David “Serengeti” Cohn is a workhorse, the 12th man off the bench who may not always get the spotlight he deserves but will give every ounce of effort when his number is called. In the ten plus years he’s been active he’s released 20 full lengths at an average clip of about two per year – each one as bold and ambitious as the other.
This year was no different as he laid down two of his best in Saal and the Kenny Dennis LP. Both projects are miles apart stylistically, yet reflect his narrative style to a ‘t’ – Saal with its melancholy and muted optimism, and the Kenny Dennis LP with its hilarious, off-the-wall rants. Despite the differences there is a constant theme running through both: that life is equals parts bountiful and destitute, songs like “Day by Day” capturing the best of both emotions: [LISTEN]
“Saal was a great time,” explains Serengeti of his first project of 2013. “[I] Flew out to Berlin, drove to Bonn with my best buds and let it loose. That was a special week. The more and more I remember it the more I love it, after hours in a theater in a dark town, Tobias and I.”
If the darkest hour is before dawn, Saal is the first few seconds of the sunrise, the blanket of warmth that smothers the cold night away as experience gives way to memory. “Erotic City” is one of many shining stars on the album. The beat – produced by Sicker Man - descends like a storm with the bass and synth serving as thunder and lightning. But as the clouds break layers of strings descend and sprouting melodies suddenly emerge. ‘Geti slowly unthaws and approaches the pulpit full of redemption and hope: [LISTEN]
“I took the midnight bus from Oakland to La,” explains Serengeti when asked what inspired the song. “I was recording in the Bay and hanging out with Dose and took the bus back to my pad in LA. I love that tune, man.” For ‘Geti “Erotic City” and Saal as a whole is the product of years of maturation. It’s a snapshot of his life as an aging lyricist, and all the failures and triumphs that have come with it. His second album of 2013 the Kenny Dennis LP offers the same experience but with a more earthy touch.
Kenny Dennis is a one of a kind character, an iconoclast who lives by a code forged in the trenches of Chicago where rivers of brat juice flow regularly and sports is a religion. On the Kenny Dennis LP we see more pieces of the puzzle fall into place thanks to hilarious skits with Anders Holm and songs like “Crush ‘Em” where stream of conscious ramblings shine lights on Kenny’s driving influences: [LISTEN]
“The stuff is like a waterfall with the KDz,” says ‘Geti about fleshing out the Kenny character. “So writing that stuff is no problem, just turn on a little Dz.”
‘Geti’s nonchalance shouldn’t be misconstrued as laziness. It’s just the result of unwavering dedication. Saal and the Kenny Dennis LP are just two more chapters in the ongoing saga of Serengeti. Some of those tales are laced with tragedy while others are full of hope. It’s the American experience set to a hip-hop beat.
What separates Serengeti from this year’s talented crop of lyricists is his rhetoric. He writes like a writer not like a rapper. And the way in which the drama and comedy unfolds makes him the Shakespeare of rap, and our pick for lyricist of the year.