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Mysterious Internet Sensation Die Antwoord on Why They’re For Real, Maybe

Just like the rest of the Internet, we've been totally captivated by Die Antwoord, the South African oddball rap group fronted by a guy named Ninja with an awesome haircut and some terrible tattoos. They blew up early last month after Boing Boing posted their "Zef Side" and "Enter the Ninja" videos, slickly produced clips featuring Ninja's unique, slang-heavy flow, his bandmate Yo-Landi Vi$$er's creepy soprano, and their friend and progeria victim Leon Botha. They're the self appointed representatives of South African zef culture, something they've explained as "the ultimate style ... our full flex ... like on the video game, when you reach the next level. Zef is the next level." But because Ninja has performed under different personae, it was then assumed Die Antwoord was an elaborate prank; if that's the case, we salute his commitment to a strangely enticing character. Our e-mail interview with the group doesn't really get to the bottom of things, but it does feature the phrase "popped out the slime bunny." (By the way, we know this is like a million jillion years late in Internet time, but we sent our questions a while ago, and their representative, Dirk the Oracle, just got back to us.)

How long were you performing as Die Antwoord before you began getting international attention?
Die Antwoord was in the oven for about five years. It popped out the slime bunny about a year ago, but we've only been popular for about three weeks now.

Do you have any sense why the band blew up when it did? What makes now the right time for Die Antwoord?
It was a full moon on the third of February 2010 when everyone started freaking out. "Now" is all we got, my bru.

Have you been reading everything that's been written about you online?
Sort of.

Do you hope the attention you've gotten will spread to your peers in South Africa? Is there a lively cultural scene around you that has been ignored internationally?
Fok, I actually don't know what's going on with anything in this place.

Is changing the international perception of South Africa important to you?
Not really.

How have things changed for you guys in day-to-day life?
Someone goes shopping for us now.

Were you working day jobs?
No.

What can people expect from your live shows?
A total mind fuck.

Where did the financing for your music videos come from?
We made them with some friends who all worked for free 'cause they love our music.

You’ve been frequently described as "white trash." Do you accept that term? What does it mean to you?
It means someone does not know what they are talking about. Our style is zef. We not trash, we are fuckin' fancy.

White rappers still have a hard time gaining credibility in the U.S. Is that barrier one that concerns you?
This is not a barrier that concerns us, because as you may have noticed, we have fucked this barrier in the face.

Why do you rap in English? Why did you select an Afrikaans name?
In South Africa we speak English and sometimes Afrikaans, sometimes Zulu, sometimes Xhosa. We rap like we speak. Die Antwoord just has a nice ring to it.

What does "ninja" symbolize to you? Who’s your favorite ninja of all time?
When I was a boy, I wanted to be a Ninja. Now I am a man, now I am a Ninja. The girl ninja from Crouching Tiger Hidden Dragon was quite spif. I like the way she hid her skills from her master.

What’s your relationship with Leon Botha?
Leon is a good friend of ours. He has the biggest collection of nineties underground rap albums I have ever seen in my life. His bedroom looks like a CD shop. Leon is also a jedi mind-fuck scratch D.J. He D.J.'s under the name D.J. Solarize, and he often opens for us when Die Antwoord perform live. Leon is a cool performer, and so we asked him if he wanted to be in the "Enter the Ninja" video with us and he said cool. My favorite work we've done with Leon are the dark little short films we made that are hiding in the SECRET CHAMBER on our interwebsite.

You've expressed interest in having Neill Blomkamp make the Die Antwoord movie. Have you reached out to him?
Neill is making a music video with us. We've been chatting for a while now. We haven't spoke about the movie yet.

What is your vision for the film?
It's the story of how Die Antwoord started. Don't want to talk about it too much. It's nicer to watch a movie instead of speaking about it.

I understand you're heading to the U.S.?
We leaving for L.A. and NYC this Sunday. We flying business class. They say in business class everything is free. They say you fly in a bed. They say the waitresses don't wear tops. We just don't know what to wear yet. I'm thinking of just wearing my underpants and takkies. Yo-landi is thinking of wearing her new red SHOPRITE CHECKERS sweater with the yellow smiley faces.

Some Internet reports describe Ninja as just the latest persona of "mixed-media artist" Waddy Jones. Is that inaccurate?
I used to be called Waddy Jones. But I changed my name to Ninja because it's more me. I'm a rapper.

Photo: Ross Garrett at Injozi