Die Antwoord – Ten$ion
by Mackenzie Nichols (Journalism), published January 30th 2012
Moldy | Stale | Edible | Fresh | Tasty!
Between lead vocalist “Ninja” who raps into a penis-shaped microphone attached to his crotch and his freakish, circus-like sidekick Yolandi Visser, it’s no surprise that their sophomore album, Ten$ion, is just as shocking and discombobulated as the personas they have created. These South African natives have certainly made a name for themselves in America, but perhaps for all the wrong reasons, seeing as it is their violently explicit videos instead of their music. The videos have become so popular because they are so shocking that it’s hard not to watch. Although their debut, $O$, has somewhat of the same explicit lyricism and odd song concepts, Ten$ion just blows it right out of the water in terms of freakishness and leaves the listener questioning the group’s sanity.
Let’s start with the cover art, for instance, which features Yolandi Visser topless with angel wings and black, demon-like eyes, devouring what seems to be a bloody heart. Although the group is known for featuring sexually and violently explicit images through their videos for their debut singles “Enter the Ninja” and “Evil Boy”, this album cover is much more shocking than what I had expected and ultimately reflects the overall violent atmosphere of the record.
The title track “Never Le Nkemise 1″ kicks off the album with an unexpectedly sorrowful string ensemble underneath a tribal chant which seems promising, but unfortunately gets ruined by a dubstep-inspired breakdown and Ninja’s line “I’m indestructible” which leads into a rap/dubstep mess. Yolandi Visser is featured on the single “I Fink U Freeky” which, based on the title, is really hard to take seriously. The techno undertone throughout the song sounds like something out of a video game or maybe something you’d hear in a nightclub on the Jersey Shore and the repetition of Yolandi’s line “I fink u freeky and I like you a lot” makes you finally have to turn it off to save your eardrums from the irritation.
Perhaps the strangest aspects of the record are the “skits” which feature the spoken word of Ninja and Yolandi. The first skit entitled “Pielie” features Ninja speaking in Afrikaans for all of 9 seconds and the other is a really weird interaction between Ninja and Yolandi in which Ninja plays a character named “Uncle Jimmy” and speaks suggestively to Yolandi, who is supposed to be his niece. The catchiest song on the album is probably “Baby’s On Fire”, but that doesn’t mean that it is musically valuable by any means seeing as the overproduced sound and unoriginality of the techno melody just sound like any other catchy techno song.
The ridiculousness continues with “U Make A Ninja Wanna F***”, another techno-inspired hip-hop track which doesn’t really do much besides make the duo seem like freakish nymphomaniacs. I will, however, venture to say that the usage of Afrikaans in some of the tracks is quite interesting and leaves you wondering about the culture in South Africa. Is it normal to eat blood-gushing hearts on album covers down there? I have no idea, but I just can’t imagine that it will work for anyone here in America.
Recommended Track: Baby’s On Fire