sometime rapper, always artist
November 12, 2014 5:34 PM   Subscribe

Before there was Chappie, there was Die Antwoord. Along with Die Antwoord came Ninja. But before there was Ninja, there was...

Watkin Tudor Jones!

Take it away, discogs:
Watkin Tudor Jones (also well known as Waddy Jones) is an enigma in South African Hip-Hop and Electronic music, responsible for a prolific output of underground Hip-Hop music since 1998 1995! [ed.], in a variety of guises and on a number of South African independent labels. His work is characterised by theatrical performances featuring humorous and often savage lyrics with conspiracy, vegetarian and science fiction themes.
Over the past 20 years, Jones has released at least one short (non-musical) film, an 88-page graphic novel accompanied by a 39-track concept album, a plethora of handmade toys, and a whirlwind of A/V offerings like The Original Evergreen, Max Normal (a/k/a Max Normal and Associates), and MaxNormal.TV, whose final recording was partially cannibalized to introduce a project with which you may be slightly more familiar.

Fussy FPP notes: All Original Evergreen song links point to Grooveshark unless otherwise noted. You don't need to sign up for an account to listen, but you also don't need to listen to Original Evergreen unless you're curious what Cypress Hill might sound like if they were from Joburg instead of South Gate. All other song links point to YouTube unless otherwise noted. All album links point to their respective pages at MP3s are marked with an asterisk*; right-click to download on PC, I have no idea how to download things on Macs. I think I have all the links double-checked, but if I fucked up, please let me know. FPP title shamelessly cribbed from the caption in this photo. Keep it zef.
"Entertainment is such a multi-level thing. You have five or more senses so you are able to get entertained on a number of levels."
In 1995, Watkin Tudor Jones made his public rap debut. I don't want to give too much away, so I'll just say that his earliest work invokes a very specific topic, and it's a well he's continued to draw from throughout his career.
The Original Evergreen | Puff the Magik1

01 Puff the Magik [YouTube]02 Puff the Magik (radio edit)03 Puff the Magik (Mad Funk remix)04 Just Another Summer Song05 Just Another Summer Song (Predator mix)06 Just Another Summer Song (Sellout mix)
"Puff the Magik" was quickly banned from Radio 5 due to its not remotely surprising lyrical content, but in 1996, it won Best Rap Album at the South African Music Awards nonetheless, and in 1997... what's that? You want more mid-90s weed rap? Like almost an entire album's worth? Lekker.
The Original Evergreen | Burn the Evidence

01 Funky & Loose02 Jazzgroove03 Can You Deal04 Burn the Evidence05 Relegalize It06 Kidstuff07 Funky & Loose (Mystic Marimba Mix)08 Jazzgroove (Backnees Mix)
In 2001, Jones released his first solo album -- Memoirs Of A Clone -- under his birth name. Here's a review of the record from
In a recent interview Jones described his songs as "fairy-stories", and this is the most accurate description I can find for tracks which continually defy description. The songs are stories, spliced together with continual narrative of a journey, straight out of an arcade kung-fu game. The negative spaces around the tracks are what define them more that what they actually "are."
And if you're not down with shelling out hundreds of dollars for an out-of-print CD, you can listen to it here:
Watkin Tudor Jones, Jr. | Memoirs Of A Clone | full album stream | full album playlist | lyrics

01 Good Old Fashion Loving02 You Talk Too Loud03 Max Normal04 If You Don't Feel It05 Watkin Tudor Jones06 Precious Things07 Doing Nothing08 On The Real09 Memoirs Of A Clone10 Be Kind To Animals11 Sleepyhead12 It's All Over13 Shaboom
Speaking of Max Normal, sometime around the release of Memoirs, Jones joined Mark Buchanan, Sean Ou Tim, and Simon Ringrose (a/k/a Sibot) to create a band "four-piece audiovisual unit designed to enhance the vibrational frequency of the listener/viewer" bearing that very name. Both the group and Jones' titular new persona as a motivational rapper took their moniker from this guy, and in July of 2001, Max Normal made their official entrance with Songs From The Mall. Six months later, they played at the Long Street Carnival. You may notice some additional themes beginning to develop.
Max Normal | Songs From The Mall | full album stream | full album playlist | lyrics

