Sucked up in a whirlwind of instant success, the members of Die Antwoord admit that they didn’t know what they were doing last year.
“Before it was like ‘what the f—?’ and now it’s like we kind of know what’s happening a little bit more,” says frontman Ninja, who sounds almost hum-ble for a guy who on their breakout single mused, “this is like the coolest song I’ve ever heard in my whole life.”
The South African rap trio has learned a lot since they garnered international recognition in 2010, after going viral with the release of the YouTube video “Enter the Ninja,” accompanied by a debut album called “$O$.”
Ninja speaks with a tinged Cape Town accent. “We are much better,” he says of the group’s upcoming “Ten$ion” album. “We have become good or something.”
Still teeming with tensity after touring for “$O$,” Die Antwoord returned to South Africa, locked themselves in a recording studio and went right back to work.
“We wanted to maintain the same manic tension we had before anything happened,” says Ninja. “[But] we have pumped up the jams. It’s a total mindf—.”
“Ten$ion” is a mix of fresh tracks based on their success and a few written prior to their fame. DJ Hi-Tek, the group’s producer, delivers beats on the album that switch from rave dance tunes to old-school, boom-bap-style hip-hop, almost as fast as the raps of Ninja and his counterpart, Yo-Landi Vi$$er.
Ninja, who speaks in the same quick-tongue style as he raps, is not all humility though. He calls everything they do “next level.”
“It’s impossible to think of a new style, it’s something that just occurs, and we are lucky to be the ones presenting it,” he says. “Basically, we have put South Africa and its underbelly in a box.”
Much like the imagery they use in their music videos and on stage, Yo-Landi says there is no recipe for the group’s music formula — it just happens.
“We are very spontaneous,” she says.
In an interview with Vice Magazine last year, Die Antwoord described their styles as “zef,” meaning the “ultimate style.”
That means repping box-top crew cuts, underwear on stage and homemade tattoos, including one that says, “If you don’t like funerals, don’t kick sand in a Ninja’s face.”
“If you love it, we love you too, but if you hate it, it’s just because you’re not on our level,”?he says of the zef style.