“Kenny Dennis III” marks the third time that Serengeti’s mustachioed character Kenny Dennis has been given his own project. He has a long and storied fictional history. He started out in Tha Grimm Teachaz alongside PMDF and DJ Koufie. They were signed to Jive, and were supposed to release their debut, “There’s A Situation On the Homefront,” before an altercation with Shaq at a live event caused their label to shelve the album. He’s released an EP and a 2013 album, and has been featured on other Serengeti projects.
“Kenny Dennis III” is a concept album with storyline about Kenny hooking up with his friend Ders (played by Anders Holm) to tour malls with a 90s high-energy hip-house group called Perfecto. The story is pure hip-hop Spinal Tap, the flailing has-been grinding through the most depressing tour imaginable while refusing to acknowledge that he isn’t a superstar. He’s also battling a pill addiction, egged on by his new friend Joji.
As Kenny, Serengeti raps in a gruff “Joey from the old neighborhood” kind of voice about absurdities. “Hot dogs for lunch/Hot dogs for dinner/I don’t eat breakfast/I am no beginner” he raps on album opener “No Beginner.” There’s a Madvillain vibe to the album, especially in the way that Odd Nosdam’s dusty breaks compliment Kenny’s bizarre rapping. I only knew Nosdam from his anticon. days, and I didn’t expect such straighforward crate-digging from him. He samples old soul and surf rock, throwing in some of the art-damaged weirdness that anticon was best known for. Nosdam’s beats ground the album, making it groove even when it devolves into nonsense.
The character of Kenny is funny, but not funny enough to carry an entire album. Serengeti may have known this, which might explain why Kenny only raps on ten of the 19 tracks. Still, even ten tracks is more Kenny than I needed. It’s like one of those Saturday Night Live movies that tries to stretch a three-minute sketch into a 90 minute movie. Also, the character of Kenny isn’t so much funny as he’s weird and annoying, which makes it even less fun to spend an entire album with him.
Anders Holm’s sketches as Ders are what really end up making “Kenny Dennis III.” Where Kenny is a big character, Ders is more understated. Ders is an aspiring actor who is beaten out of a Different Strokes reboot by a funnier, more attractive actor. He fully embraces their 90s throwback rap, starts wearing nothing but mall clothes, and even gets into parkour when Perfect flames out. He catches the optimism and ego and tragedy of being an artist on the margins. I found myself listening the skits that Ders was on more than the actual songs on the album because they are so funny.
I can see how Kenny could appeal to listeners. There is a DOOM-like quality to his absurd-yet-smart style of rapping, and nobody could argue that Serengeti isn’t committing to the character 100 percent. I didn’t find him funny, nor did I find his rapping appealing from an aesthetic standpoint. As a result, I was more into “Kenny Dennis III” for the skits and beats than for anything that Kenny had to say.