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Serengeti - conducted by Todd E. Jones  

Getting Mad Whimsy With Serengeti

March 2005

The word “whimsy” is defined as an odd or fanciful idea or a trait of acting unpredictable. Serengeti is a whimsical artist in the purest sense of the phrase. His music is full of odd ideas and consistently unpredictable. As a musician, songwriter, and emcee, Serengeti’s prolific nature and creativity proved to be a remarkable addition to all forms of music. Hailing from Chicago, Serengeti’s unique style and lyrics go against the grain of the typical, pimped out, gun-toting, drug dealing, and diamond chasing rappers.

As an emcee, some may say that he is a mixture of The Pharcyde, Eminem, Jurassic 5, Ugly Duckling, Ghostface Killah, Redman, and something special that no one can put their finger on. With help from DJ Crucial, Serengeti released his debut album “Dirty Flamingo” on F5 Records. With a mesh of funk and jazz for the music, Serengeti found a perfect vehicle to ride his drunken mumblings using a myriad of styles.

Throughout the years, Serengeti has been working on his “Gasoline Rainbows” album, which includes live instrumentation, singing, and soulful songwriting. “Gasoline Rainbows” is not even considered a rap record since Day By Day Entertainment will be releasing the CD on the sister label Rock Day By Day. After spending substantial sums of money on different studios, Serengeti recorded two different versions of “Gasoline Rainbows”. Since he was not satisfied with the two separate versions alone, he mixed them both together.

Finally, after many years and hard times, “Gasoline Rainbows” has an official release date. While overcoming that hurdle, Serengeti became quite whimsical. During a magnificently beautiful summer in Chicago, he began riding bikes, playing Frisbee, and hanging out in parks. After the outdoor merriment was over, he went into the studio and recorded colorful songs usually in one or two takes. The result is the “Noodle Arm Whimsy” LP. Recorded strictly in the summer, “Noodle Arm Whimsy” is a merry and vibrant album, filled with wild rhymes, countless drug references, bizarre themes, and superlative rhyme deliveries. Even after recording was finished on “Noodle Arm Whimsy”, they waited until the following summer to mix the album in order to maintain the sunny vibe. The album features production by Serengeti, Miles Bonny, J-Toth, Midas Wells, DJ Crucial, Dirty Heat, Engleburt, and others. Serengeti’s 11 year-old little brother, Extra Credit even produces two tracks. The upbeat opener, “Mad Whimsy” is a perfect introduction to the album’s mood.

Serengeti’s feral lyrics and unorthodox rhyme style is complemented by strange vocal samples and an old school hip-hop hook. The closing track, “Outta My Way” is an emotional masterpiece, which was recorded in just one take. Other standout tracks include “F5 Message Board”, “Fast Living 2”, “Rhymes”, “Whimsy Cards”, and “Breakfast Of Champions”. The “Noodle Arm Whimsy” LP is only the beginning of his “Whimsy” series. He also plans to follow up the album with “Brothers Whimsy”, “International Whimsy”, “Winter Whimsy”, and many others. The musician / emcee is breathing new life into the sometimes dull world of music.

On a cold winter evening in 2005, I had a whimsical conversation with Serengeti. The whimsy nature of Serengeti’s personality and music is extremely infectious. After experiencing his music, the listener may have a more cheerful outlook and have the urge to release their wild tendencies within. Soon, the word ‘whimsy’ may be used in every other sentence. Like an opiate, the addictive ‘Noodle Arm Whimsy’ LP has side effects. If you are looking for something unique in music, you owe it to yourself to get ‘whimsy’ with Serengeti.

MVRemix: What goes on?

Serengeti: Just chilling out, man. I’m in Chicago. We did a show last night. I got a little too drunk, but what are you gonna do?

MVRemix: The new album, ‘Noodle Arm Whimsy’ was just released on Day By Day Entertainment, F5 Records, and Frozen Food Section. Tell us about the album’s concept.

Serengeti: It’s this concept that I had. I was on this tour in 2003. My buddy Rue said the word, ‘Whimsy’, and I burned all of these thoughts. I came home in May. During the whole summer, everything was whimsy. I made the whimsy songs. The concept was like, we go out and ride bikes, go by the lake, play Frisbee, and play catch. When we came in, we did these whimsy songs, which were only done in 1 take. We just did it whimsy and had fun with it. We had a model that ‘Noodle Arm Whimsy’ was something we only worked on during the summer. After that winter, we mixed the album during the following summer. We turned it into Frozen Food and they put it out.

MVRemix: Do you have a favorite song on ‘Noodle Arm Whimsy’?

Serengeti: I like ‘Outta My Way’ and ‘Whimsy Cards’.

MVRemix: Will there be a ‘Whimsy’ series?

