A Heart-to-Heart with Die Antwoord

The Mind-Fucking South African Rappers on Marilyn Manson, Sex with Dolphins, and Being Bewildering

A Heart-to-Heart with Die Antwoord

Roger Ballen

DIE ANTWOORD If they are the answer, what is the question?

In June of 2008, Die Antwoord's Ninja (Watkin Tudor Jones) had a dream he was floating in a boat of bones through a sea of fleas and kerosene. The moon in the dream was a rabid, veined rat's eye sitting in a black sky above watching him. There was no wind, no light, and, try as he might, he couldn't wake up. The dream lasted for weeks in Ninja's sleeping South African mind. He was starving. For food, he would reach into the thick rippled kerosene and eat the fleas. When thirsty, he drank his own piss. Then a dove descended from the darkness bringing him a lighter and a single sheet of paper with the words the answer written on it. Ninja folded the paper into a plane, lit it on fire, and sailed it into the kerosene sea. A great encompassing flame leaped up, devouring the darkness. Two trillion fleas cried out minuscule screams. Ninja woke, shooting out of the dream in a pounded flash.

It was a Wednesday. Ninja got out of bed, put on shoes, and took a bus to the University of Cape Town library to look up meanings for the answer in the South African language Afrikaans. There, in the reference section, doing research for her second erotic novel, stood the blond trash-swan beauty Yo-Landi Vi$$er. Ninja said hello and thumbed through various encyclopedias for the answer. In Afrikaans, the answer is die antwoord. Pressed into the crease of one of the pages Ninja came to was a dead flea. He saw it, ate it, and turned to Yo-Landi to ask if she'd ever rapped.

Four years later, Die Antwoord have become one of the more polarizing, recognizable electro-hiphop acts on the planet. But are Ninja and Yo-Landi fake? Are they real? Is it an act? Are they sexy or not? Are they good or bad? Do you care? Questions abound. Whatever Die Antwoord are, when people see and hear their music, they can't seem to look away. Die Antwoord are a true sign of hiphop's worldly spread and evolution, with grimy, hi-fi/lowbrow rawness that would rather be dead than play it safe. Die Antwoord prefer taboo and tension, they want the ugly and the odd. They're different. They're entertaining. They are all-out, pushing whatever edge they come to. Interscope Records thought enough of them to sign them, before a split due to creative differences over the single "Fok Julle Naaiers." Last month, they released their second full-length album, Ten$ion, on their own Zef Recordz. Ninja and Yo-Landi spoke from a farm near Johannesburg.

For people who want to become a ninja like Ninja, what are some things they can do?

Ninja: First, you have to become the enemy. If a thief breaks into your house, they are the one who must be fucked. If someone tries to rob you or kill you, it should be the biggest mistake of their life.

I read that one of the astronauts on the International Space Station is a big Die Antwoord fan. I bet the space station never gets robbed.

Yo-Landi: They're bumping our shit on the moon.

Ninja: In outer space. Are you joking? I say to them, "How's it hanging?"

If you were a sex toy, what would you be? Who would you be used on?

Yo-Landi: A dolphin.

Ninja: Yeah, a dolphin. A real dolphin. That would be nice. I'd be used on you, Trent, I'd fuck you in the ass!

People can't figure Die Antwoord out. They don't know whether to love you or hate you, or to be attracted to you or disgusted. They don't know if you're dumb or genius. You make what you do look easy.

Ninja: I like getting mind-fucked by things. It's very rare. That kind of pure reaction. I want to do that, to bewilder and be bewildered. I want to make songs that make people think, "What the fuck was that?" I wish people did this more often.

What blows your mind?

Yo-Landi: The video for Duck Sauce's "Big Bad Wolf" blew my mind. Have you seen it?

Ninja: I started crying, seriously, when I saw this video. It made me so happy that there were other people doing weirder things. Things that are on our level. Whoever is reading this, watch this video. We went to visit that fucking weirdo Marilyn Manson, and we played him the video, and he was like, "Where did you guys find this? I love it." We said, "We found it on the fucking interwebs, dude."

