Guest Playlist: Serengeti

Serengeti: Friends and FamilySerengetiFamily and Friends (Anticon, 7/19/11)

Serengeti: “Ha-Ha” (f. Otouto)

[audio:|titles=Serengeti: “Ha-Ha” (f. Otouto)]

Native Chicagoan rapper Serengeti, a.k.a. David Cohn, has built a small but rabid following thanks to a unique, occasionally farcical style and a tireless work ethic. His latest album, entitled Family and Friends (out now on Anticon), enlists some notable producers: Yoni Wolf of Why? and Owen Ashworth of Casiotone for the Painfully Alone. The result is a hop-hop album free of undue posturing — operative beats stripped of excess ornament, a rapid, clear cadence — that captures the oft-neglected storytelling aspect of rhyming.

As his unorthodox sound suggests, Serengeti’s musical background is littered with non-rap milestones. And, as many of us can relate, his early musical education was composed of the stuff his parents played in the car and at home. We had him compile a playlist of such tunes. Without further ado:

Songs My Parents Liked That Stuck With Me
by Serengeti

Father and mother and I recently drove to NYC from Chicago. I was the first time I was in the same car as both of them in about 30 years. We listened to these songs a lot. I knew them all; it was great.

1. My parents split when I was very young. Mother would pick me up some weekends, and she’d always play this Mabel Mercer song, “Did you Ever Cross Over to Sneden’s.” Great song about longing to live on the other side. Alec Wilder wrote the tune.

“Did you ever cross over to Sneden’s / Where the white houses cling to the hill? / Did you ever cross over to Sneden’s? / Do you think that you ever will?”

2. Carmen McRae: “I’m Coming Home Again”

“The poets cried for dreams they never saw / The only certainty is nothing’s sure / And most things stay the same / Or go back where they came”

Written By Carole Sager and Bruce Roberts. Her voice is my favorite.

3. Carmen McRae: “Come in From the Rain”

Anyone going through problems, or has a pal who is, or just likes a great tune — this is for you.

4. Carmen McRae: “Only Women Bleed”

I had no idea that Alice Cooper wrote and performed the original. Mother would always sing this tune.

5. Joan Armatrading: “Water with the Wine”

Great song. “I guess it’s too late, but I’ll know next time / to mix some water with the wine.”

6. Joan Armatrading: “Love and Affection”

Great tune. I can hear Dave Mathews‘ “Crash.”

7. Joan Armatrading: “Down to Zero”

“…..You say there’s peace in sleep / But you’ll dream of love instead…”

Great lyrics, great song.

8.  Phoebe Snow: “Teach me Tonight”

“…If a shooting star goes by…I’ll take that star…and write ‘I love you’ a thousand times across the sky”

The way she delivers that line is very great.

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