Like any recurring character, Serengeti’s Bears, beers, and brats-loving Kenny Dennis is subject to the law of diminishing returns. Where his first appearance on 2006’s Dennehy provided insight into a fairly one-dimension, though ultimately likable persona on an album full of spot-on Chicago-centric jokes and references, subsequent reappearances have felt somewhat obligatory and, at worst, forced.
With Kenny Dennis III, Seregenti himself seems to have tired of the shtick, ceding a great deal of the album’s running time to Workaholics star and Chicago native Anders Holm (with whom he’s previously partnered on record) in the form of an extended skit that recounts the pair’s re-acquaintance and subsequent tour as Perfecto, a group set on bringing their C&C Music Factory-inspired style of hip-hop to malls across the Midwest. Holm’s description of the Perfecto sound and on-the-road experience with Kenny proves more interesting than anything delivered by Dennis himself, providing character insight and detail lacking in Dennis’ own limited verses here.
Sadly we are not afforded the chance to hear anything even remotely resembling the sound of Perfecto. Instead, Serengeti-as-Dennis stumbles his way through a tired routine that has clearly run its course, touching on familial strife, personal frustrations and of course a number of reference-heavy verses. But none of these help to further the character’s development in the way previous releases did, nor do they help justify Kenny’s continued existence on record. With Serengeti’s elevated profile following his collaboration with Son Lux and Sufjan Stevens last year under the Sisyphus moniker, one would think he would want to further his own name rather than rehashing an existing persona whose best work it would seem is well behind him.
Only with “On/Off” are we afforded any sort of character evolution or insight as Kenny briefly touches on all the discussion of gang violence in his beloved city. Attempting to shift the focus away from the violence, he instead places his focus, as is his id-driven wont, on all of the great things the city and its surroundings have to offer. It’s only the briefest flicker of encouragement that there might be a bit more behind the belligerent persona, but it’s gone before it has a chance to explore much of anything further, devolving into a series of lazily repetitious rhymes and blurred beats.
The vitality once inherent and so appealing in the character has essentially been stifled by returning to an already-thin premise several times too many. While not entirely without merit (“Buddy Guy” affords a few laughs with the titular phrase applied not to the legendary bluesman but as a proto-bro addressing of random dudes in general), Kenny Dennis III feels warmed over and too short on quality material to have a justified existence as a full-length. Stripped to its core elements, it would suffice as a stop-gap release, much in the same manner as 2012’s Kenny Dennis EP did.
For an artist as prolific as Serengeti, repeated trips to the already fairly shallow Kenny Dennis well prove less than rewarding. While he’s certainly an entertaining persona when at his best (we still have Dennehy and last year’s Kenny Dennis LP to return to should we wish to spend a little more time with the thickly mustachioed, sunglasses wearing Chicagoan), when he runs out of things to say he’s simply, as Holm subsequently finds, not all that much fun to be around.
"PopMatters is looking for smart music writers. We're looking for talented writers with deep genre knowledge of music and its present and…READ the article