I’m not sure why a picture of someone sitting in a bathtub full of dirty water, eating a sloppy plate of oversauced spaghetti, while drinking milk out of a McDonald’s glass would make someone want to buy a rap album. In fact I’m inclined to believe it would have almost the exact OPPOSITE effect. Without knowing Prof you’d think he’s some indie rapper trying to get over by being hip-hop’s new Bizarre. That tells me one thing about Prof even before listening – he has balls. If you’re going to appreciate what he has to offer, you won’t be tricked into it. You are going to enjoy his beats or rhymes for what they are, since he’s going to sell you on the contents and contents only. That makes his cover art a form of reverse psychology that may ultimately prove highly effective – it’s so bad that he MUST be good.
Understanding the album’s name is much easier. “Gampo” is the word Prof and his friends use to describe something really crazy or really wild, inspired by a childhood friend of the same name. The more gampo it is, the more off the chain or the more off the hook it is. Therefore Prof is declaring himself “King Gampo,” the baddest and wildest mo’fo’ going. Given the rap scene he runs in, that’s quite the claim, since he rolls with Minneapolis mo’fos like Brother Ali and Doomtree and has even had a cameo on the Atmosphere song “he broke out solo in 2008. When writer Jordan Selbo reviewed that release, he took issue with the idea “Minneapolis = Rhymesayers” and vice versa, but whether he likes it or not Prof’s duet with Brother Ali on the song “Daughters” is one of the album’s highlights:
Prof: “Suck my dick, get a faceful
Why can’t Prof be all about the pesos?
I give a shit about you chickens little rhetoric
My girl don’t take no shit
Try to put a muzzle on me then I’m burnin a bridge
Motherfucker, respect my animal
Push me in a corner, I’ll split your cantaloupe
All the haters that don’t like my shit
If you really got a problem, come and fight me BITCH!”
Ali: “God given, you don’t gotta follow
my religion to recognize that I’m different
Can’t contain it, grab it, tame it
Chain, cage, or enslave my dedication
No second place in a race to make it
Lace up your shoes for the marathon, chase it
Sweated on stage a decade and came close enough
to wipe the sweat off the face of greatness
Y’all got low expectations
Hit first base and start celebratin”
After this song I have the opposite problem – HIGH expectations. Absolute’s beats and this tandem’s rhymes make me want more at the same level or greater for the rest of “King Gampo.” Happily for the most part Prof is able to deliver those expectations. The Noearth production on the title track is the kind of bouncy, whimsical and minimalistic song you’d expect from a left coast emcee like Declaime or Myka 9 – a little odd in a good way. C. Grindberg’s beat on “Anomaly” is almost the exact opposite, which makes it more impressive that Prof put these songs back to back on the album. It’s bass heavy, electronic, and features Prof’s hilarious braggadocious assertion that “I’m about as fly as it gets/so fly that I’m +literally+ on top of shit” – which he nearly one-ups just seconds later by declaring himself “so Rick Ross.”
What the early tracks of “King Gampo” successfully establish is that Prof is a versatile lyricist who can be serious or silly as the mood fits him, that he can flow to any kind of beat thrown at him, and that he’s not afraid to show a little ass to entertain the audience (perhaps harkening back to that bathtub on the cover again). That’s reflected by songs like “Whiskey” which suddenly pop up in the middle of the album, produced by Ant of Atmosphere fame, where Prof croons about his love of single malt and how he’s going to “keep on drinking until the cows come home.” I’ve gone on the record many times as saying rappers by and large shouldn’t sing, but Prof does it quite well. He’s a cocky bastard, as proven by his rap on the Willie Wonka produced “President,” but judging by the talent he displays there’s no reason not to be. You could interpret it as a parody of Southern style Gucci Mane swagger if you wanted, but it works even if you don’t, much like his duet with Riff Raff on “James Bond Blimp.” From the start to the end of “King Gampo” Prof proves himself a seriously skilled rapper, who allows himself to have a good time and spit some fun rhymes in the process.