A reputation can be a blessing or a curse: something to live down or live up to.
Die Antwoord is known as an outlandish, over-the-top live act, one that delivers a show that is as profane as it is unhinged, artful, bizarre and frenetic. The South African duo of lead vocalist Ninja and the diminutive, Yo-Landi and, backed by DJ Hi-Tek, issue a sound that forges rabid hip-hop with throbbing, martial dance/rave beats and a hardcore punk attitude.
Wednesday night, Die Antwoord (Afrikaans for “The Answer”) drew about 1,200 fans to Crossroads KC, and for more than 80 minutes, the group delivered a loud, kinetic set humming with camp, artifice and unrelenting energy. If it’s all a pose, it’s a pose they’ve polished to perfection.
Following the intro “DJ Hi-Tek Rulez,” Yo-Landi and Ninja took the stage in matching baggy orange jumpsuits that they would gradually shed until both were bouncing around in their skivvies. Ninja is a hardcore rapper with a gruff Gatling-gun flow — a dramatic contrast to Yo-Landi’s pixie-on-helium coo. The juxtaposition only adds to the duo’s dissident personae.
Die Antwoord doesn’t bother with innuendo. Their lyrics (and song titles) are typically profane and pornographic and not suitable for the workplace or the mainstream media. The set list included “(expletive) Julle Naaiers,” “Baby’s On Fire,” “Rich B****,” and “Happy Go Sucky F****” and “Enter the Ninja.”
There were plenty of visuals, beyond the wardrobe changes and Ninja’s and Yo-Landi’s constant motions, including lights and videos. About halfway through, the duo was joined by masked dancers, who only fueled the energy.
In the cauldron up front, the crowd was delirious all night, submitting to the unabated vigor and incessant beats coming from the stage, especially when Ninja dove in for some crowd surfing.
There wasn’t necessarily anything new or inventive about any of it, but there was something impressive about Die Antwoord’s stamina and its attitude, which is a refreshing mix of satire and defiance. Many of the fans left looking spent and happy, as if they had just digested a big ball of fun. Which is a great reputation to have.