In the paper this week Jeff Weiss makes the case for Serengeti, a transplanted Chicago rapper who is more interesting, lyrically, then pretty much anyone else going. His new album on Anticon, Family & Friends, puts his talents on full display: Searing, true-to-life stories about fading UFC fighters and families disintegrating, tempered by ridicu-larious tales like the one about the guy who lies about his age and takes on a second wife.
Assigning this story on Serengeti was my first act as music editor, and he's easily my favorite rapper going. It's rare to find a novelist who can capture the human condition in an accurate and compelling way; in popular music it's pretty much unheard of. And while his most popular work is his 2006 album Dennehy -- which features alter ego Kenny Dennis's memorable chorus, "Favorite actor: Dennehy/ Favorite drink: O'Doul's/ Bears, 'Hawks, Sox, Bulls!" -- I'd say Family & Friends is just as good. The work is aided by the production, vocals and rhymes of the Anticon regulars, in particular Yoni Wolf, who sings both on the title song and "Tracks," which is maybe the best serious song 'Geti has ever made, and which we've got as an exclusive free download.
You can snag it below.
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"He originally came in with more silly, funny lyrics, but I told him to write something from the heart," Wolf told Weiss about 'Geti's process. "On the spot, he wrote lines about sleeping on a pool table with his keys and wallet in his jeans to avoid getting them stolen."
He's referring to a line from "Tracks," and it's just one of many tidbits from the song that are so vivid and tragic that they make you feel like shit and overjoyed simultaneously. This is literature, a short story about a dissolving relationship that is equal parts real-life fragments ("You never really know someone 'till you're both buried") and crisply-drawn metaphors ("Driving down a dark path and you hit an ostrich/ Feathers and blood, tires stuck in the mud").
I could go on and on, but here it is, our