Underground Rapper of the Week: Prof

Underground Rapper of the Week is a new feature designed to raise awareness of rappers from all over the world who, if that world were a perfect place, would be more famous than they are. It will be updated every Tuesday before the sun goes down. Feel free to email suggestions of slept-on rappers from your city or wherever to: ezra.stead@gmail.com

Undoubtedly one of the most consistently entertaining underground rappers out right now, Southside Minneapolis’ Prof is a powerhouse of energy and skill wrapped up in an intentionally goofy exterior. Recently named one of City Pages’ Top 20 Best Minnesota Rappers, Prof has been on his grind in the Twin Cities for over a decade, and is now beginning to see some serious national exposure through his collaborations with the Alabama emcee Yelawolf and the Atlanta production duo Beat Chefs, who produced the stellar “Cold Outside” from Raekwon‘s Only Built 4 Cuban Linx … Pt. II, as well as fellow hometown heroes like Atmosphere and Brother Ali. Though his lyrics, stage presence and videos are mostly hilarious, Prof’s skill as an emcee is no joke, and his ability to engage an audience is extraordinary.

Prof released his first full-length with his rapping partner Rahzwell, the self-titled Prof & Rahzwell, in 2006, before breaking out with his Beat Chefs-produced solo debut, Project Gampo, in 2007. Like so many great emcees before him, Prof has invented a new slang term, “Gampo,” and it fits his hard-partying aesthetic perfectly. The hit single from that album, “Rocketman,” showcases his rapid-fire lyricism and playful swagger, as when he raps, “I keep ill, I eat skills / I climb mountains, I need thrills / Keep a couple dollar bills under my collar / So when I pop, know that I don’t mean pills.” Another standout track from that album is the hangover anthem “I Dry Heave,” which features great storytelling like these bars in which he describes barely getting to work and throwing up once more on the way in: “Rode on my niece’s handlebars all the way to work / My drunk ass might have been her training wheels, sure / And pull the trigger in the bushes before I walk in / My sweet niece left me gum in my pocket.”

Prof has stayed busy ever since, releasing two mixtapes under the title Kaiser von Powderhorn in 2008 and 2010, with a third on the way this summer. He also released the free album Recession Music, with fellow Minnesota rapper St. Paul Slim, in 2009; part of the ad campaign for that album, which includes the excellent “Horses in the Ghetto,” included old-fashioned “Wanted” posters of Prof and Slim illegally hung around the Twin Cities. This is a prime example of what sets Prof apart from a lot of other rappers: he has a unique way of making himself known, including some of the funniest promotional videos you’ll likely ever see. He also has a strong singing voice, which lends itself well to monster hooks such as the hilarious “Need Your Love” and “Animal,” as well as the straight-up blues jam “Whiskey.” Prof’s latest full-length, King Gampo, is available for free download now from Stophouse Music Group, so click that link and get Gampo!

  

You Heard It Here First: Yellow Dubmarine, “Something”

It’s clinically proven that the Beatles make life better. Combine the Beatles with the relaxing vibes of reggae, or more accurately reggae’s trippy cousin dub, and it’s quite possible that you could cure cancer. All right, perhaps some research is required before making a definitive statement, but it would not surprise us in the least to discover that a dub Beatles album serves as one hell of a placebo.

A quick Google search revealed a small army of reggae tributes to the Beatles, including another complete album makeover dub-style. Huh, who knew? But none of those other bands matter. We’re here to talk about Yellow Dubmarine, which is comprised of seven of the the most Anglo white men you’re likely to meet. (The only thing their press photo is missing is Damon Albarn, Graham Cozon, a monocle, and a Great Dane.) They sure don’t play like uptight English white boys, though, as this version of “Something” will show. It’s unclear where this will take them career-wise, but it’s a pretty interesting detour at the very least. We bet the Quiet One would have gotten a kick out of it, that’s for sure.

02 Something by Yellow Dubmarine

  

Steal This Song: Oh Mercy, “Lay Everything on Me”

There are few ways to get our attention faster than comparing an artist to Neil Finn. It’s a double-edged sword, though; there are scores of artists who try to emulate Finn brothers Neil and Tim, but almost none of them succeed in replicating his signature blend of rich melodcism with a healthy dose of neurosis. Still, when someone dares to make the comparison, we listen.

And, if the song turns out to sound more like the Go-Betweens than the Finn Brothers, we listen again. And again.

oh mercy

Alexander Gow and Tom Savage. The new McLennan and Forster?

