When I was about nineteen, I came across an album in a record store, and got it because I liked the way it looked. It was an 88-page hardcover comic book with CDs inside the front and back covers. It looked like this:
I took it home and listened to it and it blew my mind. It had a message of social change....
"'Scuse me, I'm talking to you ma'am. Aren't you sick
of the non-biodegradable, readily available products you're
consuming? And while I'm asking this I'm also kinda like assuming,
y'know, that every cultural revolution is sparked by an art
....and called on the individual to save the world....
"We have been sent to Earth during this dark hour
to help free the humans from the evil forces that are presently controlling them
Differentiate the holy men From the phoney men
Only then will you see the patterns in the pandemonium.
Don't pretend it's all just gonna go away, we here
to motivate, don't be late, coz you hold the fate of the planet in
the palm of your hand."
....each in his own unique way....
"Make very clear distinctions between parasites and
creators. Be a creator instead of a second-hand artificial flavour. Do not concern yourself with anyone's opinions of your methods Save your own"
....and had whimsical, science-fiction fables....
"You're travelling through an indefinite darkness, absorbed by the gentle sentimental hum of your starship There's always a lot of uncommon phenomena up on your monitor All of a sudden a beautiful shot of Andromeda pops up, check it out."
....like this delightful bedtime story, worthy of Roald Dahl....
....and this incredible story of High Magushood, showing serious spiritual wisdom in more ways than I can list, so listen close....
....but then, when you're thinking how beautiful and poignant and inspirational it is, it throws out a line like...
"Me and my sister got this funny habit Of getting busy like bunny rabbits She's got the cutest little titties, the tightest little butt you ever felt."
...and the sickest burn I've ever heard in rap...
"I don't even need to hear you rap
I can tell you're crap
By your stupid mannerisms
You're the type of bitch that I used to fuck in prison.
What? Sorry. Was it, like, something I said?
It's so very easy to fuck with your head."
...shocking you in the middle of inspiring you...
"Coz I'm on that African experimental gentle trip Cruise with the elements Always keep it relevant Meddle with your head a bit Just for the hell of it."
That album became a source of energy to me, the way On The Road might be to a young guy that age, and easily my favourite album. It is called The Ziggurat and is by a South African outfit called The Constructus Corporation. The version I had (which I've lost) was one of a limited edition run of 1000, and was numbered on the inside cover. It's probably worth some money if I ever find it in my parents' attic.
It is a concept album, telling the story of Random Boy and Kidtronic, two kids living in a corporate-controlled arcology in the future, playing around with virtual reality and subverting authority:
The Constructus Corporation only made that one album, but two of the artists involved, Watkin Tudor Jones and Yolandi Visser, kept making music together with other groups, Yolandi doing the visual art, and Waddy being the "cool stuff sayer". One project was called Fucknrad, and one called MaxNormal.tv, which were equally brilliant. We keep seeing the themes of freshness:
"Stop looking at me funny Look at yourself You look stupid Because you look like everyone else I'm so so fresh Like the long-life soya milk up on my shelf, Indestructible pop terrorist"
"You can't even think of a single fresh idea on your
own Look around, see what's hot, bite, Regurgitate. Blurgh! Coz all
your stupid fans eat vomit Joy rider, slip-slide shiny on the outside
Siff on the inside Now look at you, long time expired on the shelf
Why should I help you to lie to yourself? When your enshrine
mediocrity, think sloppily Never do anything properly, copy me"
....and the whimsical alternate realities....
"Back-to-front bum demon! Run! He's got a bum for a face and a mouth for a bum!"
....and motivation. In particular, there is a 'motivational speech' which appears on The Ziggurat as A Thousand Miles, on The Fantastic Kill as World Champion, and on Good Morning South Africa as Love Is.... I often listen to this to pump myself up.
Potty humour is still present....
