July 16, 2010
Better than: A live performance of most of the videos that go viral on YouTube.
"Are they kidding?" is Question No. 1 raised by Die Antwoord, the South African rave-rap group that may be a clever parody or a full-blooded embrace of the country's white trash Zef culture. Past videos of some of the group's members engaged in other mischievous performance art projects would seem to indicate that their now-viral (thanks to some ridiculous videos on YouTube) idiot rap is just the flavor-of-the-month for three creative types. (Lyrics such as I, I, I/ I am your samurai/ I need your protection/ Be my samurai) add to the sense that Die Antwoord may be, as one writer put it, the Ali G of South African rap.)
But then there's the matter of lead MC Ninja's ghetto-dwelling backstory, his brutish, Zef-style tattoos -- and the fact that if he and the other members are performing characters they invented, the act holds up pretty well in interviews and offstage. So are these South Africans proudly appropriating a piece of their country's culture -- mixing elements of it into some new, radical, post-racial stance -- or mocking it to giggles and "fuck yeahs" from fans around the world?
The group's swaggering pummel through the Rickshaw Stop on Friday didn't shed much light on their conceptual intentions one way or the other. But whether it's a joke or not, fans treated Die Antwoord's music more like a South African Eminem than a ghetto-fresh Weird Al. The show sold out months ago. Friday saw the Rickshaw packed to its eerie, red-curtained walls with partiers slamming drinks and boisterously getting down to a DJ long before Die Antwoord went up. When the three members of Die Antwoord finally bounded onstage, hyping the crowd with repeated shouts of "San Francisco," the audience turned into some cross between a mosh pit, pogo party, and an earthquake. The temperature in the room reached inner-sun levels.
Opener "Enter the Ninja," the group's Zef-rap anthem, hit like a Muni buss when the beat finally dropped. Ninja bounded around the stage, inciting the crowd with shouts of "Die fookin Antwoord" into his wireless mike. Yo-landi "Rich Bitch" Vi$$er, the group's tiny, nympho-hype-chick, pranced around singing her inane "I am your butterfly" refrain. She looked completely terrifying -- like some menacing apparition.