Foremost among them, a herniated disc from a tour a few years ago still bothers him. He also blew out his knee near the end of this latest trek and is due for surgery next week. Thus, the spa visit was not just another chance for Prof to act like a high roller for comedic purposes.
“Performing live is what I’m best at, and I love it, but I would love to not rely on it,” he said.
The main reason he drinks so much on tour, he said, is to maintain the zany, boozy character he portrays on stage and on record — sort of the indie-rap version of Dean Martin. Except Prof isn’t drinking apple juice every night.
“I might have one quick shot before going onstage, but otherwise I don’t drink before the sets,” he explained. “What I get drunk for are the meet-and-greets afterwards, because everybody else is so incredibly drunk. It’s hard to pull that off sober.”
His touring partner Fundo described a scene where “everyone wants to buy you a shot, and it actually means something to them to do it, so you hate to turn it down.”
Onstage and backstage, Prof is a masterful traveling salesman. He and his partners in the Minneapolis-based Stophouse Music label are so sure he can sell himself on tour that a majority of his albums have been given out for free.
For the Atmosphere tours in 2011, they handed out a staggering 50,000 copies of that year’s full-length record, “King Gampo” (“Gampo” is a Prof-trademarked term for being a nutcase, named after a childhood friend). Nearly 30,000 more were doled out as free downloads.
This marketing tactic has earned Prof scorn from some of his fellow rappers and musicians in town, even more so than his sometimes objectionable music.
“I always tell them, ‘If you’ve figured out a way to make money selling your records, congratulations, but it doesn’t work for me,’ ” Prof said. He clarifies, though, that they don’t just blindly give out the CDs.
“These are people who have already seen me perform, so they already know me and know what I’m about. They can’t get me on the radio, but they get me onstage.”
Rubbed the wrong way
Of course, another good way to get to know a rapper is through a couple’s massage.
With Enya-style, waterfall-shimmery music for a backdrop and our tables side-by-side, Prof seemed to take the last big step unwinding from his tour during our 50-minute session — although he never fully shed his wiseacre skin.
“I’m glad we booked the four-hour massage,” he joked to the two massage therapists, whom he repeatedly called “girls” to their faces.
The criticism most often lobbied at Prof is that his lyrics and imagery are misogynistic, from the lewd and sometimes demoralizing sex talk to his angry and loose use of the B-word. He defends some of that as lampooning other hypersexual machismo hip-hop. But he doesn’t feel the need to defend all of it.
“I’ve said a lot of bad [stuff] about men on my records, too,” he points out.
“Yeah, I’ve called some women a bitch in my songs. I’m not thinking about all women. I’m thinking about some girl from my memory that completely deserves to be called that.”
Ironically or not, he grew up surrounded by women, the only boy in a household with four sisters.