Serengeti says farewell to his colorful, unforgettable fictional character, Kenny Dennis | Concert Preview | Chicago Reader

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Serengeti says farewell to his colorful, unforgettable fictional character, Kenny Dennis


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Serengeti’s “Dennehy” is a thing of wonder, not only because it’s a love letter to Chicago but also because it’s where Serengeti (born David Cohn) becomes the character Kenny Dennis, a middle-aged, mustachioed everyman who raps about playing softball with the boys, running errands on Western Avenue, and his favorite local teams—which serves as a brilliantly simple hook, “Bears, Hawks, Sox, Bulls”). “Dennehy” has achieved a rare cult crossover success—the song isn’t in constant rotation at, say, Bears games, but ask Chicago sports fans watching the game at your neighborhood bar if they’ve heard of Serengeti and chances are at least one person will respond with the “Dennehy” hook. I hope those who’ve stumbled upon that song in the past 12 years have used it as a doorway into Serengeti’s catalog, a large portion of which he’s either recorded as Kenny Dennis or just built on Kenny’s fictional universe. That includes solo Kenny albums as well as There’s a Situation on the Homefront, an “archival” album recorded by Kenny’s early 90s rap group, Tha Grimm Teachaz; there’s also You Can’t Run From the Rhythm, a dance-pop collaboration between Kenny and real-life comedic actor Anders Holm under the name Perfecto; and Butterflies, a straightforward pop album credited to Kenny’s wife, Jueles. Serengeti found new ways to link each new album to the others, and he managed to sneak in plenty of small references that further transformed Kenny’s fictional world into big, colorful songs while leaving plenty of room for his own real-life earnestness. On last month’s self-released Dennis 6e, a noticeably dark album produced entirely by Fog front man Andrew Broder, Kenny reimagines Jueles’s “Places Places” with the skronk-synth track “OK in My Book” and eulogizes her with the somber “Different.” Serengeti recently told the music website Passion of the Weiss that he’s working on a Kenny Dennis graphic novel and a film script too, but Dennis 6e is the final Kenny album. “Creatively, it feels complete,” he said. “You know, you can’t do Jason Part 23. They stopped Jason at, like, nine.”   v

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