South Africa's favourite zef exports, Die Antwoord, are back with their second studio album, Ten$ion. Not only are the group bigger than ever, but their second album is not without its own drama.
Die Antwoord no longer have to fight the demons Lana Del Rey is busy facing. Questions like 'Are they a gimmick?', 'Is it real?', 'What language are they rapping in?' have all become irrelevant. Most people who've done their research know about Waddy Jones and Max Normal and the long journey that culminated in Die Antwoord.
So, although the novelty factor has now worn off, Die Antwoord have left Interscope and started their own recording company, they've performed on David Letterman, and are the poster kids for Alexandra Wang's new campaign which boasts a billboard of Ninja and Yo-Landi Vi$$er in New York.
Not bad for an SA rave rap duo that rely heavily on cultural appropriation. The teaser trailer for Ten$ion showed some striking images that have an uncanny resemblance to a sculpture called The Butcher' Boys by resistance artist Jane Alexander. It was recently pulled over copyright concerns, but the catchy first single, I Fink U Freeky continues to make the rounds.
It sets the tone for the rest of the album which boasts much more expensive-sounding beats that mix rave, rap, dubstep, and dance electro. What does fall short are the less catchy lyrics, unfunny anecdotes, and the overwhelming presence of Ninja over Yolandi Vi$$er.
While songs from their debut album, like Enter the Ninja, sounded quite cheap but very catchy, it's the other way around now. Intro track Never Le Nkemise 1 starts off with a cinematic, apocalyptic singing and breaks into a pounding dubstep beat which fails to match up with Ninja's squeaky-sounding rap voice. The track starts sounding more and more like Sesame Street than the hardcore zef rapper we've come to know.
Yolandi Visser saves the day on I Fink U Freeky inducing some of her sexy chipmunk rap vocals over a rap rave riff. Ninja also proves he's still got the flow which is reminiscent of an SNL skit of Eminem's glory days. Hey Sexy also follows along the same lines; it sounds like an eastern hip-hop beat that Ninja raps and sings over, but it's only until Yolandi starts rapping that the track becomes interesting.
For an album starved of an evolution, Fatty Boom Boom, You Make A Ninja Wanna F**k and Baby's On Fire show a grimy, futuristic, apocalyptic sound that marries Yolandi and Ninja's raps the most coherently.
But most of the lyrics have been dumbed down completely from $O$. It's almost as if Die Antwoord wanted to make it accessible to the most simple-minded American. Ninja also raps about not taking any drugs and basically proving to be a harmless humble rapper from South Africa who couldn't hurt a fly.
Unlike the title promises, there is simply no tension on the album — all the funny and great anecdotes that made people love and hate Die Antwoord have been filtered to a point where the only thing recognisable about the duo are the Afrikaans swear words and sex-inspired lyrics.
So Ten$ion will definitely be getting a lot of people losing their minds on the dancefloor but it's hardly a collector's item.