Prof's roles as party rapper and provocateur have earned him supporters and detractors alike, but his energetic live performances, crude humor and pop sensibility make it hard to dislike him. Certainly no one in attendance had much negative to say, as hands remained raised and lyrics continued to be recited throughout the extent of the concert. I caught the 18+ show later in the evening, but Prof had already rocked the Entry with Sean Anonymous and guests for an all-ages slot at 5 p.m. The fact that Prof had easily sold out the mainroom last time he headlined here speaks to the fact that the size of this show was chosen specifically to give fans something more personal, and he was able to interact with the audience in ways he couldn't at a larger show.
As if taking cues from Slug's recent homegrown outreach, Prof's opening sets were stacked with local rappers who are among the best going currently. Long Doe's Mike the Martyr began the night after a lively DJ Fundo set with a string of new tracks that dropped earlier in the day, off his recent mixtape "Lake Street Store: Over The Counter"
. Martyr's old-school hip-hop soul sensibilities played with a crowd that was unfamiliar, as he rapped about weed and women with a subtle sense of wordplay that was lyrically focused and fine tuned despite begin low-key. All encouragements to smoke weed seemed to please the audience, though the staff and security who were strategically placed and constantly milling around the crowd didn't seem too happy about it.
Grittee Comittee (Greg Grease and Freez as a duo) came up next and also managed to slay among a sea of people itching to see the main act. Running through past collaborations and some that have yet to see the light of day turned the energy in the place up to next appropriate level. Each has a comparable yet wholly unique flow that incorporates triple-time syllable work and intricate internal rhyme schemes, all over smoked-out low-end beats that are smooth and slow. When Meta arrived to drop a couple of guest verses on tracks, it was a sight to behold. If these three aren't in your top ten local rappers, it's time to re-evaluate that list. Not only are they stunning and unique, but they play off of each other incredibly well and made for a highlight set.
Photo by Anna Gulbrandsen
After another set from Dj Fundo, who promised to spin only "nasty tracks" from then on, Prof came to the stage to the sound of epic classical soundtrack music, the kind that plays when the wrath of God is finally being enacted upon the Earth. He then opened with "Borrowed Time" off KVP3, one of many songs that walks the line between melodic rap and straight-up sung R&B, but with a beat that turns the opening somber piano on its head with pounding drums and dirty synth. The place became a sea of hands and the crowd turned into a back-up choir, as every word to every song that night was embedded in everyone's brain. That energy basically didn't let up. It seemed at times he was working through the difficulty of playing shows back to back, but he always seemed boosted by a supportive reception. The show got exactly as buck as you'd want it to.
Mostly focusing on the big, raucous hits, Prof broke out some slower tracks at appropriate times. "Sex Ed" was brought out especially for this audience, with worry that he might not hit the notes properly after a full three hours on stage over the course of the night. Again, the people had his back, and provided ample back-up to the dirty seduction song, as well as on tracks like the bluesy "Whiskey" and the hammy "Need Your Love." After a three-song run of his highest-energy bangers ("Elephant" to "Animal" to "Me Boi"), he told the audience he was going to stop "right when the show's at its most huge and play something no one will like." Here he opted to do the troubled-past reflection songs "Myself" and "Corner," with just as much enthusiastic response. These songs are a testament to Prof's ability to write tracks of any subject matter and make them sonically appealing, but his skill lies mostly in the party atmosphere, and building the riot back up with "Yeah Buddy" and "President" as closers spoke to that.
Photo by Anna Gulbrandsen
It's hard to criticize an artist that has put in a solid 15 years of work and built a massive local fanbase without much help from the press, especially one who remains humble enough to want to give his fans a show as tightly knit as this. For all the crudity that can lie on the surface of the man's music, underneath lies a genuine artist who truly cares about his fans and does his best to put on a killer show.
Personal Bias: I had gone in thinking of turning this into some thinkpiece about message versus escapism and/or media's approach to questionable yet popular artists, but I had too much fun really think about that stuff.
The Crowd: Mostly white, pretty drunk.
Overheard in the Crowd: "Keep it real, Prof!" at the beginning of "Myself"
Random Notebook Dump: Prof's introduction to "Sex Ed": "How many of you know what pussy tastes like? This is grown folks that have had sex and know how to do it!"
Horses In The Ghetto
On My Way
Need Your Love