Talk about visiting Marilyn Manson. Did he have the one scary contact lens in?

Yo-Landi: We went to his house, and he wouldn't let us leave. He locked the door and hid the key. I think he had the contact in, I don't know. He made us drink a lot of this stuff called absinthe. He makes his own brand in Switzerland. It's called Mansinthe. It has 66.6 percent alcohol. He lives in this house-castle, and it's all black inside. There's no light. He has a cinema, and a studio, and all these paintings, and a bar serving only absinthe. He got us really drunk and then asked Ninja to spray-paint something on the ceiling above his bed.

What did you spray-paint above his bed? Die Antwoord should do a song with Marilyn Manson.

Ninja: I spray-painted an evil boy. I was so drunk, I didn't know what to do. We tried to do a song with him! It would be peachy. We went into his studio and everything. But we were just too fucking drunk. I couldn't stop laughing. It sounded stupid. Maybe we'll try again. Marilyn Manson is a warped-ass motherfucker. I love him.

What do you all think of Justin Bieber?

Ninja: Justin Bieber is cool. Kids out here are totally obsessed with him.

That surprises me, Ninja. I would think you wouldn't like Justin Bieber.

Ninja: Why? He's just a cute little kid. He's doing his thing. He's a sweetheart. It was a little stupid of Ludacris to rap such a dork verse on his song, but Justin Bieber is cool.

Could Justin Bieber someday become a ninja?

Ninja: Maybe. He's too much of a pretty boy now. He's a kid. Not ugly enough to be a ninja. I don't know if he has what it takes. He's Walt Disney and shit, man.

If you were to train Justin Bieber to become a ninja like yourself, what would you make him do?

Ninja: I'd make him cut his face open on both sides like a Zulu warrior. Then he'd have to circumcise himself and live for five months in the bush. Then we would hunt hyenas. If he doesn't run away and get scared, we can take him to the next level.

Let's do some wordplay. I'll say a word, and you all say the first thing that comes to your mind.

Yo-Landi: Kick it.

Corn dog.

Ninja: I don't know what the fuck that is. I'm from South Africa. A dog made out of corn?

It's a hot dog on a stick, surrounded by breading, corn bread.

Ninja: Where's the corn?

Yo-Landi: Why is it on a stick?

Next word: urethra.

Yo-Landi: What did you say?

Ninja: A venereal disease?

It's the tube in our bodies that carries off the urine from the bladder.

Ninja: I say biology class.

Yo-Landi: I say Aretha Franklin. And linguini.

Next word: fetish.

Ninja: Hot-air ballooning.

Yo-Landi: Catfish.

Bacon grease.

Ninja: We're vegetarian.

Yo-Landi: Hot-air ballooning.

How does Die Antwoord write songs?

Yo-Landi: We don't have a recipe or a specific mixture. We have an idea, like a name or a chorus, and we'll fuck with it for a day or two days, and we'll finish writing. Or sometimes we'll fuck with it for like a month, until the right thing comes up. But there's always an idea, or a mood, or a word as a starting place, then we flow out of that. The music, and the beats, and rhyming is based on the mood of the song that we want to explore. But it's always mysterious how songs happen. I can't really tell you, "This is what we do" or "This is what we don't do." It can be complex, over a period of time. Or it can be simple and come together in seconds.

Ninja: Sometimes it's really fucking easy. And sometimes it's really fucking difficult. I think of Yo-Landi's method as being accidental. She likes to mess with stuff, to break it down, to take things apart and see how they come back together.

What's an example of one of these moods?

Ninja: The introduction on the new album. I wanted it to be like The Lion King. Like you are in Africa. Lion King mixed with apocalyptic warfare, kind of the vibe of Africa at the moment. Then we move to the next track and the next mood, "I Fink U Freeky." I wanted that one to be like music at a party or someone partying in the parking lot playing music loud out of the trunk of their car, something people could fucking get down to. We wanted to see how pop we could get and how dark we could get. The video for "I Fink U Freeky" is just that, as dark and pop as we could conjure. For "Fatty Boom Boom," we wanted it to be a soundtrack to a voodoo ceremony.

