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Serengeti – Family and Friends review

“I don’t just walk around the block, I tick to my own clock,” raps David Cohn, a Chicago based alternative hip hop artist, and he’s not lying. Deeming himself Serengeti, Cohn’s spare rhymes and minimal beats are a definite departure from the boisterous hip hop on the radio. Calling hip hop “redundant” and “depressing” in an interview with Center Stage Chicago, he sought to create an album for a new voice of hip hop. With Family and Friends, off Oakland’s Anticon Records, he manages to create something undoubtedly different than mainstream hip hop, but no better or worse.

Minimal music can be hard to pull off: When done right, it sounds like simple magic, but when done wrong it just sounds lazy. On Family and Friends, there’s not enough going on. Cohn doesn’t rap so much as he rambles, and the beats sound so bare that they barely make any impact at all. Cohn attempts to rap about everyday life in a new way, but it’s so everyday it becomes mundane.

It’s hard to figure out Serengeti’s target audience; the only people I can think of who would avidly enjoy this are hipsters who are frustrated with the direction hip hop is going in right now. Their frustration is valid, but should this really be the alternative? Hip hop deserves something that will make a statement, not half-assed hipster babble with a few drum beats thrown in. Family and Friends offers eleven brief glimpses into the lives of disillusioned urban hipsters, and the result is pretty bleak. Cohn could have channeled his frustration into something meaningful, but instead Family and Friends just sounds unfinished, a couple guys fucking around in a studio after a few beers. It’s a work in progress, but hipster listeners won’t care. Then again, when do they ever care?

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