Die Antwoord's at it again

We promised ourselves we won’t get drawn into this. This is the week in which Cape Town viral rappers Die Antwoord released the music video for their new single “Fok julle Naaiers.”  The music video contains some Die Antwoord staples (spiders and scorpions come out of rapper Ninja’s mouth while he throws around the word Nigger, and tattooed coloured men are used to reference prison gang culture in Cape Town; the latter a big part of his persona). But there’s also these lines from their DJ, Hi-Tek: “You can’t touch me faggot …” and “I’ll fuck you till you love me faggot.”  See for yourselves:

The group was roundly criticized for the homophobia and the (apparent) glorification of rape in the lyrics.It appeared their American label, Interscope, was also was uncomfortable with the video and song lyrics.

Die Antwoord then quickly announced that they were splitting with Interscope. They would now release their new album themselves.

But here is where it actually gets interesting (the rest is the same old boring vintage Die Antwoord, remixed). Ninja decided to film a video statement, where he presumably  sets out to explain the use of homophobic/racist epithets in “Fok Julle Naaiers”:

His first defense: DJ Hi-Tek is gay. So it’s ok for the group to drop the ‘f’ bomb liberally. That argument, in itself, is a stupid defense: i.e. membership of an objectified minority group means you can be racist/sexist/homophobic.

Ninja then accused “some people from America” of being “heavy sensitive,” thusly implying that South Africans are okay with calling each other faggot as a term of endearment.  Hardly true–especially not in a country where lesbians are subjected to “corrective rape,” gay men to hate crimes and Evangelical Christianity (with its clearly expressed homophobia) has a strong hold on the population.

Third, Ninja concludes his use of racist epithets with the claim that black South Africans are okay with white South Africans calling them Nigger.  And vice versa. More news to me.

Finally–in a strange turn–Waddy said South Africa is a “rainbow nation” and that “we have the pay off line ‘Simunye’ we are one.” What he forgot to tell his audience is that both the descriptors–the first (rainbow nation) was dreamed up by politicians, and the second (Simunye) by advertising copy writers to promote a TV channel–are outdated (they last had currency in the mid-1990s) and widely discredited (think the politics of the movie Invictus) by anyone who lives in the ‘real’ – that is, the vast majority who continue to experience nothing but the failure of that rainbow promise.

Waddy Jones’ defenders will probably says he was in “character,” the whole thing satire (original video and ‘apology’ alike), and that he is being ironic and deliberate.

Perhaps the fact that I am writing about their charade now will also be read as evidence that they’re good.



Sean Jacobs

Also goes by Hasan Wazan. Life President.

  1. Ninja: DJ Hi-Tek took the word “faggot” and “made it his bitch.” Nice job explaining away one set of bigotry by using another. Plus ça change…

    1. That’s exactly what I was about to say…DJ Hi-Tek lyrics are Mike Tyson’s quotes in the wake of his first bout with Evander Hollyfield during a press conference and the rant was directed towards a female interviewer!
      Shame we can’t talk about plagiarism in this case!

  2. isn’t the whole point of ‘die antwoord’ to play on everything that our cheese-brained middleclass society finds cringe-worthy and threatening to middleclass values? ie. aggression, poverty, racism, homophobia, sexism, violence, addiction, rape, prison, ugly tattoos, pathetic & transparent ideas, backwardness… what i find more interesting is why it gives me such a thrill to watch them and listen to them.. why are they so popular?

      1. @Sean It’s Karien not Katrien and judging from her Afrikaans surname she is writing in her second language, so give the girl a break eh?

        What she means is that Die Antwoord sets out to be fringe. That they play on everything that your cheese-brained middleclass belief-system finds cringe-worthy and threatening to your middleclass values. Yet still, she finds them intriguing. It baffles her however why the band is so popular amongst general listeners.

        By the way I don’t know Karien. Just didn’t think you made an effort to understand what she was trying to say when she so kindly contributed to your blog post (which wasn’t very well researched or thought through to start with).

      2. @sean Jacobs, yes Katrien does make sense, also, it is possible that antwoord does in fact embody some of these things, like the rest of us..

