Serengeti’s Alter Ego Loves O’Douls, Hates O’Neal

Photo: Chloe Aftel

In David Cohn’s fantasy world, he is Kenny “KDz” Dennis, a Chicago rapper who loves O’Douls and chicken wings, idolizes character actor Brian Dennehy of Tommy Boy and Rambo: First Blood fame, and nurses a grudge with Shaquille O’Neal for clowning his thick, Burt-Reynolds-style mustache. In real life, he is Serengeti, an underground artist who has quietly assembled an impressive catalog of incisive character sketches and leftfield hip hop. Launching his career with 2002’s Dirty Flamingo, he recorded in virtual obscurity for years until indie label Anticon Records signed him to a deal in 2008. His subsequent releases, including 2011’s Family & Friends, have made him something of a critic’s darling and his quirky vignettes of marginal, slightly depressive figures have brought increasing acclaim. Take, for example, “The Whip,” a biography of disgraced MMA wrestler Gary “The Whip” Warsh, and “Long Ears,” a tale of a rap star and his son who bond by doing heroin together.

Cohn has released two projects this year. The Kenny Dennis EP revisits his alter ego, a former member of fake ’90s hip hop group Tha Grimm Teachaz (who dropped the Onyx-styled There’s a Situation on the Homefront in 2010). The highlight is “Shazam,” where Dennis fires back at Shaq-Fu with lines like “As far as acting go, I’m Marlon Brando/ Don’t make the Dz set up shop in Orlando!” Cohn’s new album as Serengeti, C.A.R., is alternately more sardonic and tragic, as he turns his poison pen on himself with songs like “Amnesia” and “Uncle Traum,” the latter on which he describes a near-death experience. C.A.R. is produced by Anticon co-founders Jel and Odd Nosdam; a companion album, C.A.B., is due out in the fall.

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