Okay, so being that I’ve just recently found your music pardon me if I ask about older stuff as much as newer. Dennehy hit me first and hardest but I’ve been researching – after I bought Dennehy from iTunes and absorbed it I began trying to figure out what next. I want it all, but for the benefit of this interview my first impulse was to simply buy your most recent album. That did not prove to be easy, because you have so much going on. There’s the (most recently) Terradactyl and Bells and a Floating World albums with Polyphonic, the newest Serengeti album Conversations with Kenny/Legacy of Lee, your collaboration with new Zealand musician Tony Trimm known as Yoome, which I see now via the Yoome myspace page has disbanded but sounds phenomenal, Friday Night, and now Grimm Teachaz and Saturday Night. Pimp what you want first – what are you most excited about/ concentrating on/working on. If you were to introduce folks to your world and music, where would you start?
Well, with Don’t Give Up, Terradactyl and Bells & and Floating World, Polyphonic and I wrapped up our series. We were attempting to expand rap a bit, stretch out the fingers, to paraphrase son lux. Conversations with Kenny was this story album consisting of two characters “Kenny Dennis” and “Lee Gibbs”, we did that prior to doing the Yoome album, both were recorded at Trimm’s (Tony Trimm) crib. Friday and Saturday Night is another project with Hi Fidel and the Breakfast Kings. It’s a three-part series following the adventures of Dave and Umar. Friday Night takes place over one night and Saturday Night picks up the story seven years later. We recorded the Grimm Teachaz album while recording the Saturday Night. We have plans to do a Sunday Night and another Teachaz album, the one before “Theres a Situation on the Homefront”.
I would start with the Dennehy. Dennehy has been my most popular song – I went on a few tours throughout the nation and many people knew the song, that was surprising. I’m most excited about my next album coming out on Anticon called “family & friends”. I believe it’s very good – it comes out in June. Another project I’m excited about is produced entirely by Jel and Odd Nosdam. It’s perfect, those guys are very skilled. I’m also wrapping up a project with Ryan Graveface and and just started a full length with Advance Base.
One of your songs on Dennehy, “Under the Underground”, by title alone sort of explains your position. Underground is a such a subjective word these days, as obviously the internet changed the music industry’s game so that there isn’t really an underground anymore, there’s a billion of them, with anything claiming to be the actual “Underground” more likely being what the mainstream has absorbed and now advertises as ‘The Underground’. It seems to me this is both an advantage for an artist like you and a disadvantage. Advantage is you can work with many different projects and release them constantly; disadvantage being you don’t have the centralized ‘Indie’ marketing/distribution that the pre-internet underground had. Has this helped you? Hindered you? Do you embrace it or work to overcome it and move into a more comfortable position in the industry? Finally, has Anticon helped?
My problem is I do too much and it all goes off the radar. I hope to change this in my next round. I used to not mind being off the map, now that I’m in my 30’s it all seems so foolish. There’s so much off-the-radar rap you get lost – rap is so easy to record and make beats and “put out”. my feeling is if you do something truly great, it will get recognized. If not, friends of friends, co workers and distant cousins to keep the delusion going. Nothing I’ve done has ever had a solid push, I’m sort of glad though as I know I can do better. I want to make a solid rap album one of these days, hopefully I have with the shit I’ve done over the last year, time will tell.
If you can, tell us what one of the defining moments of Hip Hop or even just music in your experience with it was? A group that ignited the urge to do it yourself, a song, video, concert, anything. What got Serengeti going?
Being really into KMD, 3rd Bass, Kwame, Brand Nubian, de la and such throughout jr high. I used to break a lot in high school, the song can-i-bus by Common featuring Y-Not was the shit that made me write my first rap. Years later MF DOOM really got me obsessed with writing. There are non raps things like Prince, Whitney Houston, Sade and so on.
Next, what keeps you going? I believe I’ve heard you say before in interviews that Hip Hop is ailing, tired, whatever. What should others out there who feel the same way be listening to in order to see the other side of it, of which you sir are obviously a big part. Throw us a lifeline.
Maybe you grow out of rap? Who knows, I love it though. I love rap music. Just looking for something not too rappy, preachy, battlely or mean spirited, those styles really aren’t my personal preference, no diss to folks that do that or anything for that matter. Music or any type of art is a very tough task, especially if there’s no guidelines set to follow, or a term that you could say, so if someone asks what kind of stuff you do you could say it. People find out I do tunes and ask what kind of tunes, I always have to say stuff like “it’s not like this or that”, instead of having a magical umbrella to exist under. If I continue I want to do shit that you could age with and not appear to be trapped in your teenage years or bitter. Years of rap make you mentally ill and semi-unemployable.
Your stuff is fun, even on the Teachaz album where the personas and entire atmosphere of the project seems to be both to mock-up and salute that ‘old school’ style of the early/mid 90’s and it does/doesn’t contrast with the personas on your other projects. In a situation like you’ve created for yourself, how do you keep everything separate, or do you feel the need to?
Well, I have the Kenny Dennis guy who did the Dennehy. I always thought about why does Kenny rap? He’s 48 years old and happily married. While making the teachaz album it hit me, to make Kenny part of the teachaz, that explains everything. He was wild back then but still all about community, like a guardian angel. It made sense. “KDz” was his name and his partner was “PMDF” (prince midnight dark force).
Pizza: Thin or thick crust?
Deep dish stuffed spinach pizza.
What’s the last good movie you saw?
I saw the Adjustment Bureau and Unknown yesterday, the day before I saw Cedar Rapids.
What’s next? Tell us your schemes.
I have some shows here in Chicago, I did a project in Berlin last Feb. with my guy sicker man. I don’t really like my parts, I’d like to go there and redo them. I plan on hitting the road to promote the family & friends album and the grimm teachaz cassette, I have few film ideas floating out there with people, hopefully something will materialize. I did some soundtrack works for a couple movies. Well see.
Anything else you want to talk about, shout out, declare or let people know?
Peace to my buddy Umar, Scouty and Wooten, my man Ryan, my brothers and sisters, Owen and Yoni. Jel and Nosdam, Dose and others. Peace.
Thank You again and keep doing what you do sir, because it is awesome.