Prof takes over First Avenue, 4/13/13
Photo by Anna Gulbrandsen
With Mod Sun, Culture Cry Wolf and Meta
First Avenue, Minneapolis
Saturday, April 13, 2013
"YOU CAN NEVER BE TOO BIG" was the all-caps slogan Prof wore on a black T-shirt Saturday. Though it might've been referring to his rising career -- and the recent double cover stories promoting his two sold-out shows at First Ave. -- the potty-mouthed Minneapolis rapper was more likely talking about Gampo Jr. in his pants.
"Are you old enough to touch this dick?" he asked the all-ages crowd in the early going as he executed one of many pelvic entendres directed at the front row, before adding, "I doubt it." And indeed this was a night when the passages on the First Avenue main floor remained remarkably unclogged for a capacity crowd. A ton of drinking-age fans stayed up in the balconies while the youngsters reveled downstairs on a night was not without other sorts of bigness, in terms of guests and spectacle.
The tone of Prof's warmup act, Mod Sun, was very Warped Tour. (And, appropriately, the Bloomington native is a vet of the yearly summer punk extravaganza.) With a mix of island positivity, party mischief, a little rap, and a little reggae, this is the music for kids conceived right around the time Sublime's Bradley Nowell died. Sun, aka Derek Smith, has a long mane of hair and is more than slightly reminiscent of surfboard champ Shaun White, and even has a song named after him. While the guy, who has attained a strong fan base nationally, is heavy on concepts that might give a jaded adult pause ("My favorite color is tie-dye"), his self-proclaimed "hippy hop" had that infectious grease to keep kids in motion.
Photos by Anna Gulbrandsen
By the time Prof reached the stage, the room was thundering with chants of "GAMPO!" As confetti streamed down for the first of several times, the towel-waving rapper launched into "Me Boi." Though he was geared up to move, a knee brace peeked out below his baggy shorts from time to time, and was a reminder that surgery awaited him soon after this final show of several strings of live dates over the past two years. "This is my finish line," he told us. "I'm beat the fuck up."
For "Gampo," Prof's hype man/Ed McMahon DJ Fundo really got into the act, and got the whole room's hands waving. The night proceeded with a mix of X-rated banter followed by some sort of "Oops, we're not actually telling you to [insert something illegal or explicit] because this is an all-ages show" and a tour of Prof's increasingly widening catalog.
St. Paul Slim jumped onstage to muscle through "Horses in the Ghetto" from their 2009 collaboration Recession Music, and then Prof went back in time even further for the "old heads" in the room. Compared to the trap music and EDM that inspires a lot of current Prof material, 2008's "Push (Mind on My Money)" is a rare moment of twisted boom-bap that had this particular old head thinking about some Redman and Onyx tracks. The chanted chorus of "push" went over well with the irrepressible audience, but Prof insisted at the end that it would be the "last time I ever perform that song."
Photos by Anna Gulbrandsen
Following a mic stand-stroking bust through "Lucky," Fundo dropped Jim Jones's "We Fly High" for a few bars to really froth up the crowd. And then he and Prof turned a hard left with "Baby Jacob," the most earnest of songs from the night. Sharing vocal duties, the guys belted that "Finally freeeeeee" like they were at the peak of a mountain. Then, as a reward for hearing out the serious stuff, the people on the floor got to drink the nectar of the bass via room-rumbling "Borrowed Time."
Next came a ribald tale of how amazing it is to be sexually gratified for 15 minutes behind a Dumpster in the First Avenue parking lot, and another singing interlude with Prof testing is vocal cords for the intro from R. Kelly's 19-year-old (!) "Bump n' Grind" before "Rules." Soon after, the thing that you probably already saw on Instagram happened. They launched into the unstoppable "Moron" and Prof got inside a giant hamster ball, a la the Flaming Lips' Wayne Coyne. As he rolled triumphantly through the crowd while Lazerbeak's catchy beat ran and ran, it was definitely a moment to consider if Prof was trying to show us how he feels about the pace he's been working at during the past two year. (The old heads in the crowd were probably just cringing and hoping his knee didn't tear in two.) Not to let the intensity wane, P.O.S crept out in a tie-dyed Mod Sun shirt to bang through "Broadcasting."
Photo by Anna Gulbrandsen
A little later on, Prof took a break from his dirty jokes. "I want to thank you for supporting independent music that's not on the radio," he said, and his dimples showed as he grinned. What followed were two compositions that he likely thought deserved to make it on the radio, the confessional "Myself," and the inspirational "On My Way." For the latter, the room was a sea of hands in the air, and he remarked at the end that this was the best show he had ever experienced.
"The show ends when I break my knee off," Prof yelled after a brief break offstage. As he belted through the Blackstreet-recalling "Need Your Love," it felt like the whole room went through puberty together, and then the evening capped with "President," which was introduced as the most aggressive song he's ever made. After some stage-diving into the welcoming arms of the crowd for both Prof and Fundo, there were trophies and a sash awaiting the rapper onstage. As "We Are the Champions" played, a brief mock ceremony closed out the night. Even if you never can be too big, this was big enough to impress.
Personal Bias: Lighten up, people.
The Crowd: Not old enough to know better. Possibly the youngest Prof fan of them all. Aww.
Random Notebook Dump: To misquote Danny Glover, I hope I'm never getting too old for this shit.
Horses in the Ghetto (with St. Paul Slim)
Push (Mind On My Money)
Broadcasting (with P.O.S)
On My Way
Need Your Love (Encore)
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