Incendiary South African sound

MC Ninja of Die Antwoord deals provocative raps in both English and Afrikaans.
MC Ninja of Die Antwoord deals provocative raps in both English and Afrikaans. (ROSS GARRETT)

Electro-hip-hop band Die Antwoord comes to the Troc.

Posted: February 03, 2012

South Africa's Die Antwoord creates racing, racy electro-hip-hop with touches of dancehall and dubstep thrown into its overheated mix.

Inside that sound, MC Ninja and singer Yo-Landi also use a hardened brand of hometown slang. With that occasionally foul vernacular and their particular patois, Ninja and Yo-Landi - who perform in English and Afrikaans - identify themselves as "Zef" in terms of musical style and fashion sense. They are posh but not posh, poor yet fancy, rocking gold in the face of poverty. They even make outlandish videos that would make David Fincher flinch.

Their last album, $O$ (featuring "Evil Boy" produced with Philly's own Diplo) made them famous. Their brand new Ten$Ion could bring them greater acclaim. This is spelled out succinctly because once the interview with Ninja starts, this MC/Vanilla Ice look-alike speaks just like he raps: fast with a dense accent and a heavy emphasis on the F-word.

"My man, my man, my man," says Ninja, speaking from his new home in Johannesburg. "We had to move from Cape Town because we're so famous. Aaaack, I preferred walking all over the place. Cape Town is grimier."

Tell him that the griminess that figures so prominently in their musical style has made them icons of flash in America, and Ninja seems both pleased and unconcerned. They don't care if America gets what Die Antwoord does. All they know is that we're mad about them.

"We get in deep. All our audiences do as well."

Since the band's name means "the answer" in Afrikaans, it's logical to wonder what the question was in the first place. Ninja says their goal was finding a "unique zone." As Die Antwoord's lyrics grew more personal, their vibe grew "more gangster" and their music ragingly electric.

"Beat Boy," in Ninja's estimation, was their first true song - a personal best. "That opened up new dimensions in my brain, to my subconscious. After that I was married to Die Antwoord."

Philadelphia remixer/producer Diplo became part of that engagement when he started Tweeting about the band.

"Diplo was the first famous person to talk us up, our flavor. We have a similar vibe."

That incendiary mash-up sensibility figures prominently on Ten$Ion. Though the new album is about "carrying on" from where $O$ started, Ninja exclaims there's a new force to behold. The songs on the first album didn't really come alive in Ninja's estimation until the performers hit the stage. The new CD started with a "psychedelic, psychopathic force. It's a disoriented mental state, a new brand of attack that maintains our random weird energy."

"Baby's on Fire," in particular, pumps the Die Antwoord jam into the red.

"We wanted to make a song heavier than 'James Brown Is Dead' with a really masculine vocal sound," Ninja said. "You know Tom Jones? I wanted more macho than him. I love him. Sing like a man. It's the ultimate super-pop. I want to perform 'Baby on Fire' in a Speedo it's so unbelievably great. Boom boom."

Philadelphia will get the first chance in the U.S. to witness Die Antwoord's Ten$Ion tour, perhaps featuring Ninja in that Speedo.

"Philly's mental for us, I promise you," says Ninja before jumping off the line. "Boom boom."


Die Antwoord plays at 9 p.m. Thursday at the Trocadero, 1003 Arch St. Tickets: $22 and $24. Information: 215-922-6888, www.thetroc.com.

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