Photo by MARY LYNN DOMINGUEZ
Being assigned to cover the Die Antwoord show at the Electric Factory last night meant boning up on Zef culture (pun intended), which is all about looking extravagant while being poor. Zef is the South Africa version of ‘ghetto fabulous’ meets white trash. All of which dovetails nicely with Die Antwoord’s mission— embracing the oddities of humankind, casting aside all negative associations with obscenity and horror, and telling censorship to go fuck itself. Hard.
Waiting in the photo pit at the lip of the stage for the band to arrive, I began to worry that maybe I was a little too close for comfort. Turns out my Spidey senses were dead-on, as per usual. An alien-masked member of the group named DJ Hi Tek introduced MCs Ninja and Yo-Landi Vi$$er, with both sporting huge matching neon orange hoodies and sweatpants — think Gitmo meets Rocawear. Die Antwoord wasn’t onstage more than a minute before Yolandi took a big sip of water and spit it at the crowd in a long unbroken plume, most of which hit me square in the face. It was almost like we had a moment. This was in addition to the keepsake of a press pass I was wearing, which marked me as “VIP NIGGA, SUCK MY DICK.” Nice. It was probably the most Zef I’ll ever feel.
For the next hour-plus, the duo’s energy was through the roof as their non-stop tag-team style of rapping set the pace for the night. To ears like mine, largely unacquainted with South African rave-rap and Yo-Landi’s helium-tuned vocals, much of the no-doubt clever verbiage Die Antwoord was spitting was completely indecipherable. But nobody was mistaken when Ninja turned his back to the crowd, pulled down his Dark Side of the Moon boxers and showed the crowd the dark side of his moon while shouting out “MY BLACK ASS!” during the adorably-titled “Raging Zef Boner.” There seemed to be about a million outfit changes throughout the set, most notably Ninja’s creepily realistic pitbull mask and collar as seen in the video for “Pitbull Terrier.” Likewise, the ragingly ecstatic crowd was decked-out in little more than spandex, neon and glitter. It all seemed fitting, with the night being led by Ninja, covered in jailhouse tattoos, and Yo-Landi, sporting her signature tight pink cameltoe short-shorts and demonic black contact lenses. Die Antwoord and their supporting members and dancers alike were fully charged, constantly in motion with the continuous and fast pulse of the beat.
Perhaps a sign of my fully understanding the Die Antwoord experience was losing my capacity to be shocked by hyper-vulgar stage props. My favorite was the one that can only described as an inflatable larger-than-life-sized Casper the Friendly Fucking Ghost With a Massive Erection. The whirling funhouse of freakiness perpetuated for an hour, with the energy level never dipping below 110 percent. The incredibly fast-paced show seemed to fly by, but there was no shortage of jaw-dropping antics, most of which would be characterized by an anthropologist as the human equivalent of a zoo monkey showering bemused visitors with his own feces. Despite the deafening volume, strange and often downright disturbing projected visuals, like the one of a woman giving birth to herself, and a prevailing sense that Satan was present in the building, everyone onstage and in the crowd had smiles plastered on their faces from beginning to end. — MARY LYNN DOMINGUEZ