"Fatty Boom Boom" is my favorite song on Ten$ion.

Ninja: We're doing a video for that one next. It was such an accident, the rhythm of that song. Such a freak-out. I made this retarded beat box. We were like, "Jesus." And we tried to get all these drummers and shit to play it. And they were like, "What the fuck are you doing?" We wanted to get a live drummer to play it, but no drummers could play it. Then DJ Hi-Tek broke it down and made a beat out of it.

Where did you all record the album?

Ninja: At Hi-Tek's studio in Cape Town.

Yo-Landi: Before we decided to drop Interscope records, we got a bunch of money, and Hi-Tek went from recording in his bedroom to having a real studio with a lounge, with a proper sound booth and shit. And good microphones. We don't have to record next to his stinky mattress anymore, with panties all around. And he still makes us buy him lunch and coffee. He never wants to pay for shit.

What do you think of the United States? Do you like it here?

Yo-Landi: Yeah, we like it. It's so fucking organized. Jesus, it's like the most organized shit ever. And people make sense when they talk. Like you. I like you. If someone tells you something, you understand it perfectly. Everyone is so nice and polite. And then we ask them to enter the dark depths of Die Antwoord. Let's have some Mansinthe. Wait, so we have a question for you. What does it mean in America when you say "Jimmy crack corn"? Eminem has a song about it. Is it about being corny? Or because he's a cracker? What the fuck does that mean?

There's multiple meanings. It's slang meaning to either sit around chatting or crack open a bottle of liquor, corn liquor back in the day. It's from an old song that dates back to the 1840s, an ugly time in our country's history. What is Die Antwoord's deepest darkest fantasy?

Ninja: Like, we living it, Nigga.

What does Die Antwoord have to say to all the people who think you are a joke?

Ninja: I say they are totally right. I laugh myself to sleep every night. We'll see them at the show.

Yo-Landi [singing]: Wankeeee. recommended

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Comments (23) RSS

Oldest First Unregistered On Registered On Add a comment
They are beyond cute and I love their cartoony aesthetic. Their "music" however is unbearable, but you can't win at everything.
Posted by the_spiral on February 15, 2012 at 9:28 AM · Report this
idnarcarlton 2
Gonna be there, so excite.
Posted by idnarcarlton on February 15, 2012 at 10:39 AM · Report this
Posted by Kelly O on February 15, 2012 at 11:54 AM · Report this
cosby 4
I like how selective people are about their contempt for homophobia. Die Antwoord use an anti-gay slur on their latest record but I doubt anyone will be out to picket them next week. For those keeping score at home, if you use homophobic language and you are white (Die Antwoord), that's just art. If you use homophobic language and you are black (Odd Future), that's a hate crime.

Also, using the n-word = keeping it real classy, guys. Is there a form of apartheid I can use to keep Die Antwoord segregated from myself?
Posted by cosby on February 15, 2012 at 1:40 PM · Report this
shuvoff 5
I turned on David Letterman last week, partway through Die Antwoord's performance of "I fink u freeky" and felt my jaw literally drop. It was like they were raping my brain, and I was enjoying it. Thanks for the interview!
Posted by shuvoff on February 15, 2012 at 1:41 PM · Report this
antleryvr 6
I agree with cosby above - c'mon, Stranger people, what's the deal? Are you just not aware of the lyrics of Evil Boy? "Don't touch my penis / I am not a gay / My penis is for the girls / My penis is clean." Nice. Or is it just sufficiently dada-hipsterish/exotic to be okay?
Posted by antleryvr on February 15, 2012 at 6:13 PM · Report this
shuvoff 7
@ 3 & 6
Context, people. A word is not evil for existing and being used. It's about how you use it. I can't say I completely understand their use of words, and a lot of their South African slang is totally lost on me, but they're an interesting group I wouldn't assume is working the hate angle.…
"DJ Hi-Tek is gay,” he explains, “so there you go, now you all know.”
Ninja adds: “Hi-Tek says the word faggot doesn’t hold any power over him. Hi-Tek says faggot all the time. He’s taken that word and made it his bitch."


