Robert Christgau: Dean of American Rock Critics

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Consumer Guide by Review Date: 2012-04-03


Serengeti: The Kenny Dennis EP (Anticon EP, 2012) A surprise comeback EP from the long-silent Grimm Teachaz crew may be for Kenny Dennis fans only, but he deserves more of them. Who knew from the likes of "Dennehy" that this superfan could speed-rap like on "Flat Pop"--and also, who knows what he's saying when he does? Kenny never falters as he disses Shaquille O'Neal, goes to bat for shamed Cub fan Steve Bartman, and packs a Ruger as he smacks down a loud kid, helps a stranded motorist, and tears up his parking tickets. The beats are as basic as in classic Teachaz, only modernized with extra effects, and the rhyming remains prime: "I'm Charles Bronson, I'm from Wisconsin/Chicken MCs call 'em Swanson/They get grilled up like a porkchop/Catch 'em on the street right in front of their bus stop." A-

s/s/s: Beak & Claw (Anticon EP, 2012) Serengeti has long been fascinated by the upper-middle class arty-farties David Brooks once tried to lampoon as "bobos." But though he's always been wittier and smarter about bourgeois bohemians than Brooks, collaborators like Tony Trimm and Polyphonic have seldom provided the eclectrobeats his jokes and ideas deserved. This one-off EP with singer-songwriter cum symphonist Sufjan Stevens and semiclassical drum'n'bassmaker Son Lux is different, because the primary function of his raps is to ground the beautiful musics his collaborators contribute. Stevens's Auto-Tuned apostrophe, Shara Worden's soprano harmonies, the layered chorus hooks and electro-percussion--all would float into the arty-farty ether without Serengeti stumbling through his fictional misunderstood life, and that confluence is the point. Croons Stevens: "If I could figure out what it was all about." Repeats Serengeti: "I had the world figured out beyond any doubt." Both are lost--but touchingly and even nobly. A-

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