“Do you remember how in the eighties every movie or television program had some sort of robot, gremlin, or Emanuel Lewis? Professor Fresh is one of those things. Realizing he was the best rapper/producer/engineer/photoshop wizard/regular wizard of all time, it would be selfish of him to keep his routine awesomeness from the world.”
From the get-go Professor Fresh presents himself as both irreverent and intelligent. It’s clear he wants to be take as a serious emcee, even if he doesn’t take promoting himself that seriously. This has been a successful promotional tactic for artists with a similar formula and format to Fresh. Naturally you as the reader are then asking “What kind of artists are similar to Fresh?” A short list would include (but not be limited to) mc chris, Devo Spice and MC Paul Barman. While Fresh never outright declares himself as a nerdcore rap artist, he certainly has many of the hallmarks of the genre: he’s self-published and distributed, his microphone personality is not “hard,” and without being intended as a pejorative connotation one way or the other, he’s white.
Now Fresh does differentiate himself from the cliches of a genre he sounds very similar to in one key way – he doesn’t really rap about nerdy topics. There aren’t any songs on “From MN, w/ Love” about how much he enjoys role-playing games, why his l33t hacking skills are better than yours, or how much he enjoyed playing Super Mario Bros. when he was a little kid. On the flipside it’s not necessarily clear what Professor Fresh really IS talking about. Songs on this album do have concepts, but there’s not a whole lot of depth to them, especially on tracks like “Are We Having Fun Yet?” Sure it’s funny to hear Stan Smith from American Dad open the song by saying “I’ll be better than good – I’ll be FUN!” Even outside of the context of the show this sounds humorous coming from a straight-laced and serious CIA agent, but it’s not good when that overshadows the 3:26 that follows.
“So make yourself comfortable, live life loose
Just let it roll, and play it out like it’s your last move
Right now’s the youngest that we will ever be
And I appreciate you spending some of your time with me
(“CAN YOU DIG IT?”) And then the cigs get lit
You got a little hula hula shit I’d have a little bit
(“Can we get a motherfuckin moment of silence?”)
(“For this small chronic break?”)
Blazed up, I’m wondering is everybody in?
You can, feel the room, feel the vibrations”
Perhaps it wasn’t such a good idea to sample from Snoop Dogg or “The Warriors” either. It’s okay to let your personality be a lack of ego, that’s not a bad way to go as a performer or an artist to stand out, but if you lack the ability to say something interesting to go along with it then it becomes a detriment. The late great Mitch Hedberg is an example of how to do it the right way – he was shy, unassuming, nervous about looking at crowds, but then he’d say outrageously funny things like “I’d like to make a vending machine that sells vending machines. It’d have to be real fuckin’ big!” The audience would get the joke, and Hedberg’s observational comedy would have more appeal, simply by the fact he’d break through his modest facade and actually make you feel a personal connection. It’s hard to make that connection with Fresh. Even songs with otherwise provocative titles like “Life’s a Beautiful Bitch” don’t live up to it:
“I see a flower, I want to give it to you
Don’t want to pick it, it needs to reach full bloom
I can paint a picture, but never depict it
I can take a snapshot that you’ll never get so
I let it grow and I’ll see it again
Please receive me before the season ends
I believe it to be so it’s true in a sense
There has to be more than this, yo”
Indeed. I don’t fault Fresh for his sincerity, but I do fault him for being an intelligent guy yet never seeming to express it within his rhymes. The metaphors are either simplistic or completely non-existant. One often gets the impression he didn’t have any thought in mind on these self-produced rhymes – he just came up with a beat that was “okay” and then came up with a rap that was “okay” and slapped them together and said “good enough.” Well that’s not. It actually takes the guest stars on the album to bring something out of it, such as the hard drums and electronic backdrop of “Stripes” featuring Rellium Prime. “King Shit” with Chuck Bytz and Ill P.O.E. also stands out, and DJ Shoba also jumps on to provide scratches. This track is about as close to a boom bap sound as Professor Fresh gets.
At the end of the day I applaud Professor Fresh for his DIY hustle, his willingness to put himself out there in front of audiences, and the fact that he’s obviously looking for criticism instead of just hiding behind a naive optimism about how dope he is. Since this album comes “From MN, w/ Love” I want to give the love right back by being honest: you need some more work homey. I see a spark in Fresh’s music, but it’s a very tiny spark, the kind you would make with a piece of flint to try and light some dry brush on fire with. Unfortunately it takes a long time to build a fire and get hot that way – and I hope Fresh will use a box of matches instead. Keep trying and you may blaze up the underground some day.