Everybody raps nowadays. Everybody. There are probably more rappers per capita than there are organ donors, and when there’s this many self-described MCs running around it can be awfully hard to distinguish oneself. Enter Chicago native Serengeti, a member of the Anticon collective, who’s managed to separate himself from the pack by specializing in being a character rapper–think Ron Perlman with a composition book.
For his fourth solo project in 3 years–C.A.R.–Geti’s teamed up with fellow Anticon acolytes and producers Jel and Odd Nosdam. The tracks and the LP are generally concise and to the point, with the majority of the songs clocking in under three minutes and the project in its entirety logging a little over half an hour total. It’s no secret that the Anticon sound to a large degree is derivative of El-P’s steez on the production tip, so the beats on C.A.R. are more an exercise in ice cold synths, post-apocalyptic drums and futuristic discord than boom-bap as a conduit for jazzy loops and melodies. Even labeling Serengeti with the title ‘emcee’ is a stretch as his style on this album is more Saul Williams than KRS-1; stream of conscious musings, spoken word, and recitation of notebook entries is his primary modus operandi. Delivery of rhymes in cadence or rhythm is an afterthought.
“Nice” is brooding, dark and foreboding. It sounds like the aftermath of a drug binge, alternating between nihilism, apathy, and angst. Things get interesting and a smidge more upbeat with “Go Dancin,” a free-associating faux romance with left-of-center drums that almost sound assembly-line-robot inspired . The industrial synths and keys aren’t full tilt dark and depressing but they aren’t bright either, generalized anxiety with a dose of optimism is the vibe that comes across–like the day after the day after a drug binge. “Amnesia” is far and away the most accessible song on the album, coincidentally it also happens to be the dopest. Regrettably it’s less than 2 minutes long. But in that minute and change Serengetti and his cohorts bless ear canals with a plodding headnodder replete with Das EFX “Here We Go” -era horns and a dusty, chopped up bassline while Geti pontificates “if I could get amnesia, see you with fresh brown eyes, we could finally split up and stop horsing around…If I could get amnesia, I wouldn’t have to fake my death.”
Unfortunately for any but the most dedicated Anticon fan, after a few listens C.A.R. is Frisbee material. It possesses little to no replay value. There’s an unshakeable thrown together feeling to this album. Serengetti is kind of a slouch on the mic, telling stories and making sure his lines rhyme but that’s it, literally the bare minimum. The lack of any sort of linguistic pyrotechnics or slick syntax is more galling in light of the production style. The rhymeslingers on the now-defunct Def Jux label would have ripped beats like these to shreds, and in the hands of a lesser artist the El-Producto derived aesthetic suffers. Interesting beats call for interesting rhymes and Serengetti’s pen game fails to captivate or even raise eyebrows. Dark confessionals and characters have been done before, better, by too many other artists. The free spirited concepts and themes in content and sound are cool but in the wake of such labor intensive projects like R.A.P. Music, Life is Good, and People Hear What They See, C.A.R. doesn’t justify more than a couple spins before getting parked in the garage.