01 Mall Radio02 Stay At Home03 Punch My Teeth Out04 The Cop Song05 Space Invaders06 Sleepy Head07 Good Old Fashion Loving08 You Talk Too Loud09 Too Cold To Hold10 Funny Money11 Whenever You Ready12 Hazel's Joint | live version13 Crowd Control14 Oh What A Thing15 Make Me Popular16 [hidden track]
A month after the release of Songs From The Mall, Max Normal performed live (full 47-minute/10-song set, audio only) at Pukkelpop, and a few months after that, they brought a still-unreleased song to the Phat Joe Show: The Evil Body Snatchers. In 2002, Jones released a single song on an African Dope Records' compilation, Cape of Good Dope, under a name he appears to have never used again:
Yang Weapon | "Ayama" | stream song on YouTube | buy MP3 at Amazon | buy MP3 at iTunes
A hint of visual inspiration for Jones' latest venture was visible as early as that year, as seen in this live performance of "Long Street" from the 2002 North Sea Jazz Festival in Cape Town, ZA. (Hey, DJ.)

"Long Street" and a few other Max Normal-era jams were re-packaged and presented to the world in 2003 with the release of a double concept album/book called The Ziggurat, courtesy of Jones' newest multimedia project, The Constructus Corporation: "This ambitious, 88 page, limited edition book/CD release by The Constructus Corporation features two discs, one of which is a free blank CDR with the option to download its contents from the web." Well, it's a little more complicated than that.
"The story takes place on a huge domed megalopolis called The Ziggurat, which floats above the Earth's surface, housing what remains of this futuristic humanity in sterile perfection above the uninhabitable planet below. It follows the misadventures of our heroes Random Boy and Kidtronic, as they uncover and take action against the Ziggurat's sinister secrets.

The music is dangerous; uneasy listening – an assault of lyrical genius, raw power and wicked post-production trickery that melds glitch-hop, hip hop, sonic theatre and electronica, as Jones spins his tales in a dozen different personas around Wormstorm's quirky beats and melodies and Sibot's scratchadelica. It's a new form – a style the group calls Boom Bam, a futuristic music-style which involves taking whatever elements you desire and creating your own world, complete with it's own unique soundtrack."
I feel like it should go without saying by this point, considering, but this project is pretty weird.
The Constructus Corporation | The Ziggurat | full stream disc one | full stream discs one and two | buy disc one MP3s at Amazon | buy disc one MP3s at African Dope Records | disc one lyrics

1.1 The Ziggurat1.2 How To Become A Better Person1.3 Rick Flare1.4 Pooka1.5 Randomboy And Kidtronic1.6 Long Street1.7 On The Way To The Arcade1.8 The Competition1.9 Ooh Lala1.10 Jellyfish1.11 Metatron One1.12 Hot Water1.13 Invisible Sentinels1.14 You Sound Dumb1.15 I'll See You Now Now1.16 Recharge1.17 Johnny's Birthday Song1.18 Wakey Wakey1.19 Brotherly Love1.20 Sweet Thing1.21 V1.22 Super Psyche1.23 Choose Your Own Adventure

