Die Antwoord (Afrikaans: ‘The Answer’) is a South African rap-rave group whose style draws from the Zef counter-culture movement. Its lead vocalists are Ninja and Yo-Landi Vi$$er. DJ Hi-Tek is commonly referenced as a third member of the group, although the band blends reality with fantastical elements for artistic effect and they do not acknowledge whether DJ Hi-Tek is a real person or a character played by a variety of musicians and actors.
Die Antwoord lead vocalist Ninja was part of the South African hip-hop scene for many years, fronting acts such as The Original Evergreens, MaxNormal.TV, and The Constructus Corporation. Ninja told ‘Rolling Stone,’ ‘Everything I did before Die Antwoord was me experimenting, messing around and trying to find die antwoord… Everything before it was disposable. It was all throwaway.’
Die Antwoord’s musical and visual style incorporates elements of Zef culture, described as modern and trashy, appropriating out-of-date, discarded cultural elements. Yo-Landi said, ‘It’s associated with people who soup their cars up and rock gold and shit. Zef is, you’re poor but you’re fancy. You’re poor but you’re sexy, you’ve got style.’ Their lyrics are performed in Afrikaans, Xhosa, and English. Die Antwoord observed that journalists and critics, particularly in the United States, frequently ask if their creative output is a joke or a hoax. When asked if he was playing a character, Ninja said, ‘Ninja is, how can I say, like Superman is to Clark Kent. The only difference is, I don’t take off this fokken Superman suit.’
They have described their work as ‘documentary fiction’ and ‘exaggerated experience’ designed for shock value. Ninja told Spin: ‘People are unconscious and you have to use your art as a shock machine to wake them up. Some people are too far gone. They’ll just keep asking, ‘Is it real? Is it real?’ That’s dwanky. That’s a word we have in South Africa, ‘dwanky.’ It’s like lame. ‘Is it real?’ Dwanky. You have to be futuristic and carry on. You gotta be a good guide to help people get away from dull experience.’
Die Antwoord formed in 2008. Their debut album ‘$O$’ was made available as a free download on their official website. In 2009 South African cinematographer Rob Malpage (along with co-director Ninja) shot the video for their single ‘Enter the Ninja.’ The video features the late Cape Town artist and turntablist Leon Botha. The single ‘Evil Boy’ contained a verse by guest vocalist Wanga (a Xhosa rapper) in his native language, which rejects the traditional Xhosa passage to manhood achieved in part by circumcision, electing to remain uncircumcised; thus an ‘evil boy for life.’ Following the success of the video, Die Antwoord signed a record deal with Interscope Records. In 2010, they performed their first international concert at the Coachella Music Festival.
In November 2011, Die Antwoord left Interscope Records over a dispute concerning their upcoming album and its lead single, ‘Fok Julle Naaiers.’Vi$$er explained that Interscope ‘kept pushing us to be more generic’ in order to make more money: ‘If you try to make songs that other people like, your band will always be shit. You always gotta do what you like. If it connects, it’s a miracle, but it happened with Die Antwoord.’ Die Antwoord formed their own independent label, Zef Recordz, and released their new album ‘Ten$Ion’ through it. The release was in association with the Good Smile Company (a Japanese company that is also making Die Antwoord toys), and Downtown Records N.Y.C., which is handling the marketing and distribution for the record worldwide.
In an interview with ‘Exclaim!’ magazine, the group revealed they have a five album plan. According to Ninja, ‘We’ll be dropping films between each of the albums, feature films… We have one we’re working on for next year called ‘The Answer.’ It’s like the story of how Die Antwoord started. But that’s like, our power, and where our energy is at right now.’ They have filmed a short film for the song ‘Wat Kyk Jy?’ (Afrikaans for ‘What Are You Looking At?’) with American filmmaker Harmony Korine. The short film premiered at SXSW as ‘Umshini Wam’ and features ‘furry costumes, wheelchairs, a music video breakdown, and plenty of zef slang.’