I walked into the hot parking lot area during Soulcrate's set, who started exactly on time to make sure the tightly packed sets went as scheduled. The two South Dakota rappers, who've built a solid fanbase locally, rapped with Later Babes, the DJ/drummer duo who have recently identified themselves as a separate band in conjunction with Soulcrate, providing a slight hard-rock tinge to otherwise straight-forward Midwest underground. Finishing out the set by firing a T-shirt gun into the crowd, they had the day quickly feeling more like a festival than your average show.
There were roving teams of dudes squirting water, beach balls of various sizes bouncing everywhere, toilet paper flung as streamers. Long-ass lines and cash-only bars. Taxidermied bears, deer, and wolves adorning the stage. Joints passed around, remarkably drunk people stumbling or picking fights. Everyone was high-energy in spite of their dehydration. Prof is known for having rowdy, ecstatic fans, and they showed up in droves with remarkable stamina. Appreciation was shown to every artist who hit the stage.
It was a well-constructed lineup, featuring a number of regional flavors of independent rap. Representing the West Coast were Fashawn and Evidence, mainstays of the California underground. Fresno's Fashawn, backed by Minneapolis's own BK-One, brought out his lo-rider flows on the perfect day. With the sun beaming down, he switched between his originals into rapping over Dr. Dre or I Self Devine tracks seamlessly. Both Fashawn and Evidence tout an understated but powerful rhyme ability, and as Evidence came out to the huge-sounding "It Wasn't Me," he simultaneously proved himself a solid rapper and producer. The Rhymesayers artist called Minneapolis his "second home," gave a birthday shout-out to Slug, and continued a strong set with the comfort of a local.
In between sets, the PA played familiar songs by Brother Ali, Doomtree, and the Beastie Boys, in giant chunks that felt like listening to a whole album. Compared to the sonic variety provided by Get Cryphy during their sets, this got somewhat tedious. The Cryphy crew knew to switch quickly between their staple track choices and keep things lively. Even those manning the booths in the back of the lot were screaming along to Lil Jon and bopping left and right. Excitement built in the air as Run the Jewels, the duo composed of new best friends Killer Mike and El-P, set up to take stage. They entered to George Thorogood's "Bad to the Bone" with beaming smiles on their faces.
As they went into their set of new, fully collaborative material their intensity never let up. Few can touch either rapper in pure technical terms. Each handles microphones with the sort of deftness and precision you'd expect out of rappers this far entrenched, but there's a new hunger that's not present in a lot of veterans. As they switched between fast and slow flows that maintained a ferocity no matter the track's tempo, their chemistry together was palpable. Neither played any solo tracks (save Mike's "Butane," which kind of doesn't count), but all the new material, like "Sea Legs" and "DDFH," was so strong it didn't really matter.
El-P played both goofy and dead serious, alternately messing around with the stuffed deer ("I'm from Brooklyn, man, I don't know the difference between this thing and fucking rabbit," he said at one point, after having ridden around on it while rapping) and expressing the depth of his lyrics. Closer "A Christmas Fucking Miracle" was dedicated to Michael "Eyedea" Larson, who both rappers saluted before launching into a slow-burning tribute.
After a long, hot day of stellar performances, it was surprising anyone was still standing to see Prof. But once he came out, to the slow-building chords of a never-before-heard song, it was evident who the crowd was here to see. Prof has built a sizable and devoted fanbase from an entirely grassroots level, the consequences of which can be seen in the huge turnout and reciprocal appreciation. Several times throughout the show Prof sincerely thanked his fans, encouraged them to sing along, and shouted out his hometown. Few can match the man's fluid energy, and he was in full form tonight (despite the fact that he said he'd been drunk since his meet and greet at 3 p.m.). He tends to build off the energy of the crowd, amping up or dramatically winding down when the moment calls for it. He knew how to keep the probably exhausted people going harder than they had all day.
"There's a common thread in all of tonight's songs," Prof said at one point. "They're all fucking incredible." His song choices were as well-curated as the lineup, featuring many different types of songs that highlighted his range as an artist. ShaLa and St. Paul Slim joined him on stage for deep cuts like "Chicken Dinner" and "Horses in the Ghetto." Giant hits like "Moron," "President," and the new song "Zoo" played as insane as one would expect, but surprise crowd-pleasers like the darker "Myself" and 'Karma" showcased Prof's strength as a songwriter. Few other artists have been able to write such blood-letting material and keep them as hype as the rest, which is a gift of Prof's that is often overlooked. Prof's stage presence and energy are cited as his strong points, but applying that energy appropriately and using it to add meaning to tracks is a specialty all his own. He handles the stage especially well at bigger deal hometown shows like this, and this was easily his finest performance to date.
It was a crazy night, complete with stage-diving, raucous dancing, and St. Paul Slim in a crowd-surfing hamster ball. During certain songs a gaggle of girl dancers showed up behind Prof. The whole show was nothing short of mayhem. Closer "Borrowed Time," a highlight off of Prof's Kaiser Von Powderhorn 3
, teases with a glacial intro before exploding into electronic chaos, which left everyone jumping and shouting and losing their shit. Immediately afterward, it was over. Apparently the cops stopped Prof (who flew to play Rock the Bells the following day) from going past the 10 p.m. curfew. The crowd clearly wanted more. This truly did feel like the historic event Prof promised it'd be.
Overheard In The Crowd: "It's not a party until someone throws toilet paper."
The Crowd: Gampos galore.
James Bond Blimp
Chicken Dinner (with ShaLa)
Everybody Down (with St. Paul Slim)
Horses in the Ghetto (with St. Paul Slim)
On My Way