Wednesday, November 30, 2016

Die Antwoord: The Real Zef Rappers of Beverly Hills

[ed. These two crack me up with their bizarro/gonzo/take no prisoners style. Plus, as Ninja says, they got those "next-level beats".]

Ninja, one half of the influential rave-rap act Die Antwoord, is none too pleased that from across the restaurant at the Chateau Marmont in Los Angeles, Quentin Tarantino has cranked up the stereo, blasting Sarah Vaughan’s voice. “Can you not listen to that man and turn the music down,” he says to the waiter in a snarling, Afrikaans-inflected stage whisper. “Oh, yeah,” says Yolandi Visser, the shyer of the two. “Thank you,” she adds, as the waiter shuffles over to the stereo.

A few moments later, Tarantino stands, unsheathes an LP and drops the needle on side two of Rod Stewart’s “Every Picture Tells a Story,” then raises his glass to Ninja and Visser in a facetious toast — but they already have their backs to him and, tellingly, the volume is significantly lower.

Engaging in this sort of D.J. battle with an Oscar winner requires either the confidence of an L.A. insider or the carelessness of an interloper. Ninja, 42, and Visser, 32, the duo that pioneered Zef culture — South Africa’s response to America’s so-called white trash — are a bit of both. With matching mullets and meth-chic attire, the seemingly out-of-place pair is also oddly at home.

Accents notwithstanding, Ninja and Visser — who formed Die Antwoord in Cape Town in 2008, and now live between L.A. and Johannesburg — could at times be mistaken for native Angelenos, whether dissecting the menu’s vegetarian options (settling on avocado tartines), or recalling coffee at the home of David Lynch, who, for a while, was their neighbor in the hills above the Hollywood Bowl. The duo’s 10-year-old daughter, Sixteen, chose the house for them. (They co-parent but ended their romantic relationship some time ago.)

Die Antwoord exploded on the music scene in 2010 when videos for two songs from their debut album, “$O$,” became viral sensations. Interscope quickly signed them to a $10-million deal. Things didn’t go well. The label’s executives pushed them to record a follow-up heavy on collaborations and guest appearances. “Lady Gaga, the Black Eyed Peas and Far East Movement,” Ninja says. “And we were like, ‘Who? And no!’

The group backed out of the deal, started their own label, Zef Recordz, and went on to release two more albums. They’ve since seized every opportunity to raise a middle finger to the mainstream, in the process cultivating — and perhaps caricaturing — a persona of petulance. Offered the opportunity to open for Gaga, they responded with a video sendup of the singer (an impersonator gives birth to a cockroach, then gets mauled by a lion). They responded to an invite to Kanye West’s house by trash-talking him in a video they made in a bathroom. At their Austin City Limits performance in early October, Ninja dropped his pants and mooned the crowd. (...)

Die Antwoord’s founding D.J., known as God (formerly Hi-Tek), began sharing D.J. duties with Muggs, and they pushed each other. “There’s a Zulu saying that goes, ‘Spear sharpens spear,’” says Ninja. “The competition was ill.”

You could say the same about the garrulous Ninja and the reticent Visser. Their intensely codependent dynamic has long baffled observers, leading some to wonder if their behavior is an elaborate form of performance art. “When we laid down our verses on this album, Yolandi burned me nearly every single time,” Ninja says. “I remember thinking, ‘How can I compete?’ I’m in love with the cut of her voice. It’s just the most delicious frequency.” Hearing this, Visser pulls her knees up under her tank-top hoodie, then pulls the hood over her head and cinches it tight.

by Alex Bhattacharji, NY Times | Read more:
[ed. Here's a cool animated video: Happy Go Sucky Fucky]