2.24 Dream* ▫ 2.25 Ambrosial Hours* ▫ 2.26 Touchy Feely* ▫ 2.27 Robot* ▫ 2.28 Derreck And Darrel* ▫ 2.29 Mommy And Daddy* ▫ 2.30 The Magic Ear* ▫ 2.31 Incredible Machine (3)* ▫ 2.32 Eat Dirt Copperman* ▫ 2.33 The Krakula Cometh* ▫ 2.34 Natalie* ▫ 2.35 Bom* ▫ 2.36 A Thousand Miles* ▫ 2.37 Scum Deluxe* ▫ 2.38 Dudus* ▫ 2.39 Ripples In The Mesh - The Radioplay*
In 2004, Jones and Anri Du Toit wrote, filmed, directed, starred in, and soundtracked a 15-minute film called Picnic:
A conservative Afrikaans girl, Yo-landi Visser, goes home for a family reunion. Her family decides to go for a nostalgic family outing together and end it off with a picnic. During this golden time together, Yo-landi discovers the joys of coming together as a family after the children have left the house.
With another year came another solo effort:
Watkin Tudor Jones, Jr. | The Fantastic Kill | full album playlist | buy MP3s at Amazon | lyrics

01 Super Evil | unreleased version02 You Are OK03 Infinite Kif04 Bang On The Drum05 Drunk By Name06 Straight Outa Randburg07 Burning Desire08 The Organ Grinder09 Y-Front10 Fright Biter11 Visitor12 Swiss13 Tam Tam And Lulu14 Reprogram15 Sun On My Face16a World Champion16b [hidden track]
Then came The Return of the King: A Feature on Max Normal by Waddy Jones.
"My mind is full of thoughts, just like everyone. One of these thoughts was, "What should I rap about?" I've rapped about so many different things. What should I rap about next?" I've been thinking about this question for about 2 years now.

I recently received my first clue after someone asked me the first thing everyone asks me after they say hi.

"How's it going with Max Normal?" someone asked for the nine hundred and sixty-seven thousandth time.

It was only then that I received the light. Maybe I should call myself Max Normal again. Cause, no matter what Waddy Jones does, he'll never be as large as Max Normal.
After the release of the above missive, Waddy Jones Max Normal, Yo-landi Visser, visual artist/designer Jakob Basson, and Justin De Nobrega joined forces under the banner of MaxNormal.TV. In 2006, MN.TV posted a freely-downloadable MP3-only EP called Rap Made Easy on their website, along with a never-released song called "Don't Give Up"*.
MaxNormal.TV | Rap Made Easy

01 Rap Fantasy02 Laf Nag03 You Look Stupid04 Rap Made Easy* ▫ 05 Eat Meat06 I Like Your Body*
Later that year, Jones was invited to create the artwork for the upcoming OppiKoppi music festival, which shared its 2007 byline -- "The Way of the Dassie" -- with a MaxNormal.TV song and video (as well as its festival-specific remix). In anticipation of the festival, Max instructed the world in the making of a dassie. Where did the way of the dassie come from, anyway?
It all happened not so far in the distant past, when the leader of the Oppikoppi family, Carel Hoffman contacted the soon to be Guardian of the Dassie, Max Normal, to come up with an idea for this year's Oppikoppi festival. Great words were exchanged by these two influential men and that night Max Normal had a vision. "I fell into a deep state of darkness and confusion. During this horrible trance I received a vision. In this vision I saw a beautiful golden DASSIE floating in a blue sky. The DASSIE said, 'Follow The Way of the Dassie, Max... follow The Way of the Dassie.' When I awoke from my trance, I sat down at my sewing machine and made a DASSIE toy that looked very much like the DASSIE in my vision," claims Max. The Oppikoppi leader and President for Life approved of Max's idea and that is how the Oppikoppi Dassie was born.

This year the Oppikoppi festival will be focussing on The Way of the Dassie and will include a few valuable pointers to be taken very seriously by all Dassies. These are of course:

1-Don't speak that which is not true
2-Don't take that which is not offered
3-Don't be a pervert
4-Practice to be psychic
5-Don't kill anyone or anything*

*this includes paying someone to kill someone or something for you.
Jones went on to release a couple of other instructional videos as Max Normal: how to draw a giraffe and how to draw a panda, and MaxNormal.TV took to the stage to perform "Rap Made Easy" with a PowerPoint presentation.

