, Isaac Mutant, Jack Parow, and Jaak Paarl (aka Jaak). The album cover was shot by photographer Clayton James Cubitt. In 2009 South African cinematographer Rob Malpage (along with co-director Ninja) shot the video for their single "Enter the Ninja". The video features Cape Town artist and turntablist Leon Botha. The video received millions of views online nine months later, forcing them to move their website to a US-based hosting provider to handle the traffic. The single "Evil Boy" produced by American artist Diplo (also noted for producing M.I.A.'s smash hit "Paper Planes"), contained a verse by guest vocalist Wanga (a Xhosa rapper) in his native language, which rejects the traditional Xhosa passage to manhood achieved in part by circumcision, electing to remain uncircumcised; thus an "evil boy for life". The video has garnered over twelve million views as of August 2013.
Interscope deal and $O$ re-release
Following the success of the video, Die Antwoord signed a record deal with Interscope Records. In April 2010, they performed their first international concert at the Coachella Music Festival, in front of 40,000 people. They then toured internationally in support of $O$. Shortly after, they joined the 2011 Big Day Out circuit which took them to New Zealand and Australia, sharing back-to-back sold-out sideshows with M.I.A. At the end of 2010, Die Antwoord won the Myspace Best Music Video of 2010 award for their debut video, "Enter The Ninja".
Interscope dispute, Zef Recordz and independent Ten$Ion release
In November 2011, Die Antwoord left Interscope Records over a dispute concerning their upcoming album and its lead single, "Fok Julle Naaiers". Vi$$er explained that Interscope "kept pushing us to be more generic" in order to make more money: "If you try to make songs that other people like, your band will always be shit. You always gotta do what you like. If it connects, it's a miracle, but it happened with Die Antwoord." Die Antwoord formed their own independent label, Zef Recordz, and released their new album Ten$Ion through it. The release was in association with the Good Smile Company (a Japanese company that is also making Die Antwoord toys) and Downtown Records, which is handling the marketing and distribution for the record worldwide. Ten$ion included three more singles following Fok Julle Naaiers: "I Fink U Freeky", "Baby's On Fire", and "Fatty Boom Boom". The singles included on Ten$ion began to bring Die Antwoord more into the global spotlight as they were invited to perform on American talk shows and featured in an Alexander Wang advertisement. However the album was met with average to poor reviews by many critics. Ten$Ion was followed up with a non-album single, "XP€N$IV $H1T".
Summer 2013 European Tour and Donker Mag
Following the release of "XP€N$IV $H1T", Die Antwoord set out on a brief tour across Europe from June to July. Soon after they began touring, snippets for a new single called "Cookie Thumper", which was to be accompanied by a music video, were released. Around the release of their new single, Die Antwoord also announced the title of their third album, Donker Mag with a release expected in early 2014 .
In an interview with Exclaim! magazine in 2010, the group revealed they have a five album plan. According to Ninja, "We'll be dropping films between each of the albums, feature films... We have one we're working on for next year called The Answer. It's like the story of how Die Antwoord started. But that's like, our power, and where our energy is at right now"
They have filmed a short film for the song "Wat Kyk Jy?" (Afrikaans for "What Are You Looking At?") with American filmmaker Harmony Korine. The short film premiered at SXSW as Umshini Wam (in reference to the Zulu struggle song Umshini wami) and features "furry costumes, wheelchairs, a music video breakdown, and plenty of zef slang". The film is available online.
In 2012 they did a campaign for Alexander Wang's T range.
Work with other artists
The photographer Roger Ballen has helped design the set for their music video Enter The Ninja. Ballen co-directed the I Fink You Freeky music video. The Erdmann Contemporary Photographers Gallery in Cape Town featured some works of Ballen from the video.
Bitter Comix's creator Anton Kannemeyer released some work featuring Die Antwoord in 2011. He describes the song Doos dronk "if ever there were a song that sounded like Bitter Comix, this is it"
Artistic inspiration for music video scenes
In a teaser video for the Ten$ion album a character that resembles Jane Alexander's The Butcher Boys was featured. Due to a copyright claim, the video was removed.
Anton Kannemeyer's work Black Gynecologist was inspiration of the Fatty Boom Boom music video scene where a Parktown Prawn is removed from Lady Gaga.