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Over the past several years, Prof has built a reputation through a string of memorable local shows, including sets at Get Cryphy, opening for P.O.S., playing at last year's Soundset festival, and regular "Drunk" stints (you guessed it—rapping while black-out wasted) with frequent collaborator Rahzwell. His shows have gotten more prominent and more insane largely through word of mouth, amassing rowdy crowds that get about as buck wild as you cold possibly want at a rap show.
Listening to his latest release, Kaiser Von Powderhorn 2, available for free download via the Stophouse website, Prof's appeal is evident and understandable. The vocals are smooth and melodic, slinking over beats with an ease that few rappers can achieve. His chameleonic tone slides from styling fast-rap to low and menacing to free and flighty; he even manages to succeed in affecting a rabbit's voice for two bars when bragging about stacking cabbage on "Animal." His lyrics are typically less self-consciously heavy than those of your average Minneapolis rap, usually concerning the simple joys of girls and drinking too much. This looseness lends itself to cringing moments for the feminists among us (on "Utah," Prof notes that in Utah, you can "marry as many bitches as you want! You'll never have to do dishes again!"), and Prof makes no apologies for not watching his mouth.
A sense of cocky pride and lack of filter is a defining factor in Prof's particular brand of rap swagger, and it bleeds into all of his songs to varying degrees, be they about his mom ("Mother," from 2007's Project Gampo) or about flying around outer space ("Rocketman" with Yelawolf, from the 2009 mixtape Recession Music with St. Paul Slim). This is party music first and foremost, and the driving force is Prof's preeminent magnetism.
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Live, Prof is a powerhouse. There's a certain revelry in his performances; he comes off less as a ball of energy to be simply observed and more like the life of the party, encouraging you, the audience, to get just as manic in the crowd as he does on stage.
"It's more of the feeling I get when I step out there and see excited faces.... That's why I do it," says Prof. "I love it when everyone in the house makes a decision like, 'This will be one of the craziest experiences of the year.' Every [audience] has their own choice to make the roof blow off. I just try to facilitate that decision."
Having sold out venues in Minneapolis for three straight years, he's beginning to branch outward. His recent mini-tour with Atmosphere, Los Nativos, DJ Abilities, and Mr. Gene Poole (billed as the "Welcome to Minnesota Tour") sold out spots in Mankato, Bemidji, St. Cloud, and Duluth solely from pre-sale tickets. After sweeping through Minnesota, Prof will take his show on the road with the Lookout Tour, where he and co-headliner Steddy P, out of Kansas City, Missouri, will play select cities on their way to Austin, Texas, for further performances at SXSW.
Long touring can be a grind for someone who focuses on drinking and partying songs and consistently gets offered blunts and shots after stepping off stage, but Prof does his best to bring the party of the year every time. "What they don't know is that I'm mostly sober for [the show]," he says. "It's tough, man. It's a balancing act. Nowhere in the back of their head are they thinking that I might have done this yesterday, the day before, and for the next three weeks."
All of this touring is anchored by his March 4 spot at the Fine Line Music Cafe, which promises to be the highlight of Prof's upcoming string of shows. He plans to unveil new material from this summer's new full-length, GAMPO, some of which will be previewed on a sampler disc the MC will give away free at this show and on tour.
"This album is the shit," Prof asserts. "The main thing I wanted to do with this album is touch on every genre of hip hop I'm capable of. There's crazy sing-songs, big beats, small beats, battle tracks, blues, deep emo tracks, stupid/ignorant party tracks. I wanted to do it all. It's a refection of how I live my life, of how I contradict and balance myself."
Prof has an uncanny ability to juggle styles with an unfettered tightness, and this attempt at multiple approaches stands to be the artist's strongest to date. There's been nothing but upward momentum in Prof's career, and his Fine Line show is the perfect place to catch the charismatic dynamo in the midst of his booze-soaked rise to rap infamy.
PROF performs with DJ Fundo, the Crest, Steddy P., and Mike the Martyr on FRIDAY, MARCH 4, at the FINE LINE MUSIC CAFÉ; 612.338.8100