If Die Antwoord is a joke, then people are falling for it. And they have no reason not to.
The South African hip-hop/rave hybrid captivated the Internet last year with a couple of strange videos that featured shocking images, strange rapping and ridiculous characters. Much debate occurred about the legitimacy of the videos, with many people guessing they were created for some strange viral marketing purpose.
At the group’s sold-out show at The Music Box in Hollywood on Sunday, all that chaotic and grotesque weirdness was transformed into an energetic live show that was very much real.
Los Angeles-based Blok opened the show with its loud, overdriven brand of electronic hip-hop. Though a few members of the audience nodded their heads to the music, the Blok band members did little more than strangely contort their bodies and yell incomprehensible lyrics over loud, intense beats blaring from an unmanned laptop. Their performance was more a spectacle intended for some sort of shock value than a musical showcase, as androgynous back-up singer Gianna Gianna ripped off a blonde wig and the other members performed what seemed to be pre-rehearsed dances.
As Blok left the stage and the curtain went down, the excitement level rose. The anticipatory cheers and chants from the tightly packed crowd demonstrated that Die Antwoord has moved far past its original status as a confusing, occasionally comedic yet always entertaining meme on the “Interwebs,” as front man Ninja called it.
The show began with an extended intro as the curtains displayed a projected image of Leon Botha, the South African artist and hip-hop lover that has progeria, a rare genetic disorder that causes people to age faster than normal. Botha also appears in the video for “Enter the Ninja,” the song that propelled Die Antwoord to international fame.
As the curtains drew back, the beginning of the song “Fok Julie Naalers” played over the speakers, with a masked and hooded DJ Hi-Tek popped up from behind the DJ booth.
Yo-Landi Vi$$er, the overtly rude and extremely high-pitched female member, was next to emerge. She kept her middle finger pointed at the crowd as she began yelling the song’s opening lyrics over the screams of excitement.
Ninja, the group’s main rapper, came out last. He donned the same, frightening black robes and mask that he can be seen wearing on the cover of the group’s first album $O$. After a short, crowd-pleasing verse, the rapper disappeared from the stage.
He returned quickly wearing a sleeveless “I Heart LA” T-shirt (although a gun replaced the usual heart symbol) and, surprisingly, dove into the band’s most popular song, “Enter the Ninja.” During the third song, “Wat Kyk Jy,” Ninja tossed the T-shirt to the side of the stage and dove into the crowd several times. He and Vi$$er’s loud, energetic raps had the crowd jumping and dancing along.
Ninja soon had the crowd say “Wat Pomp,” a colloquial term for “What’s up,” to fellow South African rapper Jack Parow, who joined the band onstage for the song named after the same Afrikaans slang greeting. Keeping up with the Die Antwoord members’ ridiculous costumes and high energy, Parow wore a hat with an enormously oversized bill and maintained a commanding stage presence.
This energy failed to slow throughout the group’s fast-paced, one-hour set. The band’s continual costume changes and crowd interaction kept things interesting.
For instance, Vi$$er left the stage briefly, only to reappear in a gold jacket and matching gold spandex pants to sing her song “Rich Bitch.” Throughout the song, she pulled down her pants and mooned the crowd several times. She also repeatedly chugged a water bottle and spat its contents on the crowd.
Ninja also left the stage mid-set and reappeared wearing only his signature Pink Floyd boxers. During one song, he wore a strange, alien arm, a reference to the “prawns” in the movie District 9, which is set in South Africa.
Much of Die Antwoord’s lyrics mirror the images of the poor and oppressed depicted in that movie. The group claims to be “zef,” which they described as the South African equivalent of white trash.
This has caused some controversy over the legitimacy of Die Antwoord, as Ninja has appeared in other hip-hop groups as several other highly different characters throughout his career. Ninja and his crew might be playing overly ridiculous and exaggerated characters, but it doesn’t really matter. They’re still highly entertaining, and U.S. crowds still love them.
The break between the last song, “Beat Boy,” and the encore was only about 30 seconds, and then the band members re-emerged wearing their most ridiculous costumes of the night. Ninja was dressed in a Pikachu costume with one arm cut off, and Vi$$er was dressed as bloody pink animal costume. Parow also rejoined the group as it ended the night with the rousing anthem, “Doosdronk.”
As Vi$$er and Ninja stood at the front of the stage with sustained, angry frowns, Vi$$er loudly urged the audience to be happy. The loud cheers from the still-packed crowd proved that they already were.