Robert Christgau: Dean of American Rock Critics

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Consumer Guide by Review Date: 2011-01-11

2011-01-11

Die Antwoord: $O$ (Cherrytree/Interscope, 2010) As with so many electrohop beats, Die Antwoord's are short on texture and rhythmic subtlety--it's clear this DJ Hi-Tek isn't the African-American one well before his backstory leaks out. So I might have figured their album for a worthy curiosity if I hadn't seen their show, found the video that began it with a big bang, and located their lyrics online. Yet as mere listening the best songs here--especially "Fish Paste" and the signature "Enter the Ninja"--convey the disturbing comic character Watkin Tudor "Waddy" Jones has created: Ninja, an Afrikaner ex-con who's remade himself in the misconstrued image of an American rapper. Ninja's not a gangsta--he does drugs but lacks the organizational skill to deal them, and though he'll knock your lights out if you touch him and is given to sadistic sex fantasies, he doesn't mention guns once. But freed to express his "inner coloured," he bellows and sweats prideful ressentiment--he just knows everyone's jealous because he's "on the interweb." His child-voiced consort Yo-landi Vi$$er backs him up so obscenely that it takes a while to realize that she's both the secret of the music and the rich-bitch top dog in a bottom-feeding power couple. Guttural, English-infected Afrikaans is the perfect language for this brutal fantasy. But the tell comes when Ninja breaks into Zulu in a song celebrating the size of his penis, and Yo-landi handcuffs him to the bed so she can steal his money. A-

Shangaan Electro: New Wave Dance Music From South Africa (Honest Jon's, 2010) In a capital city in northwestern South Africa a producer known as Nozinja--which in Xitsonga means "dog," which may signify top dog and may not--creates indigenous pop out of next to nothing. Just keyboards is my best guess, revved in tempo and pitch so the occasional chipmunk effects fit right in. Unrevved are the voices, South African baritones and contraltos going on about endless love and rabbit stew as if this was still mbaqanga. The tweedly gestalt will grate at first unless tweedles are your idea of postmodern fun. But before too long the voices assert themselves in the mix, naturalizing those tweedles with a confidence that's my idea of postmodern fun. A-

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