Serengeti: We are going to do a whole series of ‘Whimsy’ albums. We will have ‘Rough Waters Whimsy’, ‘International Whimsy’, and even ‘Winter Whimsy’. They will all be colorful. The ‘Winter Whimsy’ LP will only be worked on during the winter.

MVRemix: You are on 3 different record labels. You are an artist on Day By Day Entertainment, F5, and The Frozen Food Section. How did that happen and what is that like?

Serengeti: Crucial and I went to college together. He started F5 Records. We made the ‘Dirty Flamingo’ album in 2000. They put it out in 2001. Frozen Food is from St. Louis. I gave them ‘Noodle Arm Whimsy’. Day By Day signed me for ‘Gasoline Rainbows’. I also have ‘Brother Whimsy’ coming out of F5, which is a follow up for ‘Noodle Arm Whimsy’. It features my little brother, Extra Credit on beats.

MVRemix: Your little brother is known as Extra Credit. He is very young and produces some of the beats, right?

Serengeti: Yeah, he’s 11. He made 2 of the beats on ‘Noodle Arm Whimsy’. He made like 4 beats on ‘Brothers Whimsy’.

MVRemix: The ‘Gasoline Rainbows’ LP was supposed to come out before ‘Noodle Arm Whimsy’. Why did this not happen?

Serengeti: ‘Gasoline Rainbows’ was an album that I was making forever. I guess I started in 2000. I was working with one guy in this studio, but I didn’t like it. Then, I went to this other studio in 2003 and paid all this money. I had these guitarists and these drummers. There is this band called Local H. In 2003, I made a totally different version of the album. In 2004, I mixed the first version and the second version together. I took it to MF Grimm. I was an A&R at F5 when I met MF Grimm. The reason why it didn’t come out yet was because I was searching for a label.

MVRemix: The album ‘Gasoline Rainbows’ is on Rock Day By Day but the ‘Noodle Arm Whimsy’ LP was released on the hip-hop Day By Day label. How is ‘Gasoline Rainbows’ different from ‘Noodle Arm Whimsy’?

Serengeti: There is a lot of live instrumentation on ‘Gasoline Rainbows’. There are like 7 songs with live instrumentation and 5 songs with just beats and stuff. The album ‘Gasoline Rainbows’ is more serious stuff. There is more songwriting on it. There are a couple of singers on it. The album also cost me a lot more too, because I went to a real studio. On ‘Noodle Arm Whimsy’, we just whipped that up.

MVRemix: What is the meaning of ‘Noodle Arm’ from the title, ‘Noodle Arm Whimsy’?

Serengeti: The phrase ‘Noodle Arm’ means being skinny. Like, someone has noodles for arms.

MVRemix: What is the song ‘Get Outta My Way’ about?

Serengeti: It is just this whimsy story. It was really fun to do that song. I just did it off the top of my head. ‘I’m outta hear dad! Nobody tell me jack!’

MVRemix: What does the title ‘Eat One Tossers’ mean?

Serengeti: The word ‘tossers’ is from England. ‘Eat One Tossers’ is like ‘Fuck you!’. You know?

MVRemix: Do you have your rhymes pre-written or themes pre-planned when you go into the studio, or do you write, then and there, when you hear the beat?

Serengeti: For ‘Noodle Arm Whimsy’, I think I wrote maybe like 3 songs to the beat. The rest just came out. On ‘Gasoline Rainbows’, I wrote all the music to that sh*t. ‘Noodle Arm Whimsy’ was really a spur of the moment thing. That is the whole concept of it.

MVRemix: Do you have a favorite musical instrument?

Serengeti: I play the guitar. That is probably my favorite. I hear a melody in my head and I will hum it. Then, I will try to create it.

MVRemix: Do you have a favorite drum machine or sampler?

Serengeti: The MPC, but I’m not a real producer. I can make some beats, but I don’t consider myself a producer.

MVRemix: What LPs or CDs have you been listening to recently?

Serengeti: The last CD that I have been really into is ‘A Grand Don’t Come For Free’ by The Streets. Bjork’s ‘Vespertine’ is the sh*t. There is also this group called F And D.

MVRemix: What other non-hip-hop artists influenced you?

Serengeti: Growing up, my parents made me listen to Ella Fitzgerald and Harry Chapin. I like Prince. Nowadays, Radiohead. I like that ‘Kid A’ album big time.

MVRemix: What is your favorite part of your live show?

Serengeti: Songs. I have like 10 albums. So, I pick the best songs from those albums. So, any song that I pick, is a means to an end song. The whole set is exciting. I have so many songs to pick from, and I get to do different songs every show.

MVRemix: What are some artists you would like to collaborate with in the future?

Serengeti: MF Doom and Mars Volta.

>> continued...

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"The album ‘Gasoline Rainbows’ is more serious stuff. There is more songwriting on it. There are a couple of singers on it. The album also cost me a lot more too, because I went to a real studio. On ‘Noodle Arm Whimsy’, we just whipped that up."