Album review: "Family & Friends"
Much of rap music is meant to be heard at 2 a.m. in the club. With big beats and bigger boasts, it's the soundtrack to packed dance floors and popping bottles. Chicago rapper Serengeti doesn't fit into this model. His stellar new album, "Family & Friends," is ideally listened to at 2 a.m. but not in a crowded club. It's more appropriate for a sleepless night alone where the only bottle being popped contains anti-anxiety meds.
Serengeti (a.k.a. David Cohn) tackles the crushing minutiae of everyday life and how to cope. And, yes, there are multiple lyrical references to Xanax. "Indie flick like but nobody's tapin' / There ain't no credits, there ain't no escapin'," he raps on "Tracks," with an anxious edge to his voice that serves as a nice contrast to the arty, understated beats that populate the album.
The characters in his songs may have once had ambitions, but are now just trying to figure out what tomorrow holds. This is best represented in album centerpiece "The Whip," which tells the story of a once-promising UFC fighter now reduced to small-town bar fights - "Nightmares about where his life be / Reversed it this time and knocked the punk out with his knee." In Serengeti's world, a victory doesn't mean it's a happy ending.
--David Malitz, Sept. 16, 2011