Is America ready for Zef-Rap?

Die Antwoord, the South African act that’s the genre’s main—if not only—practitioner has signed with Interscope Records.

The name means The Answer in Afrikaans and the band translates the term Zef-Rap into redneck rap, although it’s pretty tough to decipher exactly what they’re talking about in their often rapid-fire lyrics.

Die Antwoord is another internet success story. If one of your Facebook friends hadn’t posted a Die Antwoord video on your page over the last several months, then it’s time to get cooler friends. The multi-cultural band, led by a character called Ninja, set up a website with its provocative songs and videos and social networking took over. The site, which was streaming the group’s first album $0$ (move over, Ke$ha, you’ve got some competition in the $ department) kept crashing so much as word of the band spread in the U.S., that they finally moved it to a U.S.-based server, according to a story in Reuters. The video for “Enter the Ninja,” which we’ve embedded below, has been viewed nearly 4 million times since January.

Here’s the question: is it a smart business move for Interscope- home of Lady GaGa, Eminem and No Doubt--to sign a group that has much more of an indie aesthetic than a mainstream one? It depends upon what the label’s intent is.

Die Antwoord is a press-driven band. All the hipsters are gravitating toward them, especially after their U.S. debut at Coachella in April.  If you’re the publicist for Die Antwoord, your job is easy. You don’t have to sell them, you just get to pick among the requests and say yes or no.

However, if you’re trying to get them on the radio, it’s a bit more of a different story.  For some, Die Antwoort is nothing more than a novelty. On “Enter the Ninja,” the juxtaposition of Ninja’s in-your face rapping with blonde, sexed-up school girl Yo-Landi Vi$$er’s little kid sing-song is either innovative or off-puttingly precious, depending upon what side of the fence you come down on.

On the sales side, we don’t see anything yet that resonates as more than a flash in the pan, but you never know. Still, we don’t see this taking off despite the YouTube play. Hey, people will play a video of  a piano-playing cat 12 million times, but it doesn’t mean they’ll pay for it.

Interscope likes bands with an edge among its roster and it likes bands that, quite frankly, like TV on the Radio, might fare better on an indie label. But the label also has an eye for capturing a moment in time and running with it. We don’t know who signed Die Antwoord, but we imagine it’s Martin Kierszenbaum, who’s a great A&R guy, whose also willing to take chances. LadyGaGa is on his imprint and he also signed Russian girl singers Tatu, whom, like or hate them, had their short-lived moment in the sun.

To be sure, Die Antwoord is ready for its close up.  Just don’t be surprised if it only lasts 15 minutes. “$0$” has been pulled from its website in preparation for an amended version’s release on Interscope. Below is the short video that Die Antwoord released to announce its signing with the label.