Richard Poplak Writes on Die Antwoord
South Africa-born, Canada-based Richard Poplak, author of Ja, No Man! and The Sheikh’s Batmobile, returns to the SA pop culture beat with this investigation of the of the Die Antwoord phenomenon, presented for his Canadian audience:
Over the course of the past ten days or so, the band have been propelled by the likes of Boing Boing, Twitter, Pitchfork, Reuters, et al into the very maw of Fame 3.0. As lead rapper Waddy, a.k.a. Ninja, puts it: “Look at me now! All over the interweb.” Indeed, only two weeks ago, Ninja and his sidekicks Yo-landi “Rich Bitch” Vi$$er and the flabby DJ Hi-Tek were paying dues; now they’re rolling in nunchaku. For their international fans, Die Antwoord are exotic, furious, and, most importantly, new. But what their lyrics mean — or what they stand for precisely — no one in Brooklyn or Paris or São Paulo can say.
Ninja is, at first glance, your typical white trash rapper. He wears his hoodie low; his rangy body is marked with crude tattoos. It takes a second or two to realize that Run-D.M.C. were playing Applebee’s buffets by the time they were of Ninja’s vintage: he is closer to middle age than middle school. He raps in a scattershot mixture of English and Afrikaans; his accent is unfathomable. His lyrics reference the minutely specific to the hip-hop generic: “If you don’t like funerals, Ninja says don’t kick sand in his face,” recalls a South African peanut-butter commercial from the ’80s; “too hot to handle, to cold to hold,” fist-bumps vintage MC Hammer. The clue to Die Antwoord’s raison d’être hides in the intro of their astonishing debut album $O$, where Ninja informs us that, “I represent South African culture. In this place, you get a lot of different things…Blacks. Whites. Coloureds. English. Afrikans. Xhosa. Zulu. Watookal. I’m like all these different people, fucked into one person.” Then Ms. Vi$$er pipes in, dismissing him with a high-pitched “Whateva, man.”
- Ja No Man: A memoir of pop culture, girls, suburbia… and apartheid by Richard Poplak
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Photo courtesy Watkykjy