Album Review: Mount Ninji and Da Nice Time Kid by Die Antwoord
Satisfactory, Based on 8 Critics
Drowned In Sound - 80 Based on rating 8/10
Faced with the new Die Antwoord album, you may ask the question ‘does this band matter?’ After a couple of spins of Mount Ninji And Da Nice Time Kid the answer is an emphatic ‘yes’. Some may begrudge Die Antwoord for not moving the dial enough on this album, especially after the band’s own comments suggesting a seismic shift, but as soon as ¥O-landi Vi$$er dons her inept-demon persona (a persona that peppers the album) luring Ninja to the dark side with nothing more than coffee, the audacity of a gangsta rap song about drinking black coffee (opener ‘We Have Candy’) brings a welcome smirk to the side of the mouth. And the album, while inevitably stuffed with humour as per the MO of any good rap set, is as dark as coffee, especially as it comes to its close.
Sleazy South African troublemakers Die Antwoord bring their circus of bad taste and big beats back on fourth outing Mount Ninji and Da Nice Time Kid. As ever, the alley-trash duo of Ninja and Yo-Landi Vi$$er keep it crass while rapping and angel-cooing over hip-hop beats and drug-fueled rave loops. A few contemporary updates mark an evolution (however small) this time around, including some dabbling with trap music on the charming "Fat Faded Fuck Face" and the Gucci Mane-sampling "Stoopid Rich." Production is the most polished it's ever been, thanks to the talents of G.O.D.
When Die Antwoord emerged from the darkest reaches of Johannesburg in 2009, no-one could have predicted the phenomenon they’d become. Embodying the Zef culture (think South African chav, or white trash) of their home-town, the trio possessed an underdog quality, an us-against-the-world mentality that was both endearing and admirable. There was also something exotic, something dangerous about them; Ninja, manic-eyed and well-endowed, Yo-Landi Visser nmyph-like and somewhat demonic, both providing the lyrics while DJ Hi Tek layered intentionally dated house beats behind their torrents of explicit posturing.
From their inception, Die Antwoord have taken an audacious stance against political correctness. The fact that Die Antwoord are two South African satirists who’ve gone all-in to fabricate their campy street personas made the whole idea rather rich. In the past, frontman Ninja has asserted, however ironically, that we can’t expect hip-hop in other parts of the world to fall in line with American PC fervor.
Die Antwoord albums have always boasted a cocktail of salvaged rave, humour, odd rhymes and piles of energy. While Mount Ninji and Da Nice Time Kid still has most of these elements, the latter has taken a bit of a back seat here. As Ninja rightly points out, Die Antwoord albums have only usually had two rave songs each, but there's always been plenty of fervour amidst their more hip-hop-leaning material too, something that's decidedly lacking on this latest album.Perfunctory bangers "Banana Brain" and "I Don't Care" aside, Mount Ninji is much more of a slow-burner than its predecessors.
Just when you thought Die Antwoord were going to change, they go and tell the same exact joke they’ve been telling for seven years. Wait, it isn’t a joke? Oh, it kind of is, but kind of isn’t? Hold on, it’s just an exaggeration? It doesn’t matter. Regardless of how sincere the South African rave-rap duo are at this point, their once novel adoption of Zef culture (think underground South African white trash) has become a box they can’t seem to burst out of, no matter how furiously Ninja hops up and down and screams about his dick.
When South African trio Die Antwoord crotch-thrusted onto the world stage in 2009 with their trashy zef rap-rave, there was nothing else like it. Trailer-park rap, gross-out humour and skeletal baile funk-ish beats: Ninja, Yolandi Visser and DJ Hi-Tek were baffling, brilliant and divisive. But in the years since, their is it/isn’t it ironic freakery has, by their fourth album, turned into mere cartoonish cabaret.
Die Antwoord are a strange case of a group that is appreciated much less for their actual content than their ability to be drawn-in by the humor of their on and off-stage antics. They aren’t quite a comedy group, but over their surprisingly enduring career, they have been able to capture your attention through bewilderment/repulsion/complication more so than any conventional form of quality. That’s not a direct criticism, but there’s a reason why most gimmicks tend to get tired, especially when the gimmick is as absurd and questionable as Die Antwoord’s.