Back in May, I saw Prof perform a sold-out show at The Crocodile. After just discovering him through his recent track “No,” which garnered over a million views on YouTube, I decided to go check him out. Right away I was caught off guard by his wild antics and out-of-the-box approach to hip-hop. After the first five minutes of his set, between the pure dedication of his fanbase and the rawness of his performance, I knew this was going to be an experience I would remember. I wasn’t let down. Prof captivated the crowd and brought everybody to his wavelength. It was one of the best hip-hop shows I’ve seen.

Coming out of Minneapolis, Minnesota, Prof has been captivating and surprising fans with wild music videos, crazy stunts, epic live shows and hard-knock humor behind the mic for years. Already well known in his hometown as a longtime underground rapper, Prof is also recognized for his extensive list of hip-hop productions, and his festival, Prof Outdoors, which is going on its fifth year in a row.

Signed to Rhymesayers label, Prof recently dropped his fourth studio album, Pookie Baby, which highlights Prof’s latest evolution in his ever-refining rap persona. “Pookie Baby” is Prof’s latest success, a fitting title for a person who’s learned through his years to continuously pour gasoline over the fire of his career, without burning himself out or leveling a whole town. He’s managed to maintain his authentically raunchy charm and stay predictably unpredictable, an equally outlandish but more refined version of earlier personas like “King Gampo.”

Plenty of time spent in the game and on the road steadily added credit to his name while staying just out of reach of the mainstream eye. Is that about to change? One has to wonder how long until Prof gets the attention he demands.

Listen to “Pookie Baby” by Prof

RMR Interviews Prof

*This interview was edited for clarity*

RMR: I’ve seen you more than once with an alligator in your media and music videos. Is that really your alligator? Is that thing legal to have?

Prof: That was a real alligator. It was my homies actually. He eventually got it taken away because it was some hella illegal shit! It was just chillin’ in his backyard, and it was super scary. But he let me borrow it for some stunts before it got taken away. It actually pissed on me in that picture. I don’t know if you’ve ever had an alligator piss on you before, but it’s not cool.

RMR: The energy at your Seattle show was pretty crazy, and literally packed with dedicated fans. What is touring like for you? How did you feel on this tour compared to earlier ones?

Prof: This was the best tour of my life. In the past, I’ve done tours that were somewhat filled, like one third or half full. On this tour, like every single venue was packed. As for other tours, I’ve been doing this for quite a while, and I’ve always loved it, from the first time I jumped on stage. But touring is a lot of hard work. Things are never easy on the road. So it feels really good to see this tour be so successful.

RMR: Where do you get your inspiration? What music do you listen to?

Prof: I get inspiration from all kinds of music. Blues, jazz, classical, hip-hop, actually just about everything except for really bad pop music or country. I love Louie Armstrong, Ray Charles, Cat Stevens, I like variety. Nobody’s really listening to just one type of music anymore, whereas,  for instance, like ten or fifteen years ago there was a lot of straight hip-hop heads. These days, everyone’s got space for different types of music.

RMR: You make music and perform shows that make fans laugh, shout, cry, and go completely wild. You maintain realness and show that you’re not worried what people think, while also commanding respect. Your persona isn’t like most rappers. You come off wilder, but also humble, and yet you still manage to crack jokes and steer the crowd in almost any direction. How did you develop this sort of persona in your music and shows? Can you tell me anything about your roots and your childhood that led you to be how you are as an artist and performer?

Prof: I grew up broke. That was a factor in my upbringing. I grew up understanding the idea that I had to fight for what I wanted, or just to protect myself. I’d been around fights, robberies, shootings, and this taught me to go into situations head on and be upfront with things and only hang around real people. I started rap battling in high school and from there I just kept going, and my persona grew out of my experiences growing up. I want my style to be predictably unpredictable. That’s why I do all sorts of stunts in my shows and my music videos and push myself to do crazier things. I want to give people that rush.

RMR: One of your songs that stuck out to me was “Yourself.” In this song, you sing about your problems with your bipolar dad during your childhood. You came back home one day to find your dad burning down your house. That song was really emotional and struck a chord with me. Was all that true?

Prof: Everything on that track was real and actually happened. There was definitely desperate moments in my childhood. Times when it was pretty much life or death, a struggle to get by. I never wanted to talk about that shit with my dad at first, but one day in the studio I just said “fuck it” and wrote and sung that song. I never even thought I’d ever show that song to a friend, but then one day I said “fuck it” and played it on a stage. The way the people in the crowd reacted to it, I was like “Oh shit,” because I knew then that I had to release it and keep playing it.

RMR: We live in a world where people like you have been hustling for a long time to get their music out to the world. Then random internet stars like the ‘yodle kid’ put out viral videos end up on stage at Coachella. Or, the catch me outside girl, who is now putting out music and doing nationwide tours. What’s your reaction to these internet stars who get thrown into the spotlight?

Prof: I think that’s just a natural trend. 15 minutes of fame. That sort of thing was going on before the internet. I want people to know me for my music and know I’m legit. It’s been a slow process for me but my fans have stayed loyal. Fetty Wap came in super hot a few years back, then he went cold. Trinidad James, gold all in my chain, it’s the same thing. I want to do something real and I’m doing it the right way. I’ve toured around the country ten times, I’ve put in my time.

RMR: what are you up to now that your tour is over?

Prof: While I’m back home I just want to make as much music as possible. I’ve got another music video to shoot soon, and I’ve been working on a few pilots for a TV show. That might go up on the internet, and then we might do something bigger with it if people like it.