Die Antwoord – Donker Mag (3 stars)

Die Antwoord – Donker Mag

The third album from the South African rave-rap outfit is an eclectic hip hop parody

Ever since South African rave-rap outfit Die Antwoord first blasted onto the scene with lead single ‘Enter the Ninja’ (from 2009 debut $O$), the same, oft-repeated question has dogged them: is this hopelessly deluded trio for real, or a closely studied, post-ironic hoax? Frontman Ninja (aka sometime performance artist Ian ‘Waddy’ Watkin Jones), female vocalist Yo-Landi Vi$$er (aka Anri du Toit) and DJ Hi-Tek (the so-far faceless Justin de Nobrega) self-identify as proponents of Zef style – a white, working class, materialist South African culture not entirely dissimilar to Ned/Chav culture in the UK – but the range of their influences suggests a group of artists looking far beyond their own housing estates for new styles to assimilate (and satirise).

Donker Mag, their third release, adds further fuel to the fire, though the end result suggests the band fall firmly into the ‘entrenched parodists’ camp. Their range of influences are more eclectic than ever: lead single ‘Pitbull Terrier’ steals its hook from rural Czech comedy Black Cat, White Cat and adds an acidic Mortal Kombat techno melody ; ‘Sex’ is a blissed out, Balearic house reimagining of Serge Gainsbourg’s ‘Sea, Sex and Sun’; and the album’s opening song, ‘Ugly Boy’, is entirely built on a repurposed Aphex Twin cut. Their takedowns of hip hop conventions are also wildly abundant: the wonderfully-titled ‘Raging Zef Boner’ is a clear parody of the Slim Shady ‘cartoon rap’ genre (with hints of the OTT anti-woman violence of Odd Future), while a number of skits and tracks (particularly the half-and-half stoner a capella of ‘I Don’t Dwank’) bring Ludacris to mind.

Where Die Antwoord get to have their cake and eat it is when asked if a given song, regardless of its influences/satirical value, is actually any good. There are some legitimately excellent tracks on Donker Mag – particularly the brutal acid-techno of ‘Happy Go Sucky Fucky’, Yo-Landi showcase ‘Cookie Thumper’, dancehall stomper ‘Girl I Want to Eat You’ and the aforementioned ‘Sex’ – but the weaker elements (the skits, ‘Raging Zef Boner’, lovestruck lament ‘Strunk’) can all be written off as bad-on-purpose hip hop parodies. Even the album’s length – 16 tracks, which is easily six tracks too long – is a wink at the conspicuous self-indulgence of hip hop, particularly gangsta rap.

Refreshingly, all this posing and affectation is topped off with a closing double-bill that verges on sincerity. ‘Moon Love’ is a skit/instrumental that features Ninja and Yo-Landi’s real-life infant daughter, 16 Jones, asking her dad to help her fix a broken heart; from this, Ninja’s subsequent confession on the church organ-backed ‘Donker Mag’ that ‘I wanna be happy, I don’t wanna hurt the ones I love’ comes across as heartfelt. Could this be a new direction for Die Antwoord, or just a further parody of kids-on-rap-albums cliches a la Eminem’s ‘My Dad’s Gone Crazy’? No matter how many times you ask, the answer is not forthcoming.

Out now on Zef Records.


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