Serengeti: Dirty Flamingo (F5)

The samples are also perfectly selected and positioned.

On the chorus to the title track of Dirty Flamingo, the debut LP from Chicago MC Serengeti, the rapper wearily exclaims, “I’m the dirtiest man alive,” in a tone that is part admission of guilt, part exasperated plea for forgiveness for the atrocities committed by his uncontrollable monster side a lá Jekyll and Hyde. Though Cage and Kool Keith, among others, might dispute the “dirtiest man” title, Serengeti gives evidence to back his claim throughout the album on songs such as “Busty Women” and “Ms. Nipple Queen,” a heartbreaking tale of love gone wrong. With a flow reminiscent of Del the Funkee Homosapien, Ser spits about drinkin’, women, travellin’, and livin’ in a way that conjures up visual images. Each line produces a series of quick portraits that, when strung together, form a verse showing the bigger picture.

D.J. Crucial (Russell Simmons of the Lou), the in-house F5 superproducer, is straight on point with the beats on this album. Diverse and funky yet magnetically cohesive, it has the feeling of a singularly produced album as opposed to a random collection of beats. The samples are also perfectly selected and positioned. In a nod to both rapper and producer, this album would be an interesting listen as either a capella or instrumental.

There are several standout tracks. “Black Giraffes” serves up a bouncy piano riff over some laidback boom bap drums. “Serve as a Canvas” is a song that plays like a late night PBS travel show hosted by a giddy rap group on tour for the first time. On “Dirty Flames,” Ser describes his style as “Jean Michel Basquait Rap” and drops the line “to make friends I’ll write a book called Supertrends.” “Chuck Norris” features an extremely ill bass line and the hook “I’ll be Bruce Lee and you be Chuck Norris, together we can move to Rome and write a rap chorus.” The final cut on the album (there are 24 tracks in all, but only 19 listed) is a feel-good rock ’n’ roll jam that closes things nicely.

In addition to the 24 tracks, there are “secret” tracks featuring a roster of F5 all-stars scattered throughout the album. The best of these came from local conscious heads Altered St8’s and two cats I’ve never heard before, Capo and Fiasco, who sound a lot like Mobb Deep.

In summation: Good beats? Yes. Good rhymes? Yes. Dirtiest man alive? No. Dirtiest Flamingo? Hands-down.

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