Prof is hands down the best performer in rap today. That sounds like a bold claim, but anyone who’s seen him live can confirm it. Never breaking through to radio or commercial success, Prof has sustained his eight-year rap career through outstanding live shows and a strong relationship with his fans. The Minneapolis native performs under the mindset that every show he does will be the best performance of his life, a mantra which he repeats to the crowd at every show. On Friday, Feb. 23, he tried as hard as he could to give the best performance of his life at the Majestic Theatre.
Prof opened his set with a flurry of breakneck-speed bangers that ignited the crowd. Within 10 minutes, five fans had screamed vulgarities into the mic, two independent mosh pits had formed, and three fans crowd surfed around Majestic’s modest dance floor. It was obviously going to be a rowdy night. Just as the crowd was reaching peak energy, Prof cut the beat to his top song “Bar Breaker” and began reciting his high-strung party lyrics in a conversational tone. “If you ain’t feeling my shit it’s completely understandable / I’m beyond rap, homie I’m speaking animal,” he explained. Eventually, he jumped back into the track with full-speed rapping, the beat hit just as he reached his top gear and the crowd went crazy all over again.
Amid the crowd chanting “Gampo! Gampo! Gampo!” (Prof’s nickname), Prof slowed down the show to connect with the crowd. He’s famous for his fan appreciation, and after every show you’ll find him at the merch table meeting fans for at least an hour. During this tour, he scheduled all of Saturday just to meet Madison fans, and he even scheduled a pickup flag football game at Tenney Park open for anyone to join. It’s rare for rappers to respect audiences to the immense extent Prof does, and that admiration is reciprocated tenfold. One longtime fan even gave Prof a one-of-a-kind shirt reading “King Gampo rules Madtown.”
As any versatile performer should do near the halfway point of a high-energy show, Prof started the slow section of his set including tear-jerker “Myself.” “I believe in nothing / I believe in myself” he wailed to the crowd as they swayed their hands in the air. As he recovered from his emotional ballad, Prof asked the crowd, “Have you noticed a pattern in my set yet? All of my songs are fucking incredible.”
After Prof briefly left the stage, he returned for an inevitable encore. He and his DJ, WIlly Wonka, heroically posed on stage as the theme to “2001: A Space Odyssey” played. The climax of the song cut into a dance contest between Prof and Wonka, which quickly cut into party anthem “Church.” Prof concluded the show with his 2011 track “President” which sent the Majestic into a bona fide eruption. Opener Dwynell Rowland rode atop the crowd on a pool float, DJ Willy Wonka took off his shirt and high-jumped onto the crowd (thankfully not in my direction), Prof dove out into the crowd and finished his verse while crowd surfing, and no one in their right mind was standing still. Overall, Prof’s charisma and energy left everyone with a smile on their face and a raised standard for what a good rap performance is like.