News__ Die Antwoord Fatty Boom Boom

October 17, 2012
Yo-Landi in a yellow sundress and...blackface If at any point you stopped to wonder how Yo-Landi Vi$$er and the boys of Die Antwoord felt about Lady Gaga, Nicki Minaj, Kanye West, and Rick Ross, their new video speaks volumes. The lyrics for "Fatty Boom Boom" accuse hip hop of being an "inbred fuckfest" where all the rappers sound the same. It's not a new criticism, but the question of the day is: is this video racist? Let's talk about it. Now Die Antwoord has played in dark waters before, throwing around the word faggot and problematizing tribal rituals in South Africa that deal with gay men in their video for Evil Boy. But full blackface? This is a first, even for them. The video shows a group of rich Americans on a bus tour in South Africa, "Lady Gaga" (played by a guy) seated front and center, with an overacting black tour guide driving the bus and talking with a caricatured tone of amazement. The bus gets attacked by a group of ski masked men with guns, Gaga runs away in her meat dress, and later has a gynecologist pull a prawn out of her pussy (based on this painting titled "Black Gynecologist"). She also gets eaten by a lion, and it all comes in the wake of Die Antwoord dissing Gaga and calling her superficial after they refused her offer to have them on her latest world tour. But enough about Gaga, let's get to the paint. After the attack, Die Antwoord takes frame with Yo-Landi's skin painted head-to-toe in black. They frantically, violently, and menacingly deliver their cuts to the hip hop industry with gusto. They're covered in tribal paint at times, and blackface at others. It's a visual that places them in the position of traditional African savage while we can infer the naive, white tourist spectators somewhere out of screen. But Ninja and Yo-Landi are both white. In the past, Die Antwoord's archive references English, Afrikaans, Xhosa, Zulu, and particularly black and white working class cultures in South Africa. They portray themselves as cross-racial and defiantly not upper class. They've criticized rich people before, most obviously in their song "Rich Bitch," and have been highly criticized, most recently for the "Fok Julle Naaiers" video for the use of the words "faggot" and "nigger." Interscope actually dropped Die Antwoord as a client in the wake of the video and Ninja released a video statement defending their lyrics. He announces that DJ Hi Tek, their sometimes 3rd member is gay, and argues that in South Africa, black people don't have a problem with white people calling them niggers--that's an American sensitivity. Something tells us that would be news to a lot of South Africans, including  media scholar, Adam Haupt. In his new book, Static: Race and Representation in Post-Apartheid Music, Media and Film, he writes of the group, "In essence, this is how a privileged, white, English-speaking South African artist is able to "go native" and become a Web 2.0 viral marketing success story in the US and Europe." Between Ninja's gang-related tattoos, gold grills and the mixed dialects he and Yo-Landi rap in, there are numerous ways Die Antwoord borrows from culture's other than their own. Their image fuses the white Afrikaans working class and the black working class into something ambiguously defiant. But defiant of what? Are they saying American hip hop is a joke by criticizing it in some sort of twisted minstrel show? Maybe their intention in this video was to criticize the mainstream music industry saying rappers have turned into puppets for money? But did Die Antwoord, "get away with blackface?" No, because it's something you just can't "get away with." Does this mean we should banish Die Antwoord from our iPods and protest them on the regular? That's a decision for you to make on your own. But it is vital to call this video out for what it is: a gimmick using the shock value of a horrifically racist part of history. We can't know what they were trying to convey without an artist's statement, but the reception for this video should dig deeper than just throwing it in with Die Antwoord's regular old antics. Watch the video for "Fatty Boom Boom" below and weigh in with your thoughts about Yo-Landi in blackface below.

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  • dfunkt

    well-written to be sure, but still bullshit. painting one’s body black does not blackface make. there is no minstrelsy, or anything of the sort, implied in this video. the author seems to be unable to see art through unbiased eyes…

  • Dana

    K but check our the mural behind them–an African priest taking out the 10-headed demon – nicki yeezy rick ross. And if the body paint ISNT sending a message it really is just gratuitous, which is so whack.

  • Robert Perkinson

    Sometimes they are painted black, sometimes they are painted white. Having viewed their entire body of work and seen them in person…they have a very strong anti-racist, anti-homophobe message. All people just don’t share American’s hang-ups. Whenever one is shocked by something one doesn’t understand, one shouldn’t write it off as gratuitous. I get Die Antwoord. I’m glad they don’t hold back. Good art doesn’t hold back.

  • Jay

    consider for a moment that this is a group that is very media aware and savvy who have been criticized in the South African press for being a “modern version of blackface” as Haupt more or less put it. consider also that there is a central question about die antwoord in all of their persona performances that is heavily entwined with questions of authenticity and shifting identity. Set this among the stereotypical portrayal of tourist Africa, that is, Africa as it sells itself through tourguides as the land of these wild animals and wild people. consider that it is among this that yolandi appears painted black, in a yellow dress with yellow dollarsign contact lenses and her own bleach blond hair. consider that the history of black face and minstrelsy has taken on a life of its own in the Cape Flats coloured community, where it functions in much the same way that krewes in New Orleans Mardi Gras function, and that this is a subculture from Cape Town that Die Antwoord valorizes and identifies with as much as they do their own afrikaner and english backgrounds.

    Put all this together and a read of this that it is blackface is just lazy. The blackface here, such as it is, which it isn’t, is precisely a criticism of this sort of laziness and therefore no blackface at all.

  • Dana

    But is it the valorization of a subculture in Cape Flats as a comparison to black hip hop in the US? What is Die Antwoord’s position in criticizing racial politics globally, AND in SA? If anything, it seems like more of a postracial message in line with Ninja’s comments about one Africa and one people in that video response to Fok Julle Naaiers. And a “we’re better, we’re real-er” message to the US hip hop industry.

  • Moon

    Just f-ing dumb.

  • Anti-lady gag

    That video is not racist at all, if you believe it is your long gone and I don’t have time for your opinion. I really enjoy it when people try to analyze Die Antwoord, the outcomes is always entertaining. :)

  • u suck

    America should b given back 2 Native Americans & judgemental commenters like u should stop thinking 2 much. U R ALL FOREIGNERS IN AMERICA.


    Get over it. Don’t like Die Antwoord? Don’t listen to it or watch it! Simple.
    There are so many different genres and artists out there that make my ears bleed when I hear it or see it- therefore I don’t watch or listen!
    I like die antwoord and there are millions of others who feel the same!
    Different tastes! That’s all it comes down to.
    They may be racist and or whatever else you say- but who cares? The world is racist. We see racism and abuse everyday, everywhere you go. At least this is in a song. They aren’t going around bashing ‘niggers’ and ‘faggots’ .


    And no ‘MOON’ . It’s just you that’s plain dumb .

  • yo-nose

    I really, really liked this article. I also like the beat of that song but what I dont like at all is if someone considers him or herself as “post-racist” (what is how die antwoord wants to be seen I guess). There IS racism and if one day there wont be racism anymore its not a white guy who will have the right to declare that.
    I also dont like, that they use such references to a highly racist tradition just to shock and make money with it. by the way, Lady Gaga also got famous for her shocking-videos, so maybe they learnt from her…
    one more thing. they got famous in europe and the us with their style taking ‘african-style’ things and preparing it for a mainly white audience. I wonder why only white bands seem to please us here in europe and we normaly dont know about Black musicians from south africa at all.