  3. If you want to take what they are saying in the new song and in the “Faggot” video at face value then you are putting them in the same category as Lady Gaga or Justin Bieber.

    It’s like saying Anton Kannemeyer and Conrad Botes is racist because they use the word “Kaffir” in Bitterkomix and sometimes illustrate black people as savages. Or that they are homophobic because sometimes they use the word “moffie” in their graphic novels.

    The rap at the end is a direct quote from a Mike Tyson press conference. Check it out:

    It’s real and it’s scary and it happened.

    Look a little deeper with Die Antwoord. I think you might be missing something.

    @wildebees I agree the track is dark, and it’s not my kind of music. But sometimes the power of art is to take you out of your comfort zone and present a different reality to you. Fok Julle Naaiers presents an underlying aggression that is scary and uncomfortable to look at. But it exists. Not just in the Cape Flats ganglands but also in the newest 50cent video. The only difference is that on MTV the same rap male bravado is window-dressed to look all pretty and appealing. Now i ask you, where lies the real issue?

    The split with Interscope shows that they’re not comfortable with being in the same camp as The Black Eyed Peas, even if pop music is the vehicle they have chosen to express themselves in.

  4. No I agree with him on every score. I don’t take any of your points, they are not valid. The dude is Satanic, no doubt about it, but somehow he is getting a word of truth in edge ways. Let’s not be conditioned and ‘verkrampt’ in our thinking. Let us not be conservative. Nope? Personally, hate the dude, hate the music, hate the lyrics but that’s not gonna blind me . Nope?

  5. I am not an expert as far as this group goes and I am quite okay with that. Truthfully, there is so much great music coming from South Africa and Cape Town that I have no reason to listen to this stuff at all. And so I haven’t, but there’s an interesting lecture by Dr Adam Haupt available online where he deals with the matter and when he calls it blackface, I trust his assessment. I posted this lecture some time ago in my blog so you can have a look at it here: http://bit.ly/ly3CXR

    As far as Anton Kannemeyer goes; I find his drawings incredibly racist and offensive and I find it difficult to comprehend how much denial is needed to come to any other conclusion. The answer, I guess, is so much that it could only happen in South Africa.

    1. Urgh… are we onto the blackface topic again? Really? If Die Antwoord is blackface then Cape Flats rappers and gangsters are guilty of ‘Americanface’ – emulating American gangster rap like 2Pac, 50cent and even WWF.

      Haha, and Kannemeyer racist? I think I’ve heard it all.

      I’m off to read someting insighful on http://www.okayafrica.com/

      1. Blackface is a historical and well documented concept. It is not just a term I came up with today for the purposes of some blog comment. The history of Blackface is a history of oppression. It is not question of borrowing something from some other culture, or being influenced by it, but abusing it for personal gain. A white rapper earns credibility points by using certain ways of expression and the youth of Cape Flats and beyond lose job opportunities because of the very same way of using language. To top it all, all of this takes place only fifteen years after the fall of the racist apartheid regime.

        And it is in this same context that Kannemayer draws images exaggerating the stereotypes of black features and you have never heard someone suggesting that this might be even a bit offensive?

        Like said, all this needs such a total denial of historical and social context that it probably only could happen in South Africa.

    2. you really should have watched that clip. i did and what i saw was very different from what you wrote about it.
      first, haupt didn’t state that da were blackface (he is actually just talking about ninja, note that his argumentation is less easily to apply to the 2 other characters!) . he is arguing that one could look at it that way, but it’s clearly up to debate for him.
      second, while i think his argument is worth thinking about, i don’t share his conclusion.
      he explains 2 main reasons why what ninja is doing might be blackface.

      1. he mocks certain people’s style (language, image, etc.) who represent certain stereotypes about black people doing rap music (first instance in south africa and the usa) , while at the same time being priviliged (economically, education wise) and having access to the means necessary to quick start a kind of career, that they could never achieve for the reason of being not priviliged and not having these connections.
      so the bottom line here is: he mocks them + utilises their style + profits from his priviliged position of being a middle class white man as a maximum way of exploitation.