Funky rhymes - I got a dark selection bottled, ready to start like my fart collection"
"I'm serious but I also need a bit of fun
So Ninja likes the girls who let him stick his penis up their bum"
Similar to Crowley, Zappa, or James Joyce, Waddy Jones hits all our buttons: making us think, scandalizing us, being poignant, and then making a fart joke. This puts some people off, but fuck serious culture and fuck serious people. Waddy doesn't say stupid things because he's incapable of being smart. He is capable of being both smart and stupid, which is a broader range of capabilities than the serious-culture intellectuals.
Swiss is a good example of their range. It has lyrics about the veils of the soul, and lyrics about snot.
Rap-rave Megamix by MaxNormal.tv (which is the same song as Beat Boy and Orinoco Ninja by Die Antwoord) pushes disgust to the extreme. In the same way you become stronger when you deliberately face down very scary things, this work faces down very disgusting things to test the mettle of the artist and the listener. The idea is the same as Crowley's poem Leah Sublime.
As the years go on, we see a new theme creeping into Waddy Jones's lyrics. Whereas The Ziggurat has an anti-consumerist message, talking about celebrity over wrong-sounding beats in Ooh Lala, and dropping lyrics like....
"I'm kak-serious, bruh I'm not as needy as you I just need food, clothes, and shelter Plus a little pocket-money so I don't have to ask for shit And make art for a living til the fat bitch croaks."
"I'm gonna confiscate all your Beemers and your Benzes To feed all the children Yo move out my way This is not just talk, bitch I do what I say"
....in later works Waddy craves success and recognition and money....
"I want a giant concrete fortress in a forest close
to the ocean that leaps up like a crystal explosion frozen in
motion Fuck being a communist stuck in a rut with no possible way out
Nobody knows the trouble I've seen but I'm ok now.
....and he's getting pretty bitter about the lack of commercial success and recognition....
"Supposed to be living that rap fantasy:
chicks and tits and drinks and spliffs and arse and cars and drugs and hugs and love in tha club
Man, painted mansions,
lace panties on my face,
the finest designer vaginas
partying, partying, partying,
but I'm not even
Counting enough change here to buy the toilet paper
To wipe that look off your face
You know how we do
Dreaming 'bout the wealth and the power,
singing to myself in the shower"
The song Total Fuck Up is all about this theme....
....until, finally, in 2009 or so, Waddy & Yolandi hit it big with a band called Die Antwoord....
"Fuck all of you who said I wouldn't make it
Who said I was a loser
Who said I was a no one
They said I was a fucking psycho
But look at me now
All up on the interweb
By 2012, in Hey Sexy, they have turned 180 degrees from wanting to confiscate your Beemers and your Benzes:
"Since we dropped zefside two years ago
Freak every motherfucker who hears my flow
Know how to get the dough, know how to spend the dough
Rocking Alexander Wang from head to toe"
So What is a happy, relaxed, at-peace celebration of having arrived at the shore of success. So's the track after it, Baby's On Fire, and the 2012 stuff in general. Whereas earlier works were about struggling to be great, to be fabulous, in 2012 they confidently assert that they have achieved greatness after years of struggle.
"This is it
A whole lot of blood, sweat, and tears
But it paid off, I finally made it
Here I am, living the dream
And they gloat over anyone who doubted they'd be successful:
"South Africa used to be the dwanky
Didn't notice me
Suddenly you're interested coz we're blowing up overseas
Making money, money, money, yes, yes, yes
Here's So What:
Donker Mag as an album is largely about celebrating Waddy+Yolandi's relationship. It's pretty adorable. Nice to see they celebrate more than just money.
I can see why Die Antwoord are so successful. They invented rap-rave ("yo fuck the rat race, my style is rap-rave"), a cocktail of two things that are both powerful enough to get people jumping, and combine the themes of Waddy & Yolandi's previous projects with mass appeal. I mean, a song like I Fink U Freeky doesn't pull any punches on the creativity, but is designed with mass appeal in mind:
"We drop the type of beats that make you shut the fuck up and dance
We drop the type of beats so good you're fucking stuck in a trance
In the overseas they like to say you're stuck in a trance
We drop the type of beats that make you fucking cum in your pants"
(Not that they weren't always esoteric before; even the Constructus Corporation work has some floor-fillers like Jellyfish. What has changed is the emphasis.)
