After a warm up set by a club DJ who overstayed his welcome, and at least ten minutes of dramatic intro music, Ninja and Yolandi Vi$$er entered the stage at Terminal 5, bundled in Hazmat-orange sweatsuits, but not for long. Over the course of the few first songs, Die Antwoord’s weirdo mash-up of hip hop and dance music exploded off the stage, and half their clothes came with it. Wearing just his pants, then boxers, Ninja resembled a rapping Reggie Ledoux, vaguely occult tattoos shining. Yolandi’s hyperactive movements combined with her savage style combined, making her almost as intimidating. Multiple South African flags billowed excitedly.
Since their inception, Die Antwoord have been the subject of much debate and scorn from the music community. The main question being: were they for real? As it turned out, no, and yes. Though we now know that Ninja and Yolandi are veteran artists of the South African scene, not to mention parents, they still waffle on the question of their own authenticity. As Ninja said in a video interview in 2011, “Ninja is, how can I say, like Superman is to Clark Kent. The only difference is I don’t take off this fokken Superman suit.”
Though Die Antwoord have been criticized widely for being a mere gimmick that rely on shock value, watching them perform live instantly dispels these rumors. Not only is their stage presence and ability to excite a crowd staggering, they’re both incredibly talented rappers, with flows to match many critically respected hip hop stars. They also expertly incorporated physicality into their act with the help of two ski-masked dancers. The show was reminiscent of The Knife’s creepy and mystical Shaking The Habitual tour, if everyone had taken PCP before going on stage — a mix of high art and primal hedonism. Their subject matter is usually silly or vulgar, but their connection with their audience is strong enough that no one cares. Fans were more than thrilled to scream “YIPEE KI-YAY MUTHAFUCKA!” back at the stage during the high-octane “Fatty Boom Boom.”
When the lights went up after the encore, we were treated to one of the nights finest moments. The duo’s adopted child Tokki, wandered out onto stage and was given a mic. As the audience paused on their way out, Tokki stared us down. “Hey Americans,” she called. “…FUCK YOU!” The crowd’s cheers were deafening.
Correction: This article originally cited the couple’s daughter Sixteen as the child who came out on stage at the show’s end, it was in fact their adopted son Tokki.
(Photos: Sophie Weiner/ANIMALNewYork)