Representing the Lady Gaga Era’s dark underbelly, South Africa’s Die Antwoord are the real “Little Monsters” of their time, brought to fame by a series of videos that looked like David Cronenberg and Keith Haring were co-directing. On their debut album, $O$, the music is just as phantasmagoric, unsettling, and bursting with the same sick humor as their videos, but there’s also the same amount of care put into the product. Even as these incredibly busy hip-hop-meets-rave productions rocket toward the brink of chaos, the listener is harnessed in by layers of hooks and plenty of cheeky musical ideas. First, there’s the setup: a duo of South African’s trashiest trailer kids, including a lead male rapper, Ninja, who is obsessed with his namesake plus an albino kewpie doll, pixie-voiced back-up singer, Yo-Landi Vi$$er, who often channels her inner sex goddess even when she’s traditionally unsexy. A third, shadow member, DJ Hi-Tek, supplies much of the music, making wonderfully outlandish decisions like sampling Smile.dk’s sugary hit “Butterfly” for the massive “Enter the Ninja,” a hypnotic motivational track that should pump up any given mutant before they enter the ring. When “Scopie” - this album is chock-full of NSFW South African slang -- samples “Short Dick Man,” it’s clever, and borrowing from the Bronski Beat for the epic sex track “Beat Boy” is just one example of the album’s fascinating love of old synth music, from new wave to gabba hardcore with a little love thrown dubstep’s way. Jamaican dancehall is referenced on “Evil Boy,” which turns Little Red Riding Hood into a story of phallic bragging, as is dancehall’s iffy relationship with the “batty boy”, because Die Antwoord are hardly politically correct. Elsewhere, your mom’s private parts end up in a “Fish Paste” jar as an insult, and Ninja’s idea of a sexual encounter always requires post-coital mops and buckets. If it matters, none of this is real, and Die Antwoord are actually conceptual artists, presenting “exaggerated versions” of their “inner zef”. Whoever they are, $o$ is utterly unique and downright dazzling if you dream of a Grand Guignol hosted by P. Diddy.
AllMusic Review by David Jeffries