The prospect of Die Antwoord making a mixtape seemed promising.
It’s pronounced “dee ahnt-voort,” not “dye ant-werd.” Ninja and Yo-Landi Vi$$er make this very clear at the beginning of their new mixtape Suck on This. But they might as well officially change the pronunciation at this point. It’s no secret that Die Antwoord’s less of a conceptual art project these days and more like EDM’s answer to Marilyn Manson. But Suck on This makes it evident that their ambitions no longer lie in the cross-cultural exchanges that made their early work so great—between rap and rave, English and Afrikaans, lowbrow South African “zef” culture and the rest of the world. Rather, they’re more interested in American-accented frat rap and the sort of vaguely edgy aesthetic that’s been a joke since the nineties. Hell, Ninja claims zef means being “on fleek” at one point. Does he even know what he’s talking about?
One of the things that made Die Antwoord a cool-kid phenom back at the beginning of this decade was their impenetrability. Who were they? Were they serious? Why were they mashing up rap and rave? What the fuck were they talking about, and in what language? Suck on This, by contrast, seems designed to speak to the lowest common denominator. Yo-Landi’s evil. Ninja will make you wet, and he’s also kind of evil. The duo’s intent with this tape seems to have been to communicate these personas as lunkheadedly as possible. “Come to the dark side/ We have candy,” coos Yo-Landi on “Jan Pierewet,” repeating a decade-old meme that half the band’s listeners have seen on their newsfeeds anyway. And here’s Ninja on “Bum Bum,” affecting the worst J. Cole voice ever: “I like it when I slap you in the face with my dick.” This is how he wants to be seen. It seems like eons ago that he could decapitate a hater with amazing ease.
The prospect of Die Antwoord making a mixtape seemed promising. Die Antwoord’s last two albums felt groomed and generic, with anonymous EDM productions rather than the chintzy beats of their early releases like $O$. Mixtapes tend to be confusing, messy and freewheeling—much as Die Antwoord’s best music tends to be. But the mixtape format doesn’t breathe fresh life into their music. Rather, it gives them an excuse to be lazy. There are only really four songs on Suck on This that could really be considered “new” Die Antwoord songs. They all have the appealing ramshackle qualities of the band’s early work, but the music itself isn’t terribly interesting; “Bum Bum” is DJ Mustard-lite, while “Dazed & Confused” and “I Don’t Care” just sound like Ark Music Factory approximations of what’s on the radio these days.
Most of the mixtape is taken up by short sketches or remixes of the band’s older material, all by people named “God” or “Blackgoat”—allegedly the group’s DJ Hi-Tek, though I suspect Hi-Tek is just a name for whatever intern they’ve hired that week. These are the band’s first official remixes, and they’re the best things here in part because the material’s stronger and in part because Hi-Tek seems to have actually put time into them. “Pitbull Terrier,” a highlight from 2014’s Donker Mag, is slowed down to a trap tempo. Ten$Ion’s “I Fink You Freeky” is radically recast as a banger that should light up the next few festivals they play. “Fok Julle Naaiers” from the same album comes alive here with spurts of breakbeat and the immortal “Enter the Ninja” sheds the original’s white-boy inspirational-rap pastiche for pure bravado.
These remixes are refreshing reminders that Die Antwoord has made good music in the past. Ninja and Yo-Landi should remember that fact in the future. But as long there are still people out there who think Satan and sticky bed sheets are still shocking, they don’t have to lift a finger.