As a young teenager, I wasn’t famed for my taste in popular music. Mercifully, I grew up and began to appreciate the cheese of pop classics and even, dare I say, enjoy them. It added another element to my music collection. After all, if you listened to Bob Dylan for your entire life, you’d probably end up as cracked as the man himself. Since then, I’ve become somewhat of a music junkie. Anything and everything I’m recommended inevitably makes its way onto my Spotify playlist. These days, that even includes John Mayer. Cringe.
In the last few weeks, a friend of mine sent me a link to Die Antwoord – marketed as South Africa’s answer to Azealia Banks, (it’s okay if you don’t remember her because I certainly don’t). I have become obsessed. Despite their sheer weirdness - and that’s being kind – they have ensnared me with their strange mixture of Afrikaans swear words and barely audible English rap. This pair are notorious in the underground music scene for good reason.
Their lyrics are ridiculous (“I smell lovely because I don’t eat meat, too much bubbly and I go pee pee”). And their outfits are even more farcical. Yet, this duo consisting of Ninja and Yo-Landi Vi$$er, are undeniably popular amongst the international raver community. Or rather, the international ZEF community.
ZEF, I hear you ask? Like any good fan, I did my research following a cursory listen and found myself on Urban Dictionary, reliable as always. The music genre ZEF is defined as being stereotypically associated with South African Caucasians of low-middle social-economic status. I guess, with as much political correctness as one can muster, that is exactly the right way to describe these native Cape Town rappers.
Maybe it’s their (bonkers) music videos that have me so excited, or maybe it’s just the hidden genius of their songs, but I truly consider myself a fan.
It’s not just me. They’ve managed to secure a thriving fan base, including the model/actress Cara Delevigne and their concerts are sell-outs across the globe. And yet, nobody this side of the pond has taken much interest in them, apart from a brief glimmer of fame they enjoyed way back in 2010 with their rap/trance fusion song Enter the Ninja. If you haven’t heard it before, I strongly encourage you to listen to it. Until you’ve listened to a South African man make a stab at the largely American rap genre, you have not lived.
Die Antwoord have recently announced a UK tour and for the first time, I’m considering crossing that narrow strip of water between us and them to see the duo. They are hypnotising and offensive and perversely beautiful. It’s sure to be an experience of a lifetime and I’d encourage anyone who’s not afraid of the weird and wonderful to give them a listen.