In 2007, Jones released a track as The Man Who Never Came Back -- "Crypticism" -- on a compilation called Cape Town Beats, and re-released his solo album The Fantastic Kill (with the exception of "Bang On The Drum") as MC Totally Rad And DJ Fuck Are Fucknrad. If you're a real completist, you can buy the MP3s at Amazon UK!

Never a pair to rest on their laurels, MaxNormal.TV got busy being "not so normal" on actual TV. (Fast forward to 3'30" to hear about Max's plans for a never-released 1-hour DVD/25-song CD/200-page book trifecta called King of the Young.)
What do you say to people who accuse you of selling out?

Well, I'm 33 years old, and I've never had a job in my life -- thankfully, because I'm not very good at it. And I make music, movies, and merchandise for myself. So I don't actually know what selling out means... I work for myself, I'm the big boss of this here ship, this here corporation.

...I make music, I make films, and I make toys. The best way to be deliberate and make an effective mechanism is to become the enemy.
The next year, MaxNormal.TV made a successful return to Pukkelpop and released their latest and presumably final album, Good Morning South Africa. Parts of the LP continue to be repurposed and re-released under the sobriquet of Jones' latest and presumably not-final project.
MaxNormal.TV | Good Morning South Africa | full album playlist | lyrics

01 Total Fuckup [official video] ▫ 02 Rap Fantasy03 I Like Your Body04 Ons Is Hier05 Laf Nag06 Rap Made Easy07 Eat Meat08 The Way Of The Dassie09 Dangerous Man To Love10 Love Is... 11 Tik Tik Tik | live version12 Rap Rave Megamix (*ahem*) ▫ 13 HipnWidIt14 You Look Stupid15 Angel Claw16 Moon Love (*cough*)
In August of 2008, MaxNormal.TV made one of their final public appearances with an exhibition of their self-written, -directed, and -produced short films and music videos at the Kwazulu Natal Society of Arts. This is their description of the exhibition's final set of videos.
Wat Pomp? (Episodes 1 & 2)

Mentally unstable rave-rapper WAD:e and his home-girl Yo-landi Visser hit the streets of South Africa to see what's pumping. WAD:e and Yo-landi have an open-minded approach to life and an unusual sense of fashion. Secretly WAD:e and Yo-landi don't know what's going on with anything, however they are totally into it! Auras pumping! Third eyes strobing! One hundred percent energy! Go! Go! Go!
posted by divined by radio (13 comments total) 74 users marked this as a favorite

Wow! I'm listening randomly now and liking it so far. There's a lot to digest in this one.
posted by Dip Flash at 6:17 PM on November 12, 2014

This is amazing! Thanks much.
posted by experiencing a significant gravitas shortfall at 6:34 PM on November 12, 2014

Ill and flicking through TV channels I came across a home shopping channel offering 'In the Kitchen with Ninja'. I thought, "It can't be" but perhaps it was.
posted by fallingbadgers at 7:26 PM on November 12, 2014

Here is a commentary by Ninja and Yolandi on their videos, from the pre-Die Antwoord era 'Wat Pomp' thru the last Ten$ion single 'Fatty Boom Boom', given at Meltdown Comics back in 2012. It is quite interesting to see them speaking mostly out of character, and also how much of the Die Antwoord direction came from Yolandi, including Ninja's persona and the Roger Ballen connection.
posted by metaplectic at 8:00 PM on November 12, 2014 [9 favorites]

Oh lordy - somehow I had never come across his toys before. Those are wonderful.
posted by not the fingers, not the fingers at 8:56 PM on November 12, 2014

No recognition for the Pin-Striped Freak?
posted by biffa at 12:33 AM on November 13, 2014

Bloody hell. What a post. Love Die Antwoord, much amazing stuff to clicky here. Thank you very much.
posted by Hartham's Hugging Robots at 5:48 AM on November 13, 2014

