By Brooke Jackson-Glidden, Staff Writer
When Lady Gaga decided to tour South Africa in 2012, she landed on an opening act she thought would be appropriate for the area: Die Antwoord. Die Antwoord was a somewhat-successful local rap group with a “similar” bizarre image.
Die Antwoord disagreed. In response to her offer, they released an acidic response video where a lion eats a meat-dress-wearing Lady Gaga (Lady Gaga wore a dress completely made of meat to the 2010 VMA’s). But more importantly, front-woman Yo-Landi Vi$$er shed important light on the blatant privilege and appropriation of Lady Gaga in general.
Adorned in blackface, Yo-Landi wore yellow eyes with dollar signs pupils and berated the pop artist for assuming they would jump at the privilege to perform with her. In her Afrikaans-English fusion of a language, she talks about her upbringing as an impoverished child in South Africa and the hypocrisy in her newfound attention as a wealthy, “profitable” rapper. “I used 2 beg borrow or steal jus 2 hustle sumfing 2 eat,” Yo-Landi spits, juxtaposed next to a woman dressed in food she’s wearing just for the couture of eccentricity.
Die Antwoord offers a new, postmodern rap that captures various manifestations of poverty in South Africa with a sense of humor and social message, either intentional or not. For instance, the song “I Fink U Freaky,” at first glance, simply celebrates deviancy. The video, however, presents an aesthetic with primal elements and, again, a representation of poverty and despondence that makes you wonder what kind of world these artists came from. In another song, “Baby’s on Fire,” Yo-Landi and her rap partner, Ninja, play brother and sister in a classic lower-class white neighborhood; together, they shed a light on sexism, objectification and racism within these environments and a desperate conceptualization of ‘luxury,’ from Ninja watching girls fight in a plastic kiddie pool to Yo-Landi gasping at a gift from a male guest: a doll version of herself.
Part of what makes Yo-Landi such an interesting rap artist is her almost self-parodying over sexualized child-like presentation. Yo-Landi regularly wears crop tops and shorts in bright pastels, pigtails, and sneakers. That is, until you hear her rap. In that Micky Mouse voice, Yo-Landi spits harsh, violent rhymes that demand you see her as a force to be reckoned with. Not to mention, Yo-Landi’s almost-bowl-cut and invisible eyebrows make her seem just a bit too strange to be “heterosexy.”
So, you can see why the two would be so offended by Lady Gaga’s claim of similarity. For Lady Gaga, deviance is chic, upper-class or “special.” Die Antwoord earned its aberrancy from seeing it, living it, in all its glory and horror. Although South Africa is a world away, American fans can learn to be a little more open-minded with a dose of Yo-Landi.