Die Antwoord disappoints

Friday 1 March 2013
CATEGORY: art & culture
Anton and Ninja

Almost two years ago I wrote. “I have a little secret. A lot of the hardcore Die Antwoord fans are aware of this mind. Mr. (Rodger) Ballen has to fall into the back of queue when it comes to major influences and even diewery.” I pointed to a YouTube video and said: “This is the fountain of what Rustum Kozain calls Die Antwoord’s ability to kak-praat“.

Today I can reveal that Die Antwoord, in an email (below), promised one Anton Duitsman rights to and proceeds for their first album $O$. That was for use of his words (and in one his voice). On the song $COPIE Duitsman would be credited with 20% of the lyrics and therefor the publishing rights as the Dutchman or NE0 SA. And on the song My best friend he would be credited for 100% of the lyrics.

I have written a previous blog post where I mentioned that I could spot at least five of the early Die Antwoord tracks that had references from one of Anton’s videos, The Matrix SA style. That video is a bizarre stream of extremely prurient consciousness, overlayed on top of visual cuts from The Matrix and Justin Timberlake.

And according to Anton, Ninja (Tudor Jones) told him that his video actually was the inspiration for the creation of Die Antwoord. So impressed was Ninja that he asked Anton if he could help come up with the next album. “We would love to collaborate” he wrote.

In an early email, Ninja calls Anton THE ONE, and expresses incredulity that Anton is not in fact coloured. Much of Anton’s video is in Afrikaans, and delivered in what Cape Town writer Rustum Kozain calls kak-praat: It’s extremely offensive, but disarmingly funny in its delivery.

So what exactly happened? The clip was created in 2004. But it was only in 2007 that Anton uploaded it to YouTube under the name NE0 SA. At a braai in November 2009 a friend played him some Die Antwoord tracks. It was then that Anton recognised his work. He made contact the next Monday.

Things started off amicably (See the photos). Bear in mind this was the time that Die Antwoord was bubling along nicely on the award winning Watkykjy blog. People were downloading the free tracks by the dozen and starting to take notice. Their second video called Zef Side had caused a particular stir. But nobody knew how big they would become. Just before they blew an arrangement appears to have been made where Anton would get the rights to the two tracks. To bring out their first album $O$, Die Antwoord were just signing with a respected but relatively small Dutch hip hop label, Magnatron Records in Amsterdam. Daan de Boer of Magnatron sent Anton a contract.

It was then, in January 2010, when their third music video Enter the Ninja hit YouTube that Die Antwoord blew. I knew because my blog Mhambi got a 1,000, then 4,000, then 9,000 and then 40,000 visits per day. All were from people seeking information about Die Antwoord. Most of them from outside South Africa.

The overseas sat up and took notice. First it was music forums and blogs like Boing Boing. Next came the sign that they had really arrived. Die Antwoord were approached by Lady Gaga’s Interscope label. They promptly dumped Magnatron and signed with Interscope. According to Anton at first Interscope communicated with Anton told him his royalties would be paid. Then they referred him to their local distributor Sony ATV, who avoided his calls.

And from that point no more communication came from Die Antwoord either.

This is of course not the first time Die Antwoord has been accused of appropriation or misuse of other artists work. Most famously it’s unclear how and when they worked with Rodger Ballen. Jane Alexander was furious when they clearly copied Butcher Boys, an artwork that represents the brutality of apartheid, without her permission.

Yet often they did acknowledge the influence of these artists and even collaborated, even if the hat tip or collaboration was in part backdated. The I FINK YOU FREEKY video was made in collaboration with Ballen. And so does NE0 SA get a mention, not only in a track on $O$, but on the sleeve of the album as well.

Hip-hop and rap in particular are genres of urban music born on sampling and reappropriating rifs and lyrics. Still each time news of Die Antwoord transgressions have come out a massive debate has kicked off on blogs across the internet. The legitimacy of sampling and using others work have been argued ad nauseum, with neither side of the debate emerging a clear winner. In my opinion being inspired by others and even using their work is how artists work today. Anton’s own video was part a remix of other’s work. This is a cut and paste world.

