Ninja, one half of the influential rave-rap act Die Antwoord, is none too pleased that from across the restaurant at the Chateau Marmont in Los Angeles, Quentin Tarantino has cranked up the stereo, blasting Sarah Vaughan’s voice. “Can you not listen to that man and turn the music down,” he says to the waiter in a snarling, Afrikaans-inflected stage whisper. “Oh, yeah,” says Yolandi Visser, the shyer of the two. “Thank you,” she adds, as the waiter shuffles over to the stereo.
A few moments later, Tarantino stands, unsheathes an LP and drops the needle on side two of Rod Stewart’s “Every Picture Tells a Story,” then raises his glass to Ninja and Visser in a facetious toast — but they already have their backs to him and, tellingly, the volume is significantly lower.
Engaging in this sort of D.J. battle with an Oscar winner requires either the confidence of an L.A. insider or the carelessness of an interloper. Ninja, 42, and Visser, 32, the duo that pioneered Zef culture — South Africa’s response to America’s so-called white trash — are a bit of both. With matching mullets and meth-chic attire, the seemingly out-of-place pair is also oddly at home.
Accents notwithstanding, Ninja and Visser — who formed Die Antwoord in Cape Town in 2008, and now live between L.A. and Johannesburg — could at times be mistaken for native Angelenos, whether dissecting the menu’s vegetarian options (settling on avocado tartines), or recalling coffee at the home of David Lynch, who, for a while, was their neighbor in the hills above the Hollywood Bowl. The duo’s 10-year-old daughter, Sixteen, chose the house for them. (They co-parent but ended their romantic relationship some time ago.)
Die Antwoord exploded on the music scene in 2010 when videos for two songs from their debut album, “$O$,” became viral sensations. Interscope quickly signed them to a $10-million deal. Things didn’t go well. The label’s executives pushed them to record a follow-up heavy on collaborations and guest appearances. “Lady Gaga, the Black Eyed Peas and Far East Movement,” Ninja says. “And we were like, ‘Who? And no!’”