"Now the thing is, about those men you have to go to the bush with. Xhosa culture is un-fokking-believeably homophobic. They like, do not dig gays—with the volume up! So Wanga thought it was funny that they then take a 19-year-old's penis in their hand and cut their foreskin off with a kitchen knife. So Wanga made a joke: "Don't touch my penis. I'm not a gay." It's basically like the most severe taunt you can throw at a Xhosa man. So that's where that line comes from. Like, whatever. Like DJ Fishsticks, who's done our remix. He's gay and nobody really cares. South Park taught us that "gay" and "faggot" don't mean a homosexual person. It's somebody who rides on a Harley-Davidson motorbike and revs it really loud."
Posted by shuvoff on February 15, 2012 at 6:48 PM · Report this
Anna Anna Anna 8
One of your better ones yet Trent. Following corn dog with urethra, impeccable. God I love you. Always a pleasure. Die Antwoord have their thing down. They seem to work hard.
Posted by Anna Anna Anna on February 16, 2012 at 12:26 AM · Report this
JensR 9
@7 thank you... Gawd... people seems to miss that everywhere else isn't just like the US.
About the N-word [censured for your benefit]. Racism doesn't work the same everywhere - here for example skin colour isnt as relevant as where your from. A black american is someone who would be "high up" in the racist scale where as a polack wouldn't. The word and its swedish equivalent doesn't have the same weight as in the US. To me the word doesn't have the same cultural reference - its just something I grew up hearing US rappers use and that allot of people in the US don't like.

South Africas racism isn't as easy to understand but its weight on skin colour comes from a completely different angle than in the US or here. The use of the word ties into a sort of cultural theft of the US rap scenes use of the word (You haven't lived until youve heard russian white rappers use it to define each other as an anti-racist statement)

As for saying faggot or gay - its completely different depending on from what angle you say it (I think). Dan Savage started his columns with "Hey Faggot" in the beginning and we wouldn't claim that was homophobic or self-hating would we?

I guess this whole thing connects with the thing about Tyler the Creator - and there its kinda similar. He isn't a homophobe but he uses it as an assault form - and that is kinda bad I guess but to claim its homophobic would be ridiculous.

.... basicly its different everywhere. So relax and look at the context instead of the specific detail.
Posted by JensR on February 16, 2012 at 2:37 AM · Report this
katrat 10
Bunny licked Yo-Landi's hand when they were at Sonic Boom.
Posted by katrat on February 16, 2012 at 12:42 PM · Report this
There's no way around it. Weird, intense, committed exhibitionists are boring.
Posted by James Early on February 16, 2012 at 3:34 PM · Report this
Rinelle Boomtown 12
I am one of the ones who can't look away from these guys. You hit many nails on many heads here Trent Moorman. Yo-Landi, call me!
Posted by Rinelle Boomtown on February 18, 2012 at 3:10 PM · Report this
in-frequent 13
cosby @4 - they really went out of their way in the video link posted @7 to say explain the usage, and reiterate that they are okay with gay and basically f*ck those who are not. i'm not sure that changes anything for you, but i don't doubt their sincerity on the matter.
Posted by in-frequent on February 20, 2012 at 11:10 AM · Report this
Baconcat 14
Shrug, hipster rap. It's cool but not my thing.

LOLing at the wank over word usage, though. From ethnocentric navel-gazing to straight up derangement.

If you're offended, they apologized. If you're appropriating it as an ironic slur they basically told you to go fuck yourself. I think we're all done here.
Posted by Baconcat on February 20, 2012 at 11:55 AM · Report this
tabathalphabet 15
Posted by tabathalphabet on February 20, 2012 at 1:28 PM · Report this
JensR 16
@14 oh please go be insecure somewhere else would you? Honestly I get people who are pissed off about the language use and those who see it as some ironic thing too - its you boring wankers I can't stand. The people who has to try to assert themselves in any situation by feigning some kind of ennui or world weariness and shoving those faux emotions down other peoples throats in comment threads like this...