But not asking, acknowledging or paying dues when doing so is problematic. And the legal position might be more clear cut. In particular in this case because it appears Ninja sent Anton an email (see below) offering him rights to the lyrics to two songs.

Previously when I wrote about this I went on to defend Die Antwoord. “To make sense of and mash together the phenomenal complexities of South African culture, in word, visually and in music requires phenomenal talent, genius even. That while navigating treacherous political ground, and humungous stereo-types.

And what everybody seems to forget in these rather academic discussions is that in rap and in rave and a whole slew of other urban genres they sample, they do so with utmost street savvy and musical nous. It’s not only tight, it’s slick, sophisticated, and it’s on the button musically. That’s Die Antwoord.

If true it does cast some aspersions over the their ethics. But in line with his now more arrogant and aggressive persona, I’m sure Ninja will just shrug, and tune us we’re jaloers.”

I used to be their biggest fan. Yes, they were fre$h. I don’t feel so inclined to defend them now. What a pity.

I emailed Die Antwoord for reaction three times but have yet to receive any.

Anton Duitsman told me that he now plans to pursue the matter with lawyers.

How did the video come about?

That was the first clip I ever made. I had never done it before but luckily I’m pretty good at learning software packages so it didn’t take me long to find my feet.

I was working at Vodacom at the time. A week before creating the video I saw a spoof clip of the Simpsons and I wanted to make my own. So I set out to make the first bit at work (you hear the call centre beep as a call came in while I was on shift in the begining of the clip) I finished the first section (until they go through the first door with the Chinese man) and it was sent out in the call centre. It quickly went viral and a day later people on other continents were already asking for more so I finished the entire clip in a week.

Are you coloured?

Ha ha ha No I’m a white guy. The funny thing is Ninja asked me that exact same question.

I grew up in the Cape and I’m classically a culture fitter as it is part of my job to be likeable so I made it my mission to seamlessly fuse myself into various cultures. I guess you could call me the original “zeffling”. My coloured friends always said “die is my enigste wit vrin” when refferring to me. My ability to relate to people is what has made me successful in business so I’m very thankful for it.

A while ago I recognised 5 songs with some of your shit going down, do you have a list of those songs and passages?

The obvious ones are $copie, My Best Friend and Jou ma se P__s in a fish paste jar.

They also pay tribute to me in Wat Kyk Jy.

That The Matric SA style Video, it is not just the accent but the prurient left field humour is – how shall I say, next level. I mean, where did that come from? It’s like some bizarre surrealist stream of consciousness. But it touches a familiar chord. It sounds like Cape Town. Can you explain?

The jargon in the wording was a mixed bag. Some of it comes from mainstream coloured slang but there is also a large amount that I created myself. But I strung them all together in unconventional ways thus it is my own interpretation of South African culture.

