Banksy once said that “Art should comfort the disturbed and disturb the comfortable.” Die Antwoord probably does more in the realm of disturbing, and there has always been something strangely enticing about them. Yolandi Vi$$er and Ninja of the South African rave/hip-hop duo have a knack for eliciting strong reactions, and in terms of shock value, do just about everything but breath fire. So when a group like this releases a new album, the public responds with a collective squeal – though it’s probably an even split between excitement and horror.
Fans of the duo will have the chance to hear some of Donker Mag this Monday, September 8th, when they perform at New York’s Irving Plaza. In excited anticipation, FDMRX reviewed their latest album below.
Die Antwoord could not be more of a “love it or hate it” deal. If you’re on the hate it side, then Donker Mag, the high-pitched adrenaline shot that just dropped this summer, is not going to be your thing. That’s all there is to it. But if you weren’t fazed when Yolandi peed on the floor in the “Cookie Thumper” music video, and you’ve maybe considered shaving the front of your head at some point, then welcome to the “love it” side. A good chunk of fans probably loved Donker Mag before they even listened to it. There’s just something about these two, right?
But though you were probably bracing yourself for total insanity when you eased your headphones in and hit play, you may have noticed that Donker Mag is surprisingly mild for Die Antwoord. In fact, it’s almost a standard American hip-hop album.
Almost. They wouldn’t actually do that to us. There is still a good dose of crazy in Donker Mag, including Yolandi’s trademark squeaky-creepy ranting, their typical bizarre verbiage when referring to sexual encounters (“Happy Go Sucky F***y” anyone?), and so many warnings to not f*** with them that you start to worry about their interpersonal relationships a little bit.
Also, about a third of the album is miscellaneous audio clips. The first track is Ninja leaving a voicemail for someone, asserting, not surprisingly, the same warning described above. There is also a track called “Pompie,” which is nearly a minute and a half of Yolandi giggling. These cutesy digressions get a little old if you listen to the album a few times, and it’s flat out exasperating when they keep popping up on shuffle. But they know what they’re doing. The duo is as much about personality as they are “raging zef music”, so snippets that showcase their charming recklessness are an easy sell to the “love it” crowd.
But just like picking M&Ms out of trail mix, the rest of the album is pretty bland once you take away these little treats. Save “Cookie Thumper!”, the previously-released 2013 hit that is exquisitely freaky, the rest of the songs are pretty stock hip-hop. In fact, Die Antwoord almost sounds a little too Americanized on this album. Their amazing Cape Town accents even seem toned down on many of the tracks, which is disappointing.
I love that Die Antwoord is gaining popularity and trying to appeal to a bigger crowd. I just want to see them do it without watering down all the frenzied weirdness that makes us either love them or hate them in the first place.