On the day after Madonna’s Superbowl performance last week, American talkshow host David Letterman denigrated her and instead praised the Cape Town zef rap band Die Antwoord, which he had invited to perform in his Late Show with David Letterman, Twitter was abuzz with disbelief. Soon the YouTube video of their performance was doing the rounds. It is an unbelievable accolade to a band that already has a strong local and international following, and may have the power of Coldplay’s ‘Paradise’ in marketing Cape Town and South Africa.
On the eve of the release of their album ‘Ten$ion’ a week ago, husband and wife team Yo-Landi Vi$$er and Ninja (Watkin Tudor Jones), with DJ Hi-Tek, performed ‘I Fink U Freeky’, with a mix of English and Afrikaans lyrics, being a rap song that contains mainly the lyrics “I fink you are freeky and I like you a lot”! For the studio performance Vi$$er was dressed in an outfit which may have been by designer Alexander Wang, with dark black lines painted under her eyes, and wearing black contact lenses. Compared to their own official video of this song, featuring rats crawling over Vi$$er, the studio performance was mild. Interesting is that Letterman, who introduced the group as coming from Cape Town, did not interview them after their performance.
Die Antwoord is not unknown to international audiences, having performed throughout the USA in 2010, as well as in many European countries, the United Kingdom, Japan, New Zealand, and Australia. Just over a year ago they won the Myspace ‘Best Music Video of 2010′ award for ‘Enter the Ninja’, their first music video they self-produced. The traffic to Die Antwoord’s website, with millions of hits due to the music video, caused a near crash of local server Hetzner, and Die Antwoord had to move its hosting to an American website as a result, records Wikipedia. The group has formed its own record company Zef Recordz, after a dispute with its American record company Interscope Records, producing for pop stars such as Lady Gaga, Eminem, and Snoop Dogg. The band had a ‘million-dollar deal’ with Interscope Records, reports the New York Times, and the ‘nastier lyrics’ on the new album were not acceptable to the record company. Singer Katy Perry raved when she first heard them. The group tour Australia in March.
Whilst in the USA for the show, Die Antwoord were featured on billboards in New York for designer Alexander Wang’s ‘guerilla-style Spring 2012 collection’, report Times LIVE and Channel24, as well as in a video for the designer, based on their song ‘Fatty Boom Boom’.
The performance on the Late Show with David Letterman was described by the Huffington Post as milder than usual for the group: ‘Die Antwoord took their consciously unnerving act to a mainstream audience Monday night — the late-night television crowd. For those who’d never been exposed to the South African rappers before, their appearance on David Letterman may have been slightly terrifying, a sentiment shared by some South Africans who are uneasy with the trio representing their nation abroad. For the rest of us, this was a tamer version of the shock rappers we’ve come to know: Yo-Landi looked as bug-eyed as always in a pair of black contacts and long white t-shirt (Alexander Wang?), DJ Hi-Tek wore a deformed face mask, and Ninja danced frantically in a orange jumpsuit to their clubby single, “I Fink U Freeky,” off their just-released album Ten$ion’.
The performance by Die Antwoord on the Late Show with David Letterman will be re-broadcast on DStv’s Sony Entertainment Television channel at 23h15 tonight.
POSTSCRIPT 14/2: A teaser video for the new Die Antwoord ‘Ten$ion’ album has been withdrawn for copyright reasons, as it refers to a sculpture called ‘The Butcher Boys’, reports the Cape Times today.
POSTSCRIPT 8/7: The radical music video for the latest Die Antwoord song ‘Baby’s on Fire’ has become an absolute hit due to a single Tweet by Katy Perry, sent to her 22,7 million followers last month: ‘The new Die Antwoord video for Baby’s On Fire is so incredible I can’t even tweet about it’.
Chris von Ulmenstein, Whale Cottage Portfolio: www.whalecottage.com Twitter:@WhaleCottage