- Jaime Monzon
In their first ever San Antonio stop, South African hip-hop group Die Antwoord proved that zef is a way of life during a sold-out show at the Aztec Theatre.
After a nondescript hip-hop soundtrack stopped and the lights blacked out, a cinematic instrumental of "Never Le Nkemise 1" boomed as a still of deceased South African DJ Leon Botha – one of the oldest survivors of progeria – was projected across a massive LED platform stage. God (formerly DJ Hi-Tek) took over the stage like a master of the universe, seemingly controlling the blast of smoke, the epilepsy-inducing strobe lights and, of course, the next-level, get-out-your-glow-sticks music. He still concealed his face with his signature bucktoothed mask and voice with a deepening voice changer, giving him an air of mystery – all of which supports the conspiracy that DJ Hi-Tek/God isn't one person, but a collection of beat specialists.
After the fog cleared, Die Antwoord's Yolandi Visser and Ninja appeared ceremoniously during the rap verse of "We Have Candy," one of the lead singles from new album Mount Ninji and da Nice Time Kid, wearing oversized black t-shirts and baggy neon orange sweatpants inscribed with Japanese script. There were many costume changes throughout the set, giving a full range of the looks Die Antwoord has pioneered.
Visser's aesthetic was even more fire in person, as she danced and pranced around the top platform to the stage floor, with her stark white punk rock Rapunzel-length chili-bowled hair and white-out eyeliner making her look otherworldly. Her brutish partner in crime, Ninja, somehow seemed like the most intimidating man in rap music, his lanky frame and height towering over the pixie-like Visser.
For the rest of the show, Die Antwoord broke out their biggest songs, playing something like a greatest hits of banger after banger. The unrivaled energy (the kind where it seems a mere mortal would run out of steam after the first three songs) and chemistry underscored why Die Antwoord are one of the top groups to see, whether or not you even really like their music.
The lyrics of a typical Die Antwoord song range from vulgar to sweet, and the crowd ate that shit up. They chanted along with an acapella version of "Raging Zef Boner," not forgetting the blush-inducing chorus "This big motherfuckin' dick is what's up" and yelling the gross-out line "smells like fish, taste like chicken" from "Girl I Want 2 Eat U," while changing the pace to singing along to the cutesy chorus of "Banana Brain" and "Ugly Boy."
In performing their new album's debut single "Banana Brain," Visser and the backup dancers rocked kigurumis, complete with her Gloomy Bear onesie straight out of Die Antwoord's 2011 short film Umshini Wam. Visser sat on Ninja's shoulders as he spun her around, a highlight from the show because it showed that Die Antwoord has enough heart to match the energy.
The set was interjected with an isolation of God's rave instrumentals while the rest of Die Antwoord were backstage, pumping the crowd up for more visually stimulating performance. The whole stage was lit up with LED lights, video and images unique to Die Antwoord, including Ninja's trademark art work – most notably his well-endowed Casper-like character – and clips from their cinematic music videos to correspond with the songs. And, of course, there were copious amounts ass, whether it from Visser bouncing in her booty shorts to Ninja mooning the audience.
The set ended with "I Don't Care," one of the most saccharine songs in Die Antwoord's catalog that erupted into a techno massacre until the group kneeled in front of the audience in complete silence. After they departed the stage and the chants of their names grew thunderous, they appeared for an encore of their breakout hit "Enter the Ninja," the only song performed off of debut album $O$. Ninja surfed the crowd for what seemed like the longest minute while Visser sang the hook onstage.
The whole formula – rap, rave, performance art and visuals wrapped in an intimate setting – proved Die Antwoord's undeniable power not just as musicians but as performers.
See also: 45 badass moments from Die Antwoord at the Aztec