Being a Black man in the world is not an easy task. Even when having the darkest of skin doesn’t make you the minority, it doesn’t make life any easier. Skat Nati, an Ethiopian rapper who rose to stardom primarily from his massively popular song, “Sira,” makes this fact of life even clearer to those who are listening and watching. The song is not one that paints a bleak picture of his life as an Ethiopian. As a matter of fact, the song alongside the lyrics are quite inspiring.
The song, which is in Amharic, opens with, “To get things better, to fight the cloud, you’ve a shining mission. Key to success, always work.” The hook of the song repeats the words “work” and “play,” two sides of the work/personal life spectrum that, in the music video, he seems to be indulging in. The video, although not overly flashy in typical rap music fashion, focuses on reaping the rewards of years of dedication.
Perhaps if Nati was not an Ethiopian man, but instead, a white man born in California, a music video about hard work would seem generally devoid of any social or political commentary, but Nati is not a white man from California, he’s a Black man from Ethiopia. His success as a Black man is, on its own, a statement to the oppressors of Africans and African Americans because rap has indeed become global art. The plights of Nati are, to a certain extent, invariably the plights of African Americans from Queens or Los Angeles. As the video progresses, Nati practices martial arts, figuratively and physically fighting his doubters. As scenes of him working out pass by the screen, he addresses the very cruelties he’s encouraging his viewers to overcome, “Even if the world is cruel, get out and work.”
While the ingredients of a typical rap music video are present in “Sira,” with fast cars and flashy suits; every suit, every drink, every piece of jewelry, and every punch he throws represents Black excellence, and that’s a message that oppressors can’t erase, no matter how hard they try.