If you don't care, if you really had nothing invested in the article or have nothing to contribute to the thread at all... why would you bother commenting?

Can't you go try to impress some teenagers somewhere instead like the rest of the slack jawed idiots who think they've found the magic sollution to being interesting?
Posted by JensR on February 20, 2012 at 1:52 PM · Report this
i saw these jerk offs the last time they came through town. i went because i fell prey to the hype. talk about a boring weak ass show! white folks from south africa no less, doing the wigger thing. offensive to my brown ass. i was really surprised they didn't burn a cross and come out in KKK hoods for the encore. i bet mudede loves em.......
Posted by rayray on February 21, 2012 at 8:55 PM · Report this
LOL @rayray, are you sure you went to the same show? I went and it was SO FUCKING AWESOME, vibe was sick, and EVERYBODY was feeling it, i mean EVERYBODY was dancing. show was amazing, beats even better. MY brain had an orgasm and I was completely sober.
Posted by kelkel on March 3, 2012 at 8:32 PM · Report this
I wanna put Yolandi up my bum
Keep her there till she turns into my mum
Got ninja nigga hi tek fun
My dreams are cursed by holocaust of injun

Don't worry mum it's just for fun
Who needs a sole when we've got big black dicks and big bad guns
With bresteses and bubble gum
Who gives a fuck I'll die alone
With a black cat named Africa

Die antwoord is the answer to a question no one muttered
If you're mind confused get the fuck out and come back when your mind is blowing' loads all over the face of what you thought you know
The end is here its here to stay apocalypse is everyday

No fuckin way
My place is a mess and yolandi is here to stay
Got to clean up my shit, what the fuck will ninja say
I guess I'll feed them the aliens I cooked yesterday
Mad hospitable I am today
Sure ninja, you can borrow my undies, they is clean, it's ok

Wtf is wat kyk jy?
Why you always rocking rats and shit anyway?
If you want to burn fast and hard you got to blow up can't fade away
I lived my life and...


Posted by FrootLoopz on May 13, 2012 at 10:21 AM · Report this
Leave it to Seattle to shit on everything.
Posted by kpr on October 13, 2013 at 10:41 PM · Report this
what don't you guys get about manufactured controversy?
Go look at Max Normal videos on Youtube. That is the same damn people as Die Antwoord.
do you really think the people that made that music are these thugged out white trash rappers?
They are playing a character in both cases.
In terms of the uncool use of faggot and nigger, they are simply miming the typical mainstream pop manufactured controversy.
Though to be honest, I do believe it is just in the US that we put so much venom into the word nigger. I find it hard to believe that nobody in SA would be offended by it. But then the likely have other words for insulting black or colored people. Which are different things in SA.
There is a cool song from the 80's by "Beatnigs" called "in South Africa Today". They are a San Francisco multi-racial group, but it really goes into the crazy number of racial categories in SA.
Posted by calaverasgrande on January 14, 2014 at 9:24 AM · Report this
what don't you guys get about manufactured controversy?
Go look at Max Normal videos on Youtube. That is the same damn people as Die Antwoord.
do you really think the people that made that music are these thugged out white trash rappers?
They are playing a character in both cases.
In terms of the uncool use of faggot and nigger, they are simply miming the typical mainstream pop manufactured controversy.
Though to be honest, I do believe it is just in the US that we put so much venom into the word nigger. I find it hard to believe that nobody in SA would be offended by it. But then the likely have other words for insulting black or colored people. Which are different things in SA.
There is a cool song from the 80's by "Beatnigs" called "in South Africa Today". They are a San Francisco multi-racial group, but it really goes into the crazy number of racial categories in SA.
Posted by calaverasgrande on January 14, 2014 at 9:27 AM · Report this
I Love you guys keep doing what your doing!! Fuckin Ninjas be real
Posted by StormLotion on April 16, 2014 at 11:51 PM · Report this

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