When Serengeti was asked to describe his artistic vision, the Chicagoan born David Cohn said he wanted “to put the fun back in hip-hop.” Now that’s a bold and arguably pretentious statement. Assuming for the moment he meant “rap music” by “hip-hop” since he is himself a rapper, that means Serengeti feels rap stopped being fun at some point, and further means he and he alone can bring the fun back. Sounds like a god complex doesn’t it? You don’t have to listen to “Saal” for that long though to see he’s not that delusional.

“And not being big shit, and not lovin obscurity
Keep it real in rap, don’t mess with maturity”

I can’t say that comes as a surprise. Even though I purposefully fed a bunch of stinky red herrings into the opening paragraph, Serengeti’s entire career has been built on being a square peg in a round hole. If building up emotional walls was a rap trope, Serengeti would be the wrecking ball smashing through them. I wouldn’t call him an amazing singer, but when he breaks into a croon on “Wedding” I don’t mind it a bit. Maybe it’s the mellow production by Sicker Man (who did the whole album), or maybe it’s that he seems to be coming from a place of genuine truth, admitting that he wishes he was standing where some other woman’s husband is. “I’ll wear a false nose to your wedding” is a line that’s both comical and poignant. His humor doesn’t hide his pain.

This is the point where I should make it clear that Serengeti is “alternative,” whatever your definition of that is. As pretentious as “wanting to make [rap] fun” might seem to be, like everything about Serengeti it comes from a place of honesty. He doesn’t want to make rap music about conspicuous consumption, bigger rubber bands for bigger bill stacks, and having more drugs in his drywall than Sarah Lynn. Songs like “Erotic City” revel in their weirdness. It’s closer to spoken word poetry than anything you think of as rap, and despite the title it’s actually about a woman in an abusive relationship speaking to someone new in town.

“She was crying in the abortion clinic
Her pimp’s name was British
He was a mean son of a bitch
Who always hated tennis”

That’s the kind of album “Saal” is — a collection of stories where you’re either walking in Serengeti’s shoes or he’s walking in someone else’s. At the end of the day I can’t deny that there is at least a whiff in the air of the project being up its own ass. The songs have the view counts you’d expect from someone who makes art for art’s sake, and the “I can’t dance to it or bob my head to it” sound to go along with it. Serengeti might just be the Erik Satie of rap, and that’s fine, it just means he probably won’t be fully appreciated in his own time. In a world where anybody can be a deepfake Eminem for a day, there’s immense value in being the man who raps for furniture.

Serengeti :: Saal
7Overall Score