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For his young, caffeinated audience, this overblown, Jameson-soaked world Prof has created in some — not even most — of his rhymes continues rap's tradition of exaggerated storytelling, from Eazy-E to Rick Ross to Riff Raff. His crazy personality is named for an old childhood friend, Gampo. As Prof explained on Twitter: "if we'd do something buck, or get BIG, we'd be getting GAMPO."
Within his fast-rap narratives, the joke is frequently on Prof — and it comes through on his trashy Kaiser Von Powderhorn 3 cover, which features him in a neck brace, surrounded by swimsuit-clad pregnant women, with a Dodge Caravan slung off in the background.
Special thanks to Aquaventure Dive & Photo Center and Ophelia Flame.
PROF. Sold out. Friday and Saturday, April 12 and 13, at First Avenue; 612.332.1775
Still, it wears on him that this persona has become the one-note description of him. And Prof's music has always told his story better than the critics have.
In "Baby Jacob," for example, we learn that he was born during a tumultuous time in his parents' relationship ("He took so much of her soul/It's kind of like he murdered her"). Soon after, his mother moved out with his three older sisters, and he was left with a father who taught him to love basketball and cursing, but also what it felt like to be on the receiving end of physical abuse. It's a disturbing narrative that he says is 100 percent true, and it's part of a huge swath of songs that are expressive and — dare we say — deep.
"I don't want to be known as just this drunk dude who parties all the time, but that's the popular songs," he says. "What will come to the forefront is what people will play and party and listen to. That's where I'll make my name, but if you really want to dig close, there's [more serious] songs all over, like 'The Season' and 'On My Way.' People will take me in however they want, it's not my job to worry about that. It's the buyer's job to critique me."
The chief way Prof has brought in the "buyers" — fans, collaborators, and business associates — is his unmistakable live charisma and competitive business sense. In addition to being a rapper, Prof is part-owner of his own label, Stophouse Group. His partners are his manager, Stophouse CEO Mike Campbell, and Dillon Parker, who owns and manages the northeast Minneapolis-based Stophouse Studios, where Prof records.
Campbell first experienced Prof performing with his old recording partner Rahzwell at a "drunk show" at the Dinkytowner in the mid-aughts. They'd drink every shot and beer that came to the stage until Rahzwell puked, and then the show would begin. In spite of the antics or because of them, Campbell was won over.
"Nowadays in rap it's really tough to find someone, especially at that level, who really has a polished live performance, so that was the attraction for me," Campbell says. "From that point on I became absolutely loyal to trying to make his career work."
In 2011, Campbell's loyalty meant giving the go-ahead for Prof to throw $1,000 in one dollar bills into the crowd at his sold-out First Avenue show. They've also given away 50,000 promo copies of the album, and it has notched nearly 30,000 free downloads. There have been almost 16,000 downloads of Kaiser Von Powderhorn 3 since its release in September.
All of these freebies are seen as investments in Prof's longevity as a touring artist — which includes stints with Atmosphere, Murs, Grieves & Budo, and Andre Nickatina. So if rappers like him, and fans buy the tickets, records, and hoodies, why's he politely enduring this interview before heading back out on the road? It's leaving nothing to chance.
"In this game I might not be fuckin' popular five years from now," Prof sagely admits. "Right now if I'm gaining steam, I have to work as hard as I can for the next four years because that could be it for the rest of my career. If I do make money, I'm gonna make sure I invest it or save it and I got something to do in the future."