Hundreds of artists have contributed to the expansion of Hip Hop since its inception in the late 70’s and early 80’s, but a fine line has developed between the real quote on quote hip hop artist, and those who just fall into the stereotypes of pop culture and gangsta rap. The South African rap group Die Antwoord might be both. When I first encountered their video “Zef Side” I thought it was a joke, the groups members Ninja, Yo-Landi dance like twelve year olds on acid while Dj Hi-Tek stands idly by. As I slowly realized that they were a real group I couldn’t help wondering how on earth these people take themselves so seriously. The rapper of the group Ninja, looks like a cross between Vanilla Ice, MC Hammer and Will Smith circa Fresh Prince of Bel Air. He sports two gold teeth, gold chains, watches and rings all the notable symbols of wealth and success. However, taken out of the context of American culture and placed into the slums of South Africa, it just looks a bit ridiculous. Die Antwoord is a nebulous mixture of American pop culture, stereotypical Gangsta Rap imagery and South African culture. But at the same time they might be what Hip Hop is really about: self representation. In an interview Ninja said, “[Die] Antwoord represents the common man, the man in the street, the bottom of the fucking level”. So maybe a little cultural relativism is needed, because even though they look a little silly the scary thing is their beats are actually kind of good. Ninja’s rhymes can be pretty clever at times and all of their lyrics incorporate Afrikaans (one of the official languages in South Africa) and English… So I guess it is up to the listener to decide.
Here is their video for “Zef Side”
and here is Ninja in “Ninja was Here”