No, I did not misspell Spaghetti in the title, his name is Serengeti. Yes, I meant to write Bi-Polar Bear. And probably you’re just as lost as me about the origins of the name Junk Science…but let’s stop judging books by their covers and get on to the review, shall we?
What do you get when you mix emo, indie rock, avant electronica, and a generous helping of O’Douls beer? If you guessed indie rap gushing with Chicago pride, you either cheated or have some crazy ESP abilities…but you’d be right! The man behind this interesting mish-mosh of influences is Serengeti, real name David Cohn. A Chicago native, Serengeti often raps about his hometown (often referencing Illinois icons such as Mike Ditka) through the eyes of different created “personae.” “I was always the kid at school that had characters,” Cohn told CenterStage’s Ben Rubenstein in a recent interview. These two elements set’s Serengeti’s music apart from other mainstream hip-hop, which Cohn sees as “depressing and redundant.” Serengeti has released 17 albums of material, dating back to 2002. He is also 1/3rd of the super group S/S/S, collaborating with New York rapper Son Lux and the increasingly popular Sufjan Stevens.
While Serengeti is riding free with an established name for himself, Bi-Polar Bear are just beginning to rev their engines. However, judging from what they’ve released thus far, this party bus has a wide-open road ahead of it. The group consists of emcee Gabe Carter (moniker “Ugly Orwell”) and producer Andy Kaufman (“August”), who met as freshmen at the University of Arizona. After over 10 years of collaboration (including a year spent working together in Wisconsin), the duo settled in Brooklyn and released their sophomore effort, When Ledge is Home, less than a month ago. Tracks range from the gritty, urban “Ledge,” (which happens to feature Baje One from Junk Science) to the more soulful organ and choral samples found in “Lollygagger.” Bi-Polar Bear has already established an impressive 23,684 scrobbles on Last.fm, where the user reviews are 100% positive. Review site mxdwn.com writes, “Bi-Polar Bear’s new album When Ledge is Home is a 10 track collection of brilliance.”
Junk Science’s sound is less about junk, and more about the science of solid hip-hop grooveology. A New York-based duo consisting of MC Baje One and producer DJ Snafu, Junk Science’s music is unique for its blend of bizarre humor (What else do you expect from a band whose song titles include “House Wigger” and “Ebonics Gone Mad?”), politically themed lyrics, and old-school beats that could have been produced in the nineties. The guys struck it big after they won Scion’s NextUp Song Contest in early 2005 with their track “Roads.” The New Yorker says Junk Science has, “Old-School beats and clever rhymes…and a rewarding, wiser-than-years approach.” But these guys don’t let the hype get to their head. No, they ditched the “cool factor,” and instead channeled their inner game nerds into their latest album, Phoenix Down. For those of you who have never played a JRPG (Japanese Role Playing Game), the title refers to an item from the video game series “Final Fantasy,” which players used in battles to revive their fallen heroes. Nineties kids who sat down your basements, chugging Mountain Dew and jamming on your Playstations for hours on end in the hopes of defeating Sepiroth – this one’s for you. As one of those kids during my pre-teen years, I’ll be bumping along with you to this latest release.
But enough of me talking about the tunes. Check them out for yourself! And join us on Friday in The Sett to witness this combo live.
-Written by: Alex Yant
Serengeti – “Peekaboo”:
Bi-Polar Bear – “Been Hiding”:
Junk Science – “Really, Man”: