Across town tonight Public Enemy, the creme de la creme of hip hop for the past 25 years, play a sell-out show. It’s hard to decide how many people would be choosing between that gig and tonight’s display at the Scala.
Few things are sneered at more in music than irony, and Die Antwoord (“The Answer”) have been accused of it more than most in recent months.
The Afrikaaner trio’s debut record $O$ was greeted with both acclaim and ridicule from varying ends of the blogosphere. The haters accuse the foul-mouthed group of being a sort of hipster micky-taking of the hip hop genre, mocking its constant f-words and sexual references. This isn’t helped by their self-admissions of embracing “zef” culture (the equivalent of what would be called “chavs” in this fair isle). On the other hand, hordes of people are lapping it up and taking it as face value – tonight’s long sold-out gig being a case in point.
Whether the whole thing is a joke or not matters little because their live experience is an utter joy. The beaming visuals that segue into Fok Julie Naaiers, the Enya-sampling (yes really) Sail Away Motherfuckers and stage diving within the first three songs is both ridiculous and heaps of fun.
Their stage presence too is magnificent. Vocalist Yo-Landi is seemingly barely four feet tall and sings like a character from Alvin And The Chipmunks (any rumours that this was due to some Auto-Tune work on record are debunked). She’s a force to be reckoned with too, throwing bottled water over any crowd members taking photos and spitting potty mouth tirades like an angry adolescent.
Tattooed, beefed up rapper Ninja is outright terrifying, his cold dark stares rippling with unease between lyrical blowouts. But it’s a far cry from genuine aggression, as demonstrated when the twosome reappear in the encore dressed as characters from Pokmon. Rather than this being a low point or comical in any way, it only lends itself to the sheer insanity of the evening.
Quality control only continues to rise at the night’s climax with the group’s two most infectious tracks, Beat Boy and the ludicrously catchy Scopie. Both are ringing reminders of Baltimore’s Spank Rock in their playful lyrics combined with deeply addictive baselines.
If anyone was put off attending tonight’s gig the joke is entirely on them. Die Antwoord may be juvenile or even to a certain extent crude, but with Monday morning blues looming, they know how to put on one hell of a live show.