      2. the people he mocks don’t represent south african hip hop as a whole, because it includes other artists, concious artists, which engage socially and use music as a platform for changing things for the better.
      while there obviously are things that have to be criticized about south african hip hop and cultural imperialism, ninja makes it look as if the version he shows to the world is all there is to it, when it is not.
      the bottom line here is: while there are less privileged people who actively try to bring something good into that culture, he just criticizes its bad side from a privileged position in a way which may be interesting to people like us who waste our time writing stuff like this, but which doesn’t adress the actual problems and in a way even profits from them, while supporting the stereotype of disfunctional black culture in opposite to higher white culture.

      while i think these points apply, i also think that (1) ninja isn’t mocking the whole culture, but just that very specific part of it and (2) may not be bringing something good into the culture on a basic level, but adresses problems of the music industry and the media promoting these stereotypes, which is very important work, too.
      i think haupt falls into the black/white trap here, because there is no reason to believe that ninja adresses “black” hip hop culture as a whole. his collaboration with dj hi-tek, who is working with classic concious artists like common, mos def, talib kweli & little brother and on the other hand with the bad examples like 50cent, so i a way links these 2 aspects might be a clue for this. anyway, as long as there are no good reasons to believe, that he mocks “black” hip hop culture as a whole i would always give him the benefit of doubt.

  6. Mikko if you are not listening to the music and you don’t want to then you missing everything, please don’t point us to a damn lecture by some bloody dude I don’t know and don’t wanna know about. Take it from the artist’s mouth, will you? Even if it’s vile.

  7. @deeper: Not sure if this is Waddy trolling.

    Anyway, I am still at a lost about what she or you are on about. And your clumsy insults about my supposed “cheese-brained middleclass belief-system finds cringe-worthy and threatening to your middleclass values” won’t get you anywhere.

  8. I’m not sure about South Africa, but in most gay communities “faggot” is not a term of endearment. Even when gays use the word it’s still in a derogatory sense. If anything, we usually throw around “homo” as a term of endearment… it’s pretty ambiguous and far less offensive. After all, we’re all “homos”…

    That said, I don’t see gays using “faggot” as any different from black people using the N word. I understand the rationale, but it’s still distasteful and self-deprecating.

  9. @mikko: Adam’s Haupt point about blackface was made in February 2010 already in a very interesting and rather revealing (if anything about Die Antwoord is ever revealing) exchange about Die Antwoord between Rustum Kozain (who called it blackface) and Richard Poplak (who did not).
    To read blackface into Die Antwoord is to miss their appropriation of class (besides that of race). What they do is far more complex – and probably problematically so – than simply appropriating coloured / black identity.
    @Sean: yes, are they deliberately playing naive South Africans in the clip above (Simunye we are one – honestly, who ever took that seriously?) or should they rather shut up than talk about their own work. Are they shooting themselves in the foot once they start explaining what they do?

  10. I’m on ninja’s side on this one. Being a gay man I believe one of the strongest weapons against homophobia is to appropriate those words and make a joke out of them therefore rendering them useless. Also I think there is a lot more to discrimination than just the use of politically correct language. In fact I believe that political correctness has created a haven for people who are indeed racist and sexist so they can feel comfortable and even forget they are racist and sexist.

  11. I completely agree with Ninja, we do let words hold to much power. I’m close friends with a gay man and I call him faggot all the time, and he calls me a breeder. no one gets pissed. It all comes down to context, and in this case the context is a rap song so who the fuck cares it they say faggot.

  12. “If I had a large amount of money I should certainly found a hospital for those whose grip upon the world is so tenuous that they can be severely offended by words and phrases and yet remain all unoffended by the injustice, violence and oppression that howls daily about our ears.” – Stephen Fry. (A homosexual comic and TV presenter)

    Faggot faggot faggot!!! Now, instead of complaining that I said faggot, not once but three times, in point of fact, why don’t you go out there and do something constructive and positive to make change in this world, instead of getting hung up on… words?

