Review / photos: Die Antwoord bring zef style, swagger to the Ritz Ybor in Tampa
No, for reals: Both Lady Gaga and Die Antwoord look, talk and act like beings that hail from another planet. Maybe they were friendly there. Maybe Ninja was a card-carrying Little Monster. Maybe Gaga and Yo-Landi Vi$$er were in the same tea circle. Maybe they had a falling out when DJ Hi-Tek crashed their spaceship to earth. Who can say?
Point is, none of the recent viral pop posturing between the Queen Monster and South Africa’s battiest hip-hop outfit — Die Antwoord turning down the chance to tour with Gaga, then crudely lampooning her in their Fatty Boom Boom video; Gaga responding by tweeting “i fink u freaky but you don’t have a hit” — should exist. Aesthetically, both artists occupy the same outlandishly arty territory, living to shock while pushing the boundaries of pop music in ever-weirder, stranger directions.
And on Wednesday, Die Antwoord proved they have something else in common with Lady Gaga: They're both capable of mesmerizing the Ritz Ybor.
In a short (too-short?) but action-packed sold-out show, the rave-rap sensations spit, gyrated and thrusteed their way into the hearts of fans both passionate and morbidly curious, some of whom came in costume from as far away as Naples.
Die Antwoord are a colorful pair, with a sense of style and panache they call “zef” – something like a lower-class glorification of ridiculous, conspicuous glamour. But really, it means what you want it to mean – panache, swagger, you name it.
Many in the crowd seemed to take their zef cues from Yo-Landi, the pint-sized rapper with a chopped ‘n’ skrewed ‘do and a squeak like a profane slide whistle. She wagged her butt, flipped off the crowd, spit water into the pit and, by the end, whipped her hair like a tornado.
Meanwhile, her partner in rhyme, the craggy-faced Ninja, thrusted his way through the entire set, often with an expression that fell somewhere between bewilderment and pained exertion. He worked the “I was once a poor boy; look at me now” angle pretty hard all night – mostly in a one-man-show type of way. Beyond that, he kept the stage talk to a minimum, though he did gave Lady Gaga a quick shout-out between a freestyle of Biggie’s Party and Bulls--- and Rich Bitch (make of that what you will).
For that last one, Yo-Landi came out swaddled in puffy gold coat, as zef as anything you’ve ever seen. If she was posturing, at least the posture never weakened. Whereas Lady Gaga thrives on precision and discipline, Die Antwoord relishes anarchy and abrasive weirdness, right down to the inflatable tumescent ghost that rose from the stage midway through the set.
The crowd was never as into it as they were during I Fink U Freaky, one of the best “break it down/build it back up songs” you’re going to find. By the time Ninja slowed the song to a stop, then worked it back to a frenzy, the crowd was a war zone. Meanwhile, Yo-Landi danced wildly, freakily, until she collapsed on the ground.
The set was all too short – less than an hour – but Die Antwoord managed to make the most of it, both sonically and visually. In the beginning, Die Antwoord came onstage in thick, construction-orange jumpsuits, looking like survivors of a bioterrorist attack. But as the show went on, they stripped away layers. By the end, Ninja was flopping like a fish in Pink Floyd boxers, with Yo-Landi flashing her bra and flipping down the front of her booty shorts just so.
Before the encore, Die Antwoord closed out the set with Ninja and Yo-Landi almost go-go dancing on risers alongside a masked DJ Hi-Tek. The song, Never Le Nkemise, was a synthed-up blast of pure jet-setting Eurotrash, as danceable as it was ironic.
It was freaky, but someone like Lady Gaga could turn it into a hit. Yet another reason for them to be friends.
-- Jay Cridlin, tbt*. Photo: Andrew Carlton, tbt*