Songs We Love: Siimba Liives Long, 'W.I.A.' Delivered over a Brazilian jazz-funk sample, the Ethiopian-American rapper's quizzical style is Native Tongues-meets-Dr. Seuss, esoteric yet accessible
NPR logo

01W.I.A.

  • <iframe src="https://www.npr.org/player/embed/462036298/462082612" width="100%" height="290" frameborder="0" scrolling="no" title="NPR embedded audio player">
Songs We Love: Siimba Liives Long, 'W.I.A.'

Songs We Love: Siimba Liives Long, 'W.I.A.'

01W.I.A.

  • <iframe src="https://www.npr.org/player/embed/462036298/462082612" width="100%" height="290" frameborder="0" scrolling="no" title="NPR embedded audio player">

Siimba Liives Long courtesy of the artist hide caption

toggle caption
courtesy of the artist

Siimba Liives Long

courtesy of the artist

Siimba Liives Long, "W.I.A." courtesy of the artist hide caption

toggle caption
courtesy of the artist

The first time we saw "African-American" rapper Siimba Liives Long he was splitting time between spitting bars in Ethiopia, walking with lions in South Africa and eating fire in Brooklyn, New York in his video for "Cocaine Bimbie." It wasn't all gimmicks; Siimba was born to Ethiopian parents in New York, and split his childhood between Ethiopia, New York, New Jersey and Washington, D.C. (which is home to more Ethiopians than anywhere else in the world, save for Addis Ababa). The song featured a serpentine horn, rhymes about rhymes, musings on life, and a declaration that there'd be more of this intercontinental flash: "You gon' see my side of the story," he promised.

Siimba's latest offering, "W.I.A." continues his globetrotting vision with a sample of Brazilian jazz-funk trio Azymuth's "Manhã," while dropping whimsical philosophy: "It's in my jeans/ Know your denim/ Some people try to rock it, but the clothes don't fit 'em," begins the song's two-part hook. It's all very Native Tongues-y and a bit Seussian, in the best ways possible. Siimba's ideas require a bit of cracking, but everything remains accessible. His rhymes are sportive yet serious, playing equal parts esoteric and quizzical. He raps: "Some people in this game for their love of the checks/ Some people in this game for the love or respect/ Some people in the game for the love of the sex that be having with women that's in love with success/ But, me, I want it all, hoe/ The money, women, shine—I need all those." It's otherworldly but earthly, aware but not self-righteous. Siimba has his feet in many lands, but it all comes home here.

Siimba Liives Long's mixtape Zemenays Gemiinii is out in February on Soundcloud.