Die Antwoord/Shangaan Electro
The Varieties of South African Electro
Die Antwoord: $0$ (Cherrytree/Interscope)
As with so many electrohop beats, Die Antwoord's are short on texture and rhythmic subtlety‑-it's clear this DJ Hi-Tek isn't the African-American one well before his backstory leaks out. So I might have figured their album for a worthy curiosity if I hadn't seen their show, found the video that began it with a big bang, and located their lyrics online. Yet as mere listening the best songs here‑-especially "Fish Paste" and the signature "Enter the Ninja"‑-convey the disturbing comic character Watkin Tudor "Waddy" Jones has created: Ninja, an Afrikaner ex-con who's remade himself in the misconstrued image of an American rapper. Ninja's not a gangsta‑-he does drugs but lacks the organizational skill to deal them, and though he'll knock your lights out if you touch him and is given to sadistic sex fantasies, he doesn't mention guns once. But freed to express his "inner coloured," he bellows and sweats prideful ressentiment‑-he just knows everyone's jealous because he's "on the interweb." His child-voiced consort Yo-landi Vi$$er backs him up so obscenely that it takes a while to realize that she's both the secret of the music and the rich-bitch top dog in a bottom-feeding power couple. Guttural, English-infected Afrikaans is the perfect language for this brutal fantasy. But the tell comes when Ninja breaks into Zulu in a song celebrating the size of his penis, and Yo-landi handcuffs him to the bed so she can steal his money. A MINUS
Shangaan Electro: New Wave Dance Music From South Africa (Honest Jons)
In a capital city in northwestern South Africa a producer known as Nozinja‑-which in Xitsonga means "dog," which may signify top dog and may not‑-creates indigenous pop out of next to nothing. Just keyboards is my best guess, revved in tempo and pitch so the occasional chipmunk effects fit right in. Unrevved are the voices, South African baritones and contraltos going on about endless love and rabbit stew as if this was still mbaqanga. The tweedly gestalt will grate at first unless tweedles are your idea of postmodern fun. But before too long the voices assert themselves in the mix, naturalizing those tweedles with a confidence that's my idea of postmodern fun. A MINUS
One of the top selections on your recent Dean's List was Tom Ze, who I hadn't run across yet, but now will. Funny, when I asked my wife if she'd heard of him she said of course. She is Brazilian though, so no shocker there. If I can just let go this Chappellian fixation on the electric guitar.
Random opinion sought fostered by the spare moments I've finally roped together to sit back and enjoy a choice, modestly hinted holiday gift. This SKU being the latest reissue of one of your most prominent early declarations of genius, Exile on Main Street. A whole disc of outtakes is included: unearthed, dusted off, and shined up by Sir Mick for the delectation of 30-40something disposable income types.
I've only really had the chance to play snippets of the new stuff so far, but this evening, as the whole thing unfolds before me while I undistractedly imbibe it, it strikes me that there are some pretty good tracks. Some we haven't heard before like Plundered My Soul, others proto versions of familiar nuggets like Soul Survivor. I realize there's too much exciting stuff coming out today to merit much time spent poking around in a closet, but still, what a house that closet resides in!
I admit to listening to The ArchAndroid only once, so my thoughts on the album are not necessarily fair, but based on that listen, it sounded like an unfocused, pretentious mess. Plus, I'm not a music critic so I see no need to return to the album again. I do like Tightrope, though.
My prediction that Johnny Cash would be top 5 was close. #6. Damn.
Happy to see The Roots at #1, although I was actually surprised that Tom Ze didn't assume that position. But of course, there's very little wrong with How I Got Over. It's a choice that I applaud.
For me, this was always Kanye's year but it's good to see him in your top ten. Very happy to see Allo Darlin' amongst the highest A- albums as well. Definitely my favorite out of those albums.
Great list，you really made my day~
DFTMWTD topping the list somehow reminds me of fannypack’s Hey Mami in 2005
and I saw Teenage Dream and Ridin' Solo as guilty pleasures。
Plus Im glad that kanye west’s dull prog-trip hop-“opera” didnt make the singles list
Especially sweet are the six free downloads (Minaj/"Scotty", Lil Wayne, Diplo, Girl Talk, 2 Das Racists) Would also point out that several other picks are 5 bucks on amazon. Good for us, lousy for the labels.
Dear Xgau, I noticed two (2) albums that you had given full "A"' grades to were missing from your 2010 A-list. Can you explain why Rachid Taha's Diwan 2 and Etoile de Dakar's Once Upon a Time in Senegal were missing from the Dean's List? Thanks!
I'm keen to hear the Go4 and maybe the Polly. Wire also came out with a new one recently that sounds pretty good on first listen - I hear bits of all of their incarnations in there.
I am laying back on Gof4 and Polly. I really liked the first Baseball Project and the EP, though, so I'll hop right on those. Thanks for the heads-up!
Phil, you must not teach high school...or at least not public high school. I'd never get away with Die Antwoord here in the buckle of the Bible belt. Ms. Yo-landi is growing on me, though...her voice, I mean. I still can't understand half of the words she raps.
Personal to fellow obsessives on the troll for new stuff: Was just over at the Yep Roc site listening to excerpts from the upcoming Gang of Four release, Content. Too soon to tell about the songs, especially not in 30 sec. clips, but their sound has held up amazingly well. I also got to hear clips from The Baseball Project, Vol. 2: High and Inside, out in March. Yay. Finally, based only on the two songs currently available on her website, P.J. Harvey's Let England Shake takes a stab at world-historical pop. The girl do aim high...
about the blogger
Starting in 1967, Robert Christgau has covered popular music for The Village Voice, Esquire, Blender, Playboy, Rolling Stone, and many other publications. He teaches in New York University's Clive Davis Department of Recorded Music, maintains a comprehensive website at robertchristgau.com, and has published five books based on his journalism. He has written for MSN Music since 2006.
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