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!


Margot & the Nuclear So and So’s: Buzzard

RIYL: Aqualung, Nada Surf, Rogue Wave

It’s interesting to note or see when a band loses its record deal or exits from a major label on its own, and what happens afterward. Many times the band breaks up and goes their separate ways, but these days that’s just the beginning for some artists; with Chicago-based band Margot & the Nuclear So and So’s being one such act. Their previous albums – The Dust of Retreat (Artemis, 2005) and Animal (as well as Not Animal – Epic, 2008) – were similarly lush and brooding with lots of orchestration. But now back to being fully indie, singer/songwriter/guitarist Richard Edwards took six months off before gathering the rest of the band to record again, and the result is the beautifully haunting Buzzard. These songs can maybe best be described as raunchy Halloween-inspired stoner rock, with melodies. The strings are gone and the crunching Fender guitar sound is prominent. There are moments, of course, when Margot & the Nuclear So and So’s reaches back a couple of years and delivers some similar material, particularly on “Tiny Vampire Robot” and the beautifully acoustic “I Do.” But the raunch is in full bloom on “Let’s Paint Our Teeth Green” and “New York City Hotel Blues,” as well as the album’s best track, “Freak Flight Speed.” Oh, and there is also “Your Lower Back,” a somewhat playful nod to a young stripper. Not only does Buzzard have the type of music you might hear in the hip indie record store, it’s maybe Margot’s best album yet – and perhaps the one they’ve wanted to make all along. (Mariel/Redeye 2010)

Margot & the Nuclear So and So’s MySpace page