The smoking gun

yo nEo
did the text from my other mail come fru?
i sent this 2 U also

zik my blaar
fok so you are
jissis ons het gedink jys n coloured
hoe kan jy van joberg wees en so mooi coloured praat?
so luister, fok, ons het nou n poes klomp van jou woorde en brainwaves gebruik op Die Antwoord $O$ album.
ons het eintlik VANDAG die hele fokken ding klaar genaai
ons het selfs n hele lietjie genoem MY BEST FRIEND oppie album gesteek wat net jou stem is oor n vet gang$ta rap beat
we are even always using this track as the intro to our live rap-rave concerts.
DJ HI-TEK het net jou stem n bietjie ge EQ om n bietjie meer laany te klink
want you mic is eintlik heavy kak
maar ons gee nie n fokkie
jys die fokken bizniz
so oppie album kredits sal dit so staan:
n ander ding is, DIE ANTWOORD have just been signed to n poes groot record label in the overseas.
It are a label from Amsterdam called Magnetron music.
We are even touring the overseas in april 2010.
Maar die fokken ding is, we have to sign some heavy publishing contracts wif Magnetron which state ‘who wrote what’ of all the lyrics on the album.
THE FLYING DUTCHMAN aka NEO SA’s lyrics features pretty fokken heavy op $COPIE.
En soos jy kan hoor, is jy die enigste naai wat op MY BEST FRIEND gooi.
So Magnetron music are going to send you a ‘featured artist’ publishing contract soon that you must sign if you want to get n royalty off the sales/licensing of the $O$ album.
Spif ne?
Here are the official details we have submitted to Magnetron.
Ninja- 40%
Yo-landi- 40%
The Flying Dutchman aka Neo SA- 20%
DJ Hi-Tek- 100%
MY BEST FRIEND ft The Flying Dutchman aka Neo SA
The Flying Dutchman aka Neo SA: 100%
DJ Hi-Tek: 100%
En ja we would LOVE to collaborate wif you on our new album.
it are called TEN$ION.
Ons weet nie presies hoe nie, maar I’m sure it will come to us like a vision.
One more thing:
Me and Yo-landi are writing, directing, producing and starring in a full-length movie called THE ANSWER soon. (the story of how DIE ANTWOORD started)
But before we shoot the full movie we are going to make a small 15 minute version of this film. (to show to the people that must give us money to make the big ster kinekor movie)
The short film are going to be called DRIVE FAST PLAY KAK MUSIC LOUD!
Can we send you the script for this soon to read maybe?
Then maybe you can think of some spif dialogue to add to the script.
Maar die ding is, jy moet jou stem record, so we can copy the way you speak it.
It can just be on your kak mic.
Then we can direct the actors to gooi like you.
DIE ANTWOORD are gooing a live DAGGA PUFF party in Pretoria at TingsnTimes on Sunday the 29th of November (next weekend).
It will be spif if you can get a baby sitter, then you and your cherrie, can come out for n lekker row jol, VIP nigga.
Laat ons weet ne
oor en fokken uit

Related deployments:

  1. I’m a Ninja – Die Antwoord
  2. Die Antwoord offers some rude solutions
  3. Die Antwoord pics by Katvrou
  4. The rise of Die Antwoord
  5. Die Antwoord is the Answer

5 Responses

  1. griffin says:

    Interesting, seeing the song “Watkykjy” came 100% off Watkykjy’s zef slang. And the lyrics to the song were discussed between ninja and myself telephonically over more than 20 phone calls.

  2. Paul says:

    Since Interscope bought the rights to $O$ and it was submitted to the Dutch label initially (Interscope would have to had purchased the rights and royalties responsibility from that label to release the album) as percentages, it is Interscope that is at fault here, not Die Antwoord … There have been numerous reports in the news as of late of the labels (and others – movie and television) getting caught not paying royalties properly since they know that most of the musicians do not have the wherewithall to fight the corporate giants … Welcome to the music business

  3. Kameraad Mhambi says:

    Hi Paul, it’s also possible that die Antwoord simply never told Interscope about the email above. Anton was sent a contract by Magnatron, but Die Antwoord left them before that was a done deal (As I understand it).

    It is possible that Die Antwoord told them about Anton, showed them the video (but not the email), and they thought, what the heck lets ignore it.

    We won’t know what happened until Ninja or Interscope tells us. (I contacted Interscope by the way, no response).

    As I understand it, the label does not loose money if another rights holder is involved. It’s the artist that looses out because they have to share royalties.

  4. Hi Griffin

    No claim is being made on “watkykjy” they do a shout out to me Ne0 SA towards the end of the track.


  5. [...] the email, made public last week by South African blogger and disappointed Die Antwoord fan Wessel van Rensburg, Ninja begins by complimenting Duitsman’s “mooi coloured” accent and calling him “THE [...]