Monday, July 2, 2012

The Philosophy Of Die Antwoord

What does it mean to "keep it gangsta?"

Die Antwoord repeats the phrase often in their music and videos. They talk about being gangsta and gangsta life. Ninja & Yo Landi's personal values, or at least taste in art, could be derived from their creation. To most people, "keeping it gangsta" would be about guns, money, drugs, and about being a physical threat. They did not invent the culture. In their video collaborated with Harmony Korine they jack wheelchairs using handguns and dream about having a better life. A better life to a gangsta is through materialism and luxury objects. In the video they have stolen the "Rolls Royce" of wheelchairs. Most philosophers would disagree that material objects or wealth would constitute a better life. There is nothing left for Ninja & Yo Landi to aspire to once they have the best wheelchair and if they ever see one better out there they will have the same anxiety. In fact, their premium wheelchairs are not enough to satisfy their desire. They have to kill another man to put holographic mags on the wheels. Only an uneducated or poor person would think their life is better using these methods. In fact the use of colored animal pajamas suggests they have the mindset of children. It would definitely make them a a far worse person from the view of ancient philosophers. Partly this is the humor in the video. But becoming suddenly wealthy in real life has changed them and made life easier. They should know that keeping it gangsta is not something that would lead Die Antwoord to happiness for very long. In short, this is not the answer. It seems like this is an intentional reflection purposed by video's creator, Harmony Korine. This reflection might be lost on Die Antwoord because of their repetition of gangsta style lyrics. Humor and a subtle warning message in the video could be lost on fans, especially younger ones. Most fans won't go out an act like this but it could inspire greed and vanity.

Keeping it gangsta also means being a physical threat. Lyrics like "Physically fit, the Ninja very energetic" mixed with others warning not to mess with him are many. Keeping it gangsta is merely the typical way to market music to youths in the United States. The youth want strong "don't mess with me" type people as their role models who flaunt their power. But in real life people are often forced to be hypocritical to survive. If they were joking they would eventually get really tired keeping it gangsta every night. Eventually Die Antwoord would lose and let their card slip. Most people won't think about it for longer than a second, allowing them to repeat the phrase and collect all the cash there is to take as a performing artist.

Can rave be gangsta? Traditionally techno has never been about guns and money. Usually it is about dance, technology, inside jokes, and a fresh sound; the fun of borrowing and making a new product often without any intention. Some Drum N Bass and Dub has been about that, or at least drinking & drugs. Die Antwoord's "DJ Hi-Tek" who takes beats to the next level is obviously a joke. The group does not take electronic music seriously. Most artists Die Antwoord has shown to admire like Aphex Twin, The Orb, also don't take their music too seriously either. So there is the very possibility that they do not take their style of music to heart, and taking things to the next level is not true. Keep in mind techno came to be 20 years ago. What they are doing is a rehash. They borrow it and rap over it. Die Antwoord is still more rap than rave in this aspect. They are the equivalent of what The Prodigy was to the 90s "techno" electronica as well. The borrowed imagery and borrowed sound make up a new product but it is not traditional rave music, it is more rap.Taking shit to the next level is something ancient philosophers would agree with, but perhaps it is something they aren't really doing yet.

It is possible that staying gangsta means something completely different to Yo Landi & Ninja. It could be something that gives them confidence to tackle hurdles in life. It is also likely they don't adhere to any particular philosophy unless it brings attention. Becoming famous and rich are all temporary things. Sometimes vulgar images do have some kind of political purpose or personal message. All of this is just speculation. We can only look at what they supply and its artistic tone to interpret these things. Since they are both anti-status quo, but glorify wealth, I can only interpret it as some kind of philosophical failing in being gangsta. Not everyone can shoot to superstardom on the same path. Believing so might be a lie. Being gangsta is not virtuous unless it means something completely different to Die Antwoord.

What is Die Antwoord's philosophy? In short, ME ME ME.

"Dat's right it's all about me!"

"I like partying! partying! partying! damn!"

"Play now, cry later"

"....piss on all the hard-up 'n fokken rap"

"Fuck everyone"

Get money but don't sell out.


Positives about the group: Nobody really does take them serious. They call to action to keep life in the present. Their videos are quite fun and succeed in making you want to dance. They are accepting and celebrate people that look different. They are about equality and resist being pigeon-holed into any social class or system. Other themes include love, friendship, and family. Baby's On Fire is a great example of what they can do right in a video.

In conclusion I'd recommend people would keep it next level for real and not in the way Die Antwoord does. I'd probably  like this group a lot more than I do now if they changed and adopted different values. They wouldn't have to change their music style or rapping and it would still be great. In the meantime, all their creations just beg you to laugh at them. Everyone slightly educated knows the message is a lie.

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