Die Antwoord used us

Explosive claims have been made that Die Antwoord exploited other artists’ culture and work to create their famous brand, reports Charl Blignaut.

‘Waddy Jones shattered the boys’ lives,” says Cape Town farmer Andre Laubscher. We’re looking out across his rustic smallholding on the slopes of Tamboerskloof in the city.

It was here that Laubscher offered a home to four boys from the Cape ganglands – Wanga Jack, Mzamo Mzi, Aviwe Dikiza and Chelvin Engelbrecht. As they grew up, they formed a hip-hop crew called The Glue Gang Boys.

With the consent of their guardians, they found shelter here. Until, says Laubscher, Watkin Tudor Jones, a.k.a. Waddy, started to visit.

At the time, he was known as Max Normal.TV and was dating Anri du Toit, who first started visiting the farm when she was a student living nearby. Today she is known as Yo-Landi and Waddy as Ninja. They are Die Antwoord, internationally famous gangster rappers who reference the language and tattoos of Cape-coloured gang culture.

Jones used the boys to create Ninja, claims Laubscher. One of them says that Jones got him to sign an illegal contract. And, says another artist – Anton Duitsman – Jones used his writing to create the lyrics for tracks on Die Antwoord’s debut album $O$. Duitsman says Jones has acknowledged this, but never paid him a cent.

On the Tamboerskloof plot, Laubscher tells his version of events.

“At some point, I found it absolutely bloody impossible to get the boys out of bed in the morning,” says Laubscher. He would check on them at bed time and find them fast asleep, but in the mornings he would have to beg and threaten to get them up.

“I found out only when it was far too late that Waddy would arrive here in the middle of the night with booze and dope for the boys.”

Two of them are today missing and a third – Jack – is squatting in the grounds, his life a wreck. The “research”, as Laubscher calls it, would go on until just before dawn.

“Waddy Jones sucked the whole of Die Antwoord out of these boys here on this farm,” he says. “And they were vulnerable. They were the children of alcoholics. So to come in here and give them booze and dagga. That’s not on.”

Engelbrecht – one of the original gang of four who, from 2009, would dance at Die Antwoord gigs and appear in their videos as Selwyn – has joined us and nods, confirming the story.

He says Jones brought bottles of hard liquor and bankies of marijuana. Sometimes they would go for trips in the car. At first they were enamoured with Max Normal, a bona fide rapper.

“(Jones) used to come here and talk to us, about our past, and where we come from. I’ve been to prison twice, and in prison you learn this language and there are these chappies (tattoos). And he was obviously looking for this kind of image for himself … When I saw him again, he was full of tattoos.”

The Glue Gang Boys were Jones’ backing dancers. They earned R100 for a gig. As they began to perform, Die Antwoord also featured a range of rappers from Mitchells Plain. Some of these – like Isaac Mutant – today deny they were exploited. Mutant told City Press the exposure was invaluable and later when he recorded a track with Die Antwoord he was handsomely paid.

Jack has a different story though.

“Waddy was a total control freak. If you messed up a move, he bit your head off. I realised this is going to turn out bad. So I pulled out,” says Engelbrecht. “But with Wanga, it went on and on.”

“Go wake him and ask about this here,” barks Laubscher, pointing to the farm wall. “I’ve been scrubbing at it and I can’t get it off.” It’s the famous Evil Boy graffiti – a depiction of Casper the Friendly Ghost with a huge erection.

“It’s my drawing. He stole it from me. “And other drawings. That one he later had turned into a toy. He never even told me.” Wanga Jack – once briefly famous as Evil Boy – is sniffing and blinking in the morning sun.

Die Antwoord Evil Boy toy. Picture: Die Antwoord Official Store

It’s true Die Antwoord announced the production of Evil Boy toys on their website, but City Press has not been able to verify how many have been produced – nor any of Jack’s other claims. Questions sent to their agents and to Jones himself went unanswered.

Jack’s claims are fairly damaging. “First we were dancers for him. And then I became a DJ, Junior High Tech. And then suddenly I wrote a song with them.” He says he was paid R100 a gig to do this and after complaining, R200. “But people were paying R250 just to get into the concert,” he says.

He says he was also the band’s roadie. He says he was paid R750 to record the Xhosa rap Evil Boy and has seen no royalties. He says he was paid a paltry R2 000 for performing in the controversial video of his song Die Antwoord used as a statement against Xhosa initiation.

He was 16 when he met Jones and, more damningly, he says he signed a contract with Interscope, Die Antwoord’s then label. He says he was underage and therefore the contract is illegal. Verifying his birth date with his mother, City Press believes he was 17 at the time he alleges he signed. Eighteen is the legal age.

As for the graffiti that so enraged Laubscher. “We were up here on the farm drinking Jagermeister and we went to paint and they were shooting video … Next thing they put the video online and there was an intro saying ‘Evil Boy coming soon’, before I even did my song.”

It was around this time that Duitsman released a spoof video online – The Matrix SA Style. It puts new words in the mouths of the movie’s characters, many in a coloured-gangster style, most of them very rude.

Duitsman was at a braai when a friend played him a new outfit called Die Antwoord. He was thrilled to hear his lines from the video in their songs. As first reported in Wessel van Rensburg’s blog Mhambi, Duitsman made contact with Jones, who sent an email praising Duitsman’s script.

He even wrote that Duitsman’s spoof video was the inspiration for Die Antwoord.

Although Duitsman has provided City Press with proof that Jones used his lines – and in one case a chunk of his recorded voice – on seven tracks, Jones was happy to inform Duitsman he had been given writing credits on two tracks off $O$.

Despite being shuffled from record company to record company as Die Antwoord signed and broke ties before founding Zef Records, Duitsman has never seen a cent in royalties.

“At first Waddy was full of promises, but when they shot to fame I never heard from them again,” he said.

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