from the Kenny Dennis LP, out June 25, 2013.
You don’t want to mess with Kenny Dennis. Even at the age of 50, the bratwurst downing, Brian Dennehy-worshipping rapper can run a mile in 4:14. The KDz remains the most feared slugger on the softball diamond. And he can still take Nitro from American Gladiators on in a game of Powerball. That’s just Kenny.
This is the Kenny Dennis LP, the sequel to last year’s self-titled EP. Released on Anticon, it furthers Serengeti’s hilarious, absurdist, and subtly humane saga of a Chicago-born man with a Mike Ditka mustache, whose lovable delusions and diehard loyalty fall somewhere between Homer Simpson and a Bill Swerski Superfan.
“Kenny’s just telling current stories,” Serengeti says about his alter ego. “He wants to give people a heads up and offer some life advice. ‘Hey listen up to me, I’m wise.’ He’s getting more confident, even though he always was confident.”
If you’re just tuning into the chronicles of Kenny, there are a few things you need to know. First off: Kenny Dennis was once in Tha Grimm Teachaz during the Golden Age of the early 90s. Signed to Jive, the Teachaz learned record industry rule #4,080 and were dropped from the label, but not before Kenny feuded with Shaquille O’ Neal, who was performing with the Fu-Schnickens during the 1993 Jive Records Showcase in Philadelphia. Shaq mocked Kenny’s stache. This was a grave error.
Kenny returned with a vengeance on 2006’s cult classic Dennehy,. Since then, the character created by David Cohn has re-appeared on Conversations with Kenny and the “original never-released” Grimm Teachaz Record, There’s a Situation on the Homefront. But the KDz really hit his stride as an MC on last year’s eponymous EP, which Pitchfork raved as being “half Prince Paul, half-Waiting for Guffman.“
Lest you mistake Serengeti for a joke artist, 2011’s Family & Friends and 2012’s C.A.R. found the prolific Chicagoan writing some of the most self-deprecating and sorrowful looks at addiction and image transformation in recent memory. He’s collaborated with celebrated underground artists like Sufjan Stevens, Matthewdavid, and Yoni Wolf of Why? Robert Christgau, the dean of American music critics, has given all but one of his records “A” scores and openly wondered: “Is there anyone else who can do this?”
But there’s only one Kenny Dennis and he’s back to give you some direction—straight up, no O’ Doul’s chaser. The Kenny Dennis LP is full of jewels of wisdom, the tender love story Kenny and his wife Jueles, and the longtime friendship between Kenny and Ders (Anders Holm from Workaholics, a Kenny fan who appears in four skits). The beats come from Odd Nosdam and cast a similarly bizarro re-working of boom-bap, blending rugged beat breaks, sci-fi synths, and scratches courtesy of Jel.
“Kenny’s rapping the only way that he knows how. He’s not really current with what’s happening in the game. This is his take on rap and everything that influences him on his day-to-day life schedule,” Serengeti says. “He’s a man rapping because he loves to rap and he cares for people, wants to spread wisdom. He’s not preaching; he’s just calling it the way he sees it.
Kenny Dennis might be “normal,” but Serengeti’s creativity is unrivaled. As bizarre as it is brilliant, it’s like the deranged comic vision of an imaginary super group comprised of Andy Kauffman, Mellow Gold-era Beck, and MF Doom.
The raps on The Kenny Dennis LP are stream-of-consciousness rants about how if you “like it, you bang ‘em,” (“Bang Em”), which Kenny translates into a metaphor about how you got to get up and do something. He also denies being a vegan. “Punks” finds him mumbling disses aimed at everyone from imaginary rivals to professional wrestler, Leaping Lanny Poffo. “Crush ‘Em” finds Kenny breaking down the inventions of the English (boxing, tennis golf) vs. those of Americans (football, beef, leg stockings).
Interspersed with the songs is the narrative between Kenny and Ders, who he met around 1988 at the Sharper Image on Michigan Ave. While futilely attempting to return a non-fogging shaving mirror, Kenny noticed the young Ders and generously bestowed him with a shower radio (“a good piece of merchandise.”) It traces the relationship to Kenny’s 50th birthday at the Ruth’s Chris Steakhouse in California, full of celebrity guests and sinister Shaquille O’ Neal fans.
This is Kenny as he stands today. 50 years old. Still furious and even funnier. The best friend you ever had, so long as you don’t wear a Shaq jersey in his vicinity.