I came to post the same link as metaplectic. I've listened non-stop to them since the last album dropped (back in June-ish?). As they have grown in popularity the obvious increase in production costs are interesting to see; especially in light of their "we got kicked off our record label" pose. I am just annoyed that so much of their "transgressiveness" is pretty mainstream with a slightly threatening but still cute manic pixie girl and the kavorka man instead of subverting those tropes. I'm also annoyed at how much Ninja is portrayed as the "brains" of the group and the minimising of Yo-Landi's role. Anyway, I was having a long discussion with my 14 year old about all of this where I assumed the fact they were performance art was a given and she couldn't accept it even after I showed her the Max normal video where he lays out his plans (Total Fuck up). Now she is mad at me : (
posted by saucysault at 5:48 AM on November 13, 2014 [3 favorites]

Here is a commentary by Ninja and Yolandi on their videos, from the pre-Die Antwoord era 'Wat Pomp' thru the last Ten$ion single 'Fatty Boom Boom'...

Thank you for posting this, it's absolutely amazing and a total must-watch (pop some popcorn first, it's almost 2 hours long). I almost included it in the FPP but wanted to keep it strictly pre-DA to prevent myself from falling down a whole new rabbit hole.

I heard Die Antwoord for the first time ~10 days ago (this is why MeFi's hot) and I'd never heard anything about them at all before that, so I had absolutely no idea that "Is it real?" was A Thing for them until I saw/heard "Fok Julle Naaiers." It's been such a pleasure digging into Ninja and Yo-landi's body of work and following their trail of breadcrumbs back to the start.

Ninja has some Craig Finn-esque levels of self-reference going on, but it doesn't appear to have garnered very much attention -- so many of their critics have focused on their tattoos, haircuts, and proclivity for cursing in Afrikaans. There are all these little turns of phrase that he uses over and over again as callbacks to his previous work, perhaps the most unusual(?) of which is "designer vaginas," which I believe was last used in XP€N$IV $H1T and which even I have to admit has more than a bit of a ring to it.

I can't even describe how much I respect these people as artists, it's just totally blowing my mind. They're using their bodies and lives as canvas and they've been working up to this for years. Asking them if DA is "real" doesn't do anything except challenge the definition of reality.

I'm sure the amount of material in the FPP is totally intimidating, so here are a few of my favorite WTJ tunes -- If You Don't Feel It, Doing Nothing, Punch My Teeth Out, Metatron One, Bom, World Champion, Ons Is Hier -- and here are my favorite non-musical links: Merry Xmas Emily, artwork from The Ziggurat (an ostentatious reminder of the fact that Ninja has the world's most beautiful handwriting), vintage email from Die Antwoord.
posted by divined by radio at 7:10 AM on November 13, 2014 [5 favorites]

So, I was torn about the group when they first hit it big in 2010 (at least in the US, when their debut album was re-released, and they performed at Coachella). Some of their music was fun, but they seemed like they were just trying to be hyper-weird to stand out. I saw them perform in character, and I felt it was all just a bunch of kooky characters playing some kooky-fun music. But this back-history really puts them in context, and I am truly impressed by their dedication and scope. Thanks so much for this post!
posted by filthy light thief at 8:14 AM on November 13, 2014

Every post on Die Antwoord on the blue has intrigued me in some way. The videos (that I've watched) are very creative, and the music typically pushes me out of my comfort zone. So I'm not sure if it reinforces my feelings or changes them to hear that Ninja is Pure Evil, according to people on the set of Chappie.
posted by Metro Gnome at 12:45 PM on November 13, 2014

South Africa is fookin' weird country and it's was no surprise that one of the best sf films of recent years is set there nor one of most interesting musical acts came from there.
posted by fearfulsymmetry at 1:33 PM on November 13, 2014

I've got nothing of value to say, but thank you for this collection of information.
posted by Nelson at 3:18 PM on November 15, 2014

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