Here's what triggered this shift to more commercial music:
"I rapped for 20 years, never made a cent
Borrowed money from my mom to pay the rent
Now how'm I gonna get out this mess?
Yolandi shows me two stripes on the fucking piss test
Oh fuck, broke-ass Ninja gonna be a daddy
Little baby Ninja gonna need some nappies
Gave it my best shot, never pressed stop
Thank god Die moederfokken Antwoord went pop"
But it's not a total sell-out. They're still hitting on the same artistic themes as before. Some themes I didn't cover here, like psychic powers and sex, but the most important theme is that we each have the power to create a life in accordance with our artistic vision. Tik Tik Tik explores our power to shape our realities. In it, Yolandi's character leaves her family home and strikes out on her own. What life can she create? We see her take 'option A' at 2 minutes 4 seconds, where she meets a gangster and goes down a bad path. Then at 3 minutes 46 seconds, we rewind the timeline, and see how things would've unfolded when she chooses 'option B', where the gangster tries to talk to her, but she brushes him off, saying, "You smell like a Rastafarian. I don't speak to strangers, plus I'm a vegetarian."
The end of the song sums up the lesson:
"You choose, you lose or you win
Choose your own adventure, option A or option B
Yes yes it's all up to you, so what's it gonna be?
You've only got one life, make sure you choose carefully
When you choose your own adventure - option A or option B
Inquisitive student of life
Or you win"
This theme is expressed over and over again, like in Rap Fantasy:
"Passion and power - the secrets of success.
Passion comes from loving what you do.
Power comes from money.
But with great power comes great responsibility.
Remember: if you conceive and you believe it
You can achieve it"
"Here comes the best bit:
invent your future,
then manifest it.
Keep yourself in check sir, don't forget it,
decide exactly what it is that you want
then go out and get it"
"I seen the future but I never got nothing in my hand
Except a microphone, big dreams, and a plan"
I love this image in Infinite Kif about how we can choose between alternative lives:
"I live on my own, like a dream come true
Who would have thought?
I'm like, "wow, this is incredible!"
All the other mes before me look into the future
With a big glow in the chest give me a round of applause"
One thing that makes Waddy's art so human and humane, though, is that he doesn't gloss over life's difficulties with this optimistic message. The message is that we have personal power in spite of all the bitterness and difficulty and struggle:
"Sometimes it's tough And your mind is stuck And
your time is up And your days are dark And your friends are
few And your rent is due And it all depends on you Don't
Rap Fantasy has plenty of bitterness and difficulty and struggle in it, and Sun on My Face paints an interesting picture of a distressed, mixed-up person who is nevertheless trying to design a new world:
To generate the goal, the aspiration at the end of this creative process, Waddy keeps talking about larger-than-life, often whimsical, heroes, like in The Way of Dassie, or Dangerous Man To Love, or the "no-sperm-losing, master reality clairvoyant metamorphing bloody pussy eater" in Infinite Kif, "Indestructible gangster number one", "a new breed of rap superhero", or the "kid who hasn't lost his powers yet" in You Are OK.
"You're dealing with an alien being communicating through a human body. Fuck the Illuminati, I'm Waddy, a motherfucking one-man army, they can't harm me."
Apart from the hero archetype, Waddy made other characters or personas in his art, like the way Bowie made Ziggy Stardust. There is Ninja, Rick Flare, and Max Normal, a 9-to-5 square who has a mind-opening experience and becomes a rap-prophet; his story is told is in Laf Nag. Waddy's a good mimic, and does a bunch of different voices in his vocals. There's are other fantastical bit-characters mentioned, like Eugene Terror, who I haven't quite figured out.
Waddy and Yolandi are constantly experimenting, trying out new things, in videography, in lyrics, in music, in visual art, trying to keep things "so so fresh, like the long-life soya milk up on my shelf". Check out You Are OK. Dig the way at 2 minutes 41 seconds, he says "DJ fuck cut the rapper up", and this is followed by a DJ cut-up of the rap in the song up to that point. William Burroughs would love everything about this: experimenting with time and form, while creating imaginative worlds filled with dark voodoo entities. It's fucking genius.
