South African trio Die Antwoord blasted their way to fame in 2009 when they released $O$ online for free. Having seen four albums saturated with violent satirical hyperbole, some have grown to tire of their zef rave-rap, while others find their latest Mount Ninji and Da Nice Time Kid ultimately frustrating as it never achieves exactly the seismic shift the band promised. Yet the new album embodies an interesting growth in both theme and sound. While still ridden with braggadocio in tracks like ‘Stoopid Rich’ and ‘Peanutbutter + Jelly’ (in which Ninja rubs his penis on the phone of a selfie-taking club-goer no less), there are significantly fewer rave tracks on the album and much more emotive material than we’ve seen.
For one, typically obnoxious, freakish Yolandi gets personal and vulnerable. ‘Darkling’ sings of how “mommy didn’t want me”. ‘Alien’ tells of the bullying and isolation Yolandi faced when in school, featuring a creepy music-box, xylophone and accordion amalgamation, in a manner reminiscent of Cocorosie or the soundtrack of a creepy doll house horror movie. It is melancholic, nostalgic, and drips of vengeance and resentment. In ‘Street Light’, while Ninja croons about the murder he commits, there is an obvious layer of social commentary on the dysfunctionality of the South African system (“in Africa everything broken”) and the desperation with which each person “just live to fight another day”.
Needless to say, Die Antwoord still managed to keep their tongue-in-cheek humour, most notably in ‘Wings on My Penis’ that features 6-year-old Lil Tommy Terror who has an obsession with drawing penises everywhere. While surprising and a bit of a departure from their usual, Die Antwoord’s new album is definitely one to give a few listens.