When I was 15, my life changed forever. I had a life-altering summer in Europe and returned back to my junior year of high school a completely different person.
I was more confident, brash and explosive. I wore an eye patch to school and talked back to teachers in a bantering way.
But how did I become this way? How did I separate myself from the bookish, rule-following nerd that everyone knew me as for the past 10 years?
One thing that helped free me from my past life was the shocking, in-your-face music and visual art of the South African rap-rave trio, Die Antwoord.
Their band name translates to “The Answer” in Afrikaans. When asked what it was the answer to, they simply responded, “life.”
It was my first ever boyfriend that introduced me to Die Antwoord. We had met that summer, and one day he sent me a link to their video, “Baby’s On Fire.” When you hear this tune for the first time, you immediately realize what they mean by the term “rap-rave,” which they have coined for themselves.
The first thing that hit me was the magnetizing, petite, platinum blonde minx, Yolandi Visser. Despite being only 5’1, she dominated the screen and captured my heart immediately.
In this particular video, her bandmate, Ninja, plays her overbearingly protective older brother. The dysfunctional siblings battle it out at the dinner table with their dog, Satan and chaos ensues. The video ends in a bloody mess as Ninja receives a brick to the mouth and Yolandi escapes her family’s home with her new boyfriend in his souped up sports car.
The beat was pumping, and I had no idea what I had just watched. When I sent the video to my best friend, she told me to never send her anything like that again. All I knew was that my life would never be the same.
From that moment on, I felt a lightness in my step. A limitless feeling that anyone, even some self-proclaimed white trash zef kids from the slums of Cape Town, could make it big on YouTube and tour the world.
They even got invited to open for Lady Gaga, which they very publicly turned down with a diss track called “Fatty Boom Boom” and a subsequent music video featuring a drag queen playing Lady Gaga’s part.
To this day, I have a special affection for this trio and the moment that I first heard them. Die Antwoord’s fearlessness and unapologetic authenticity have impacted me in a way that very few other bands and artists have.
Although they are extremely controversial, I will always love them. Yolandi, Ninja, and DJ Hi-Tek and their funky beats will pound in my heart forevermore.