Die Antwoord, Art Basel

Published on November 28th, 2018

Die Antwoord

Some people appear to us so fully formed on first sight, it’s like they emerged from the womb with their attitude and style. But the cultivation of that convincing it-ness is a skill. Die Antwoord, from Cape Town, South Africa, look and sound as if they dropped out of the sky in all their “Zef Side” glory. But the hyper, rave-inspired hip-hop tandem of Yolandi and Ninja have been at this for a long time, watching pop culture unfurl, all the while taking notes.

Before they found god — a.k.a. producer DJ Hi-Tek — and other collaborators,   Anri Du Toit (Yolandi) and Watkin Tudor Jones (Ninja) were MaxNormal.TV, would-be conscious rappers who might have scoffed at their future famous selves. That’s not to say that they aren’t who they claim to be now, just that people change costumes as they move through life.

If art is, as one definition has it, “intentional and unnecessary,” Die Antwoord and their self-invented “zef” style cheerfully qualify as both. The “zef” aesthetic is  trashy, dated and carried with a seemingly total, impervious belief in its awesomeness.

It makes sense to find these hip-hop weirdos playing Art Basel Miami. Both frolic in the same sandbox of art and commerce. Die Antwoord also have a forthcoming new album, “27,” to promote that will reportedly be their last — unless of course declaring “the end” is part of the performance. Art Basel is one of the most attended and reported-on happenings in the culture sphere, and Yolandi and Ninja are no dummies.

But to say they’ve mastered an act is not to be critical. While the media keeps dogging them to out themselves as just putting-on for the cameras — it was all for show! — who on Instagram isn’t already doing that? Die Antwoord are themselves, and have been telling us as much the whole time — that their personas are not an invention but an exaggeration. It’s not radically different than when N.W.A. or Alice Cooper hyped themselves as gangsta or underworldly and watched everyone lap it up.

Die Antwoord play 10 pm December 5 at Soho Studios in Miami during Art Basel, $45-$50. dieantwoord.com ~ Tim Moffatt

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