(That crazy shit at 1 minute 30 seconds into that track is the most outrageous example of his willingness to press all our buttons.)
Semen retention is another theme that track touches on. Why does he say at the end, "If you're young, dumb, full of cum, they can come and get some. If you're over 21, keep yourself in check son"? That's a reference to the ancient Chinese Classic of The Plain Girl, which says that men shouldn't ejaculate too often ("keep yourself in check"), but also says that up to the age of 21, the male body regenerates semen so quickly that losing it doesn't matter. The old Chinese believed that a man's life-force came from his semen, and that losing semen means losing vitality. (This belief, interestingly, is shared by Nietzsche and Crowley.) Somewhere in that hardcover book of The Ziggurat, Waddy tells us to read The Tao of Sex, Health and Longevity by Daniel Reid. This is a popularization of traditional Chinese methods for controlling sexual energies. This book has clearly been a big influence on Jones.
"All you men that keep losing sperm, what's up with
that yo? I'm on the track, fully stacked, like a thundercat. HOOO!"
"I got so much presence coz I stockpile my essence"
The Taoists believe that women get masculine energy from semen:
"Only a juice boost
From my incredible edible genital protein
Will give her the power to escape these terrible savages"
A huge theme of all Waddy's work is that art, music, rap, images, words, can turn us into new, better people, and that in turn can shape the world. When symbols create a new reality, guided by the will, there is a word for that: magick. In The Ziggurat, we get the sense that good and bad magick are fighting for the collective souls of humanity ("you hold the fate of the planet in the palm of your hand"). In later works, it's less about humanity as a whole, and more about each person as the pilot of their own life, but it's still about hypnosis and counter-hypnosis, or psychological warfare. This magick of images and music can change both our individual lives and the planet...
"Showbiz? Just a bunch of flashy hocus-pocus.
Me? I'm still into good old-fashioned mass hypnosis"
"It's a real-life vibe-manipulator
Rocking our minds like a flight simulator"
"I specialize in mind-science,
The study of human behaviour in relation to the mind"
"Could I interest you in a little shot of neurolinguistic programming?
(Wow this beat is banging!)
Let me not leave you hanging
I got you all feeling very very lively
Bouncing around all bubbly
It might very well be something
I said that's got you all supercharged like this
Bouncing up and down like a bunch of grasshoppers
The one observing the crowd like an anthropologist
From inside this big old megalopolis
Everything I say's designed to make you feel marvellous,
So if you're not feeling this I'm not sure what the problem is."
"Lightning bolts, loop machines, brainwash amazingness
Pop terrorist, destroy all competitors
Dark nemesis, manipulate media"
"Beats banging in my head so I walk with a bump
In my own zone, my sweet reality
Got fuck all to do with your bleak reality"
"The Nazis didn't lose the war, that's a lie
No, no, they didn't lose, They just swapped sides.
Now there a lot more advanced with lot more money to spend
A lot more invisible, just like me.
F.U.C.K. T.H.E. U.S.A. G.O.V.E.R.N.M.E.N.T.
Empty vessels possessed by demons, spineless evil
Wars aren't won on the battlefield, they're won in the minds of the people"
"The mind's tricky, there's a lot of games it can play
Tell me what's wrong, I'll make it OK
Life is a mind fuck, you can sing to the lord
But you just the result of everything you were taught
Very fancy when I do my thing to the drum
Ninja says, 'Everything you think you become'"
It's easy nowadays to feel powerless in the face of a very powerful world order. Waddy's music never gives in to despair or apathy. He provides the motivation, the power, the hope that we can change the world. The reality-tunnel Waddy creates through his art is joyful, playful, sexy, funny, intellectual, sometimes macabre, and always full of hope and strength. Hot Water by The Constructus Corporation talks about sex, rap, and magick:
To finish up, here is a song called Fright Biter. How fucking sweet is the way the beat comes in at 35 seconds?