As a baseball fanatic, I’m disappointed that the sport gets shortchanged in hip-hop references. Young Jeezy loves his Miami Heat punchlines, and Wale is rap’s resident football player name-dropper. Barry Bonds got a Kanye West/Lil’ Wayne song named after him, but how hard could it be to rhyme with Lincecum?
But, just in time for spring training, Serengeti gives us 17 minutes of lo-fi funk in his mustachioed, Chicago sports-obsessed Kenny Dennis persona for the Kenny Dennis EP.
Kenny Dennis is that beer-swilling, fried food-eating bleacher bum sitting in the Wrigley Field bleachers bemoaning the pitch selection and calling for the manager’s head after only 10 games, the rap version of the Chi-Town sports addicts Bill Swerski’s Superfans from Saturday Night Live.
In an exaggerated Chicago accent, Kenny Dennis sprinkles Chicago sports references throughout the EP that are like little Easter eggs for the sports freaks, giving nods to former Chicago Bulls forward Horace Grant and various Cubs players. “Don’t Blame Steve” is a re-telling of the infamous “Steve Bartman game” from the 2003 playoffs over grungy guitars in which Kenny reveals HE’S the one who interfered, not Bartman. This is likely the only rap song in existence that shouts out Andres “El Gato Grande” Galarraga and Mark Grudzielanek, so enjoy, baseball fans.
In what might by Kobe Bryant’s favorite diss track ever, “Shazam” is a diss aimed at Shaquille O’Neal in retaliation to Shaq making fun of Kenny Dennis’ mustache back in 1993 during his Grimm Teachaz days. Producers Jel & Odd Nosdam accompany Kenny Dennis’ hyper verbal barbs with zapping space lasers and scratch in some shit-talking vocal samples including “OJ Simpson’s knife right at your gut” from Nine’s “Tha Cypha”. If Kenny really wanted to hurt Shaq, he’d just slightly alter the song title from “Shazam” to “Kazaam”, the worst movie ever, starring none other than Shaquille O’Neal.
The Kenny Dennis EP isn’t all sports-related, as the title track features Kenny talking gutter over a chilling, icy beat that was 13 years too late for Big L to rip. Fittingly, Big L from “Da Graveyard” is sampled, along with bits from numerous Cypress Hill beats. It’s nowhere as fun as the rest of the EP, but it works as a standalone departure. At only 17 minutes, you’ve heard “freestyles” by The Game longer than this EP, but you’ll at least want to play this a few more times, unlike Game’s “400 Bars” over “Exhibit C” looped over and over. The Kenny Dennis EP is a fun and funky break from your regularly-scheduled programming that fits into the duration of a smoke break with extra appeal to ESPN addicts and bleacher bums everywhere.