“Lay Everything on Me,” the first single from Melbourne quartet Oh Mercy, feels like a lost track from 1987, the kind of thing that would have received heavy airplay in the early days of 120 Minutes. Think the Immaculate Fools, Danny Wilson, the aforementioned Go-Betweens, or if you want a modern-day comparison, Jupiter One. It’s insanely melodic guitar pop, with a simple, driving drum beat (and lots of cowbell) and a bare-bones scratch guitar line. But this is no retro hipster douchebag band cashing in on a movement; they simply favor melody over an ironic pose or sonic gimmicks – as it should me, damn it.

The band’s debut album, Priviledged Woes, is set to drop in the States soon, and after a dozen spins of this song and a quick glance of the songs on their MySpace page (which features a nifty cover of the Cardigans’ “Lovefool” that they recorded for an Australian radio station), it can’t come soon enough.

Oh Mercy – Lay Everything on Me

  

Steal This Song: Morningwood, “Best of Me”

Truth be told, I’m a bit shocked that the music press is rather indifferent to New York glam rockers Morningwood. I know they’re not the best band New York’s given the world, but their blend of punchy guitars, perky beats and that force of nature named Chantal Claret at the microphone strike some primal chord in me. Maybe it’s a reminder what what rock bands used to sound like, before they worried about whether they were cool enough, or if they were attracting the “right” fans. What a joke, really. Do you think Cheap Trick ever gave a fuck who was listening to their records, as long as people were buying them? Hell, no.

That’s why people refer to the music business these days as junior high school with money. Sadly, the same peer pressure rules apply to the people who write about bands. They want to be seen as cool, too (probably more so than the musicians they write about), so once a band has the perception of not being hip, the writers tend to fall in line. Case in point: a very well-known blogger told me at Lollapalooza in 2007 that they were surprised at how much they liked Silverchair’s performance, yet they the band down in their column. Oh, the price some pay for hipster credibility.

But not me. I gave that ghost up years ago, and I can’t tell you how much easier things are since I did. Of course, this might make bands reluctant to receive my stamp of approval, since it comes with a giant asterisk – Shit! He’s uncool! Wait, unless it’s cool to not care about being cool. Damn, this is hard – but I’m not high enough on the food chain yet for that to matter. Anyway…

Personally, I’ll take a band like Morningwood and a song like “Best of Me” over the more popular Paramore any day of the week. It’s brief (just a hair over three minutes), it’s catchy, it’s confident without bragging, and best of all, it’s all major keys, so there’s no unnecessary melodrama. It reminds me of Pat Benatar in her ass-kicking days (i.e. before she started her family). And you can have it for free. Dig in. And as an appetizer, here’s the video, which contains a nice callback to the band’s hilarious clip for “Sugarbaby,” which is one of my singles of the year.

To download Morningwood’s Best of Me, click here

  

Steal This Song: Gazpacho, “Winter Is Never”

The problem with a band reaching the upper reaches of the rock star food chain is that inferior bands begin to imitate them. And the band that has inspired the largest number of shitty copycats of late, sadly, is one of this writer’s favorites.

Muse_14 edit

Yep, Muse.

The thing about Muse is that their approach is a lot simpler than it appears. The song, by and large, comes first, whereas the band’s copycats see the flashy solos, the lightning-fast drum fills, and the busy bass lines and instantly forget about writing and concentrate on playing. Big, big mistake. Without a tune, that stuff is just masturbation.

Which brings us to Gazpacho, which seems an odd name for a group of Norwegians, but then again we suppose that everything is served cold there. (This moment of cultural insensitivity brought to you by Jack Daniel’s.) This is the first Muse-y band we’ve heard since “Knights of Cydonia” that seems to understand the order of things. They can play, and they make sure that you know they can play, but it’s not their endgame. And, in the case of “Winter Is Never,” the haunting ballad that closes their new album Tick Tock, the song comes first, second and third. David Gray is probably gnashing his teeth over this one, as this could pass for a White Ladder outtake, with a few Buckley-isms from lead singer Jan Henrik Ohme in the second chorus. Gorgeous stuff, and best of all, it’s free! The download link is below.

Groepsportret Gazpacho

In the meantime, those who felt a tad disappointed by Muse’s new album The Resistance would be wise to check out Tick Tock. It won’t make anyone burn their copies of Black Holes and Revelations, but for a mere $6.23 to download, it’s a steal. Dig in.

Gazpacho – Winter Is Never

Gazpacho MySpace page
Click to buy Tick Tock from Amazon

  

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