  13. In some ways I feel incredibly uncomfortable with the music of Die Antwoord, it is almost just too crass and shock orientated that I am not always sure what they intend. On the other hand they take on quite a few things which Afrikaans conservative (like the context I grew up in) culture always fail to admit or even speak about. It is like Karien says, they do turn middleclass values upside down. And if I have to place it into a town like Middelburg, Mpumalanga where I grew up in, then it is not far off reality that people from the zef side (like Die Antwoord portrays) do speak like that in many ways, and while in even in the snobbish Afrikaners are still many ways often homophobic – the word “Moffie” flies around often. But no it is not really used in an endearing way – so I don’t get what they intend, but perhaps it really just how they role with the intention of being crass or maybe they are trying to turn the words on their heads. And we don’t use the word Nigger in Afrikaans contexts, that is mostly taken from American rap influence.

  14. Aggg, lets be reasonable.. Firstly as a music fan im glad SA finally has heated debates around musicians, Secondly Jack parrow should quickly give thanks to Waddy Jones because rumour has it that Waddy helped Jack write the song KOOler As Ekke!! Now, Die Antwoorde disguise their lack of musical creation with warped images to keep people talking, but lets be real people it sucks! I like one song and thats by Yolandi Visser!!! wtf.. Here is a example of a local White rapper “PROZAKTLY” who doesnt act like a lunatic or create fake characters and lets be honest, his music is a million times better and lyrically he kicks all others a** , Without the use of warped bullsh*t. Judge for yourself with the free listen link i kindly provided to his latest track on Highveld stereo.
    And i foun him on facebook under a group called PROZAKTLY

  15. Wow, that Prozaktly dudes raps are insane, Why is he not travelling the world? Where can I download more of his stuff?


  17. So happy theyre not another PC corporate makeover band… They bring something fresh to the table… I give them a 10 out of ten for entertainment….

  18. i think a lot of this over analysis is basically, fear, fear of that which people do not understand.

    Honestly, it reminds me of when Nirvana came out. “What are these low rent underemployed slackers from Seattle screaming about into the microphone? This nihilism cannot stand! If only we went back to the wholesome music of the 80s, like Warrant and Poison.”

  19. Being gay myself, I think its lovely to take back and desensitize a word so negatively charged. we all come from different cultures and ideas and languages. And eventually , these words are going to have to fall away if we ever think we’ll have the chance to succeed as a whole. the word itself means nothing. its the energy behind it that holds water. get over it. find some real news to blog about.

  20. Die Antwoord’s words are truth, he is often creating music explaining peoples views of Afrikaan culture. This is infact a parody stating that the views of South Afrika are false. Racism would never leave if the words ‘nigger’ and ‘faggot’ weren’t used lightly. The fact that they still mean so much offencively suggests that the worldwide society can not let go of the past and feel the need to pick holes in everything that’s considered ‘wierd’ or ‘un PC’ If you want to critisise their art, go and learn the Afrikaan culture and then see if you really ‘understood’ them.

    1. sweetie, they are marketing their art in my own country and context. They gotta know calling me faggot in a video I’ll see over here doesn’t get by with an excuse “well we’re South African, you have to come to us and learn why it’s OK for us to call you a faggot”. I do not think many South African gay people are cool with being called faggot by a pop band.

  21. The overly PC crap in this nation is staggering. We find some gossip to hang on to and use it as rallying cries it is really sad. Why is it when a artist/group bucks the main stream the slander and attack pieces start getting written. The industry is the problem. They force satanic videos on the public, depicting dying young, bondage, and other perversity to young children. I am not religious but I find it amusing we do not speak about any of that. Why because it is the mainstream industry doing it. If they want to make perverse rap aimed at influencing children that is fine. The moment a South African group uses words Americans find offensive it is up in arms time.

  22. I need help! I love God and I am 8 weeks pregnant with a man that listens to this demonic band. I know I made a mistake by dating and having sex with someone like him but now I don’t know what to do. I think abortion is wrong but am considering having one b/c I don’t want someone like him to father my child. What should I do???

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