About a month ago, rapper Serengeti completed his Kenny Dennis saga, comprised of eight releases and “Dennehy,” the infamous song that started it all. Serengeti first rapped as Kenny back in 2006, creating a light-hearted single song about a simple guy who enjoys kicking back, watching some Chicago sports, and eating brats. But Serengeti’s inventive personality and own life began shaping this Chicagoan stereotype even more and more, and there are many points in all the releases where it’s clear Kenny isn’t just a character. He is more than that—a way for Serengeti to get through his own life, Dennis 6e being particularly connected to its creator.
After an enjoyable conversation with Serengeti (who’s a down-to-earth, genuine dude named Dave Cohen), it was clear that the depth of Kenny goes beyond speculation. While he may have started as a fun, humorous character, he grew beyond that, a self-prescribed therapy of sorts. Serengeti has done other cathartic music, but it was Kenny that he found to be distinctly freeing.
“I do all these records to get myself out of it,”
referring to his sadness. While he makes the art for everyone to hear, it is first and foremost for him. With Kenny, Cohen shared, he can distance himself from the situations and emotions and make breakthroughs. But as much as he separates his life from Kenny’s, the two never fail to mesh together, informing each other more and more.
In the case of the final album, the intertwined lives both have closure. When I asked Cohen about how he feels now that the last chapter has been told, his response was of contentedness and acceptance:
“Now I see the whole thing for what it is.”
He’s happy with what he created in all its intricate, detail-oriented, emotionally-driven, funny glory—and more than that, its creation seems to have had a lasting effect on his well being.
So what’s next for Serengeti? He may be retiring Kenny Dennis but he’s certainly not slowing down—it’s not in his nature (he’s released nearly thirty albums and over ten EPs since 2003, damn). But he is approaching music in a different way than he has during his productive career, focusing more on short, physical releases. He’s also completed a full-length script for a Kenny Dennis movie, telling the stories the music did in a more literal way and filling in the gaps. He explained to me the desire of making the movie came from the distinction of what each means of storytelling does—the music told it in an impressionistic way, but he wants the movie to be more literal—
“really clear and really funny and also sort of sad.”
Serengeti will be performing at The Empty Bottle on October 11, in support of Air Credits and Sims. You can follow his many endeavors on his Instagram and Twitter under the handle of @serengetidave.