South Africa's Die Antwoord blew up last year thanks to a viral video for their song"Enter the Ninja" - not to mention their freakish looks, including frontman Ninja's lean, heavily-tatted torso and singer Yo-Landi Vi$$er's punk waifishness.
In one short year, the trio (which also includes DJ Hi-Tek) have become pop stars, with a major label deal at Interscope, tours with M.I.A. and controversial, crazily NSFW videos for tracks like "Evil Boy" (watch below). With their debut album $0$ out this week and the group in the middle of their own U.S. trek, SPIN.com caught up with Ninja to talk about his impressions of American culture, the trio's phallic-saturated video, and why he wants Die Antwoord (South African for "The Answer") to be bigger than Mickey Mouse.
You've only performed in the States a handful of times. What are your impressions of the country?
The food's really nice. People, they explain things really well. Like, in Europe, they don't explain things that good. And the food's not that good. But we like the food here.
What sort of food do you like?
The Veggie Grill in Los Angeles. I had this hamburger, and I didn't know it was vegetarian until I tasted it and I've become, like, addicted to it. They open at 11 and I had to wait this morning and I was getting a bit shaky waiting for them to open. I get the cheese one, not the normal one. And you get caramelized onion and it's pretty much my favorite thing in the world.
What American hip-hop have you've been getting into lately?
Well, we're making a short form movie with [Kids writer] Harmony Korine and he started playing me Lil Boosie's video "We Out Chea." It's pretty fuckin'....I've never seen something like that. They all look cooked in the video. It looks like there's something wrong with all their eyes and Harmony told me they all drank cough medicine.
Any American slang that you've picked up on?
"I get it." Yeah, "I get it." Americans like to "get" everything. They say that quite a lot. Even times when they don't get it, they still say, "I get it."
Your video for "Evil Boy" has sparked controversy for heavy phallic imagery and guest rapper Wanga shouting about how he's not gay. (Watch the video below.) What's the back-story on that?
He caused a stir because his verse is about African tribal circumcision. He's under pressure because he's from the ghetto and he had to go to the bush to get circumcised to become a man. [In their culture], you get your penis circumcised with a kitchen knife. No anesthetic, no painkiller. He was supposed to go and we said "maybe you shouldn't go because that sounds really fuckin' dumb" and then we made up the chorus [for "Evil Boy"] together and he kicked that verse. The [tribal members] are like unbelievably homophobic. They're heavy anti-gay. He thought it was quite funny that these grown men want to touch the penis and he said "Don't touch my penis / I'm not a gay." That's very taunting to say to them.
WATCH: Die Antwoord, "Evil Boy" [Interview continues below video]
And what about your and Yo-Landi's verses?
I'm rapping about finding boobs and stuff. And black magic and like stealing money. Yo-Landi raps about hitting on a guy. She used to hit on guys, flirt with them and then just pickpocket them. That's why we call her Rich Bitch. She had so much money. She's flirting with different guys and just robbing them.
Is that how you two met?
That's how I met her. She took a hundred fuckin' bucks. I nearly hit her. Then she said sorry and she bought me a little toy. I said if she hits me again I'd fucking hit her.
Does she still try to steal from you?
She steals sometimes.I don't care anymore. I've got other things.
What'd you guys do with the elaborate set design and the props?
Those props - they're not even props. They're sculptures. I'm sad about that. It's an emotional point. They're in a storage room. They're the most beautiful things in the world. We built this whole stage, with penis trees and an Evil Boy sculpture and the DJ box - it was the best. I want to tour with it. But it's too much. We have to be on the level of U2 and "Lemon." We're still babies.
Think you'll eventually get there?
Damn right. We like super pop music. We like fuckin' pop. We want to be fuckin' bigger than Mickey Mouse.
Can Yo-Landi really sing that high? Or is her voice pitch-shifted?
I hate pitch-shifting. That's Yo-Landi's voice. She's releasing an album, after our next one, which is out in March or May. Then the third album is Yo-Landi's solo album. It's called The Voice and it's based on the question you just asked. It's dropping at the same time as my solo album Ninja Dominator. We're releasing at the same time to see who sells more.
Who do you think will win?
Probably Yo-Landi. Because she's better looking than me.
How far along are you with the next record, Tension?
We're deep into it. I can't divulge one element. I've cut my finger talking about Harmony [Korine]. We have [a big-name collaborator] for Tension. I can't even say who it is. It's like the best thing ever. The album is the most freak-mode exciting thing ever.