Serengeti: “Ha-Ha” (f. Otouto)[audio:http://alarm-magazine.com/wp-content/uploads/2011/08/04_Ha-Ha.mp3|titles=Serengeti: “Ha-Ha” (f. Otouto)]
In July, Chicago local David Cohn, better known as independent hip-hop artist Serengeti, dropped his first solo album on Anticon. The record, titled Family and Friends, showcases Cohn’s informal rapping style, which gives the impression that he’s just chillin’ with you in a bar, rattling off stories about somebody’s junkie dad or a failed UFC fighter.
A follow-up to Cohn’s 2009 release with Illinois native Polyphonic, Family and Friends also explores new sonic territory with producers Owen Ashworth of Advance Base and Yoni Wolf of Why?. The washed-out breakbeats on tracks like “PMDD” and “Ha-Ha” complement the more experimental electro-pop mixes of “ARP” and “The Whip.”
Cohn recently took some time to chat with us about his solo release, his current collaborative projects, and his future in film-making.
How do different producers’ styles and strengths complement the many sides of Serengeti?
Well, I have many sides, so working with great guys helps with that. I like to see what each producer does and work within what they do. I used to rap over beats that were already done. Advance Base, Yoni Wolf, the Breakfast Kings, Polyphonic, Jel, and Odd Nosdam are really the only cats I’ve actually sat down to work with. I definitely prefer that way.
What were the biggest differences or adjustments in working with Owen and Yoni for the new album?
With Yoni, I went out to his pad in Oakland, and we did our tunes in a week. With Owen, I’d take the El to his house and work once or twice a week on stuff. No real difference, really — both fellas were very easy to work with. I’d been trying to get it up with Owen for a while, so once we had our first session booked, I was a tad anxious, like, “Don’t blow it.” We did “Flutes,” “PMDD,” and “Kenny vs. Spring” in about two hours.
Shaun Koplow from Anticon hooked up the Yoni thing, so I was again feeling anxious when I flew out there, although we’d done some shows together on a tour. This was different, staying in a pad and such. We had a goal of a song a day, and we did it. Both fellas were great to hang out with, and I’d liked them for a long time, so it felt like a step in the right direction. Thanks, Owen, Yoni, and Shaun.