Max Normal (or, Die Antwoord v.1.0)
Of all the weird bands we’ve blogged about here on TWBITW, the one that’s gotten by far the biggest response so far is Die Antwoord, the South African “zef rap-rave crew” fronted by a scrawny, prison-tatted MC named Ninja and an even scrawnier singer/rapper/fly-girl named Yo-landi Vi$$er. Like a lot of baffled yet undeniably delighted observers, we suspected the whole thing might be a put-on, but there was something so awesome about the group’s outlandish attitude that we decided they were probably for real.
Well, it turns out we were had—sort of. Die Antwoord is actually the latest incarnation of another group called Max Normal, an earlier hip-hop crew which also featured the inimitable Ms. Visser (minus the dollar signs) and a fellow by the name of Waddy Jones, an actor/musician/artist/troublemaker who, before he created the Ninja character, fronted his Max Normal crew in a three-piece suit and (according to a band site that’s been taken down but is still viewable in archive form) performed “motivational speaking style raps” to deliver “high energy hip-hop power point presentation[s].” Quite a far cry from Die Antwoord’s ghetto fabulous approach, although judging from the above publicity photo, both groups do share the same Keith Haring-esque design aesthetic.
Waddy and co. have clearly attempted to cover their tracks: the old MaxNormal.tv website has been taken down and replaced with a deliberately primitive-looking WordPress “advertising blog” [Update: It's now been taken down altogether] ; http://www.waddyjones.com similarly features a very plain-envelope
article directory link farm, which we’re guessing (although we can’t find an archived version) has not always been the case. Even the Max Normal Wikipedia page was just taken down yesterday—ostensibly for copyright infringement. [Update: It's since been restored and gives a very good and seemingly accurate history of the band.]
Not that we’re complaining about any of this. As the rest of the blogosphere has already widely proclaimed, what Jones and his crew are doing is so clever that an added layer of Borat-like chicanery is all just part of the fun. So enjoy this Max Normal video—which, as near as we can tell, is about two years old—and appreciate a.) how fucking versatile these guys are, and b.) how much better they’ve gotten in just a few years. If Waddy Jones doesn’t have his own HBO special by this time next year, we’ll guzzle the juice in this fish paste jar.
[Update: The video we originally posted has since been taken down due to a copyright claim. This one is even older, apparently dating back to 2001.]
[Bonus factoid: the dude in Die Antwoord with progeria has been widely identified as an artist/DJ named Leon
Bartha Botha. Another zef rap-rave mystery solved! (And thanks to reader David for correcting our fucked-up spelling of his name.)]
[Sad update dept.: Botha died on June 5, 2011, of complications from progeria, which among things apparently speeds up the aging process. He was 26 and the oldest known survivor of progeria at the time of his death. We belatedly pour one out for you, Leon.]
- Yo-Landi Visser goes hard in new Die Antwoord video, “Baby’s on Fire”
- Max Normal is all over YouTube
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