Tuesday, 30 March 2010

Next Level Beats in Cape Town

The interweb is a wonderful thing. Folks say it's fragmentalising culture and suching the oozy brains out of the masses. Me, I reckon it's a fabulous tool for plain finding stuff out. I'm sure you're the same. People are always dropping you emails with links to some YouTube vid saying "I've just found the funniest/best/weirdest thing in the world... you're going to love it!" Usually it's just a cat yawning like a man, or a dog throwing up after humping something, but once in a while it's something truly splendid.

So when I got a note telling me to check out this messed up slab of white South African trailer park rap by an act called Die Antwoord, I was intrigued. Hip hop is one of the few music genres that lends itself to regional accents, so I was curious to hear how those strangled Afrikaans vowels would bend themselves round some slick rhymes. I wasn't, however, prepared for this...

A gangly mohawked geezer with poor prison tattooes spat out staccato machine-gun syllables, interspersed with sharp and disturbing playground chants from a troublingly young and slightly freaky looking schoolie. And every once in a while, from the shadows, a strange goblin-like figure emerged. The song got stuck in my head immediately and I needed to know more!

The first thing I learned was that the goblin-guy wasn't in a suit - he was a real life geezer. The character billed as Solarize was actually a respected Cape Town artist called Leon Botha, who suffers from the premature aging disorder Progeria. I immediately felt bad for thinking weird of him - but then twigged that this was probably the reaction Die Antwoord were after. Make sure you check out some of his fab art after you finish reading this.

I tracked down a few more tracks and videos, including the enlightening Zef Side (Zef being a kind of South African equivilent of Redneck), complete with its mini-interview segments. But something didn't sit right. It all looked too well filmed, knowing and slightly acted...

This begged a dilemma. Here is a band who look ace, sound fantastic and have got a string of great tunes. But I was starting to think they were a completely made up arts project, or the viral teasers for some kind of South African hip hop Spinal Tap. These fears were further bolstered when I discovered lead rap man Ninja was actually one Watkin Tudor Jones, a man with a history of concept rap projects. Indeed, in one of his previous incarnations, Max Normal, he appeared to be a beardy art school hippie trying his hand at cool beats.

But then I got over myself and realised that it didn't really matter how this stuff got there and how authentic it may be - it sounded great and looked even better, and that's all that really matters I suppose. How is this any less authentic is this than a Californian rapper sleazing for his video in a Hummer full of oiled up bootyfied chicks in bikinis?

The video for Enter The Ninja immediately became a massive worldwide internet hit with YouTube views numbering in the millions, and free downloads of their album $O$ are numbering in the hugeness too. And it turns out that they may be part of a film, after all, as they're rumoured ton be coming to Europe and the US in the summer, with a camera crew in tow chronicling the whole thing. But then, I guess, that's all part of the mystique.

So, I'm not sure what the question actually is, but Die Antwoord are The Answer.

All photos © lays with the owners
Videos from YouTube. Underlying © lays with the owners of the clips.

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