When North meets South, the best of both cultures rise to the surface. At least, that’s the result local MC Prof got when he teamed up with a Southern production team to create his first album, “Project Gampo.”
The Minnesotan, who recently signed with local Interlock Records, partnered up with Atlanta-based beat squad the Beatchefs.
The result? Northern knowledge with Southern style.
“Project Gampo” laces the intricate story-telling lyrics of Prof over Dirty South crunk beats. Instead of sounding like an awkward mash-up, the professionalism of the two hip-hop crews helped create a unique sound that is rarely heard this far north of the Mason-Dixon Line.
The album sounds like perfect party music, with upbeat and up-tempo music and plenty of easily-remembered choruses to chant in unison.
It is upon closer listen, though, that the attention to detail Prof poured into the lyrics emerges.
On “Gold Teeth,” which features his rapping partner Rahzwell, Prof dances his way around the story of his father torching the family’s house when he was a child. Prof tells the story over an infectiously danceable beat, steeped in Southern influences and interrupted by a chorus that is catchy as hell.
“Put a match to it/ See if it lights/ See if it turns bright/ See where your son falls asleep tonight/ And that’s the night your son turned to a beast/ A phoenix arise through the ashes/ I feel complete,” he spits in a way that is at once cathartic and candid.
It is this balance, of raw truth and lighthearted fun, which keeps “Project Gampo” from falling into the trap many a Northern rapper has stumbled into: The dreaded depths of emo rap.
Talking about social problems and feelings and the rollercoaster ride that is life can come off sounding whiny if an artist cannot find a way to avoid that angst-ridden tone commonly associated with the sub-genre.
Prof escapes the emo rap trap through his collaboration with the Beatchefs, who cook up some deliciously original tracks. The music is stewed in Southern fried influences but doesn’t sound like every generic piece-o-rap on the radio.
Dedicating the last track of the album to his mother, Prof and the Beatchefs keep the subject fresh by giving the song an emotional, straight from the soul vibe. Beatchefs do their part by looping a couple of gospel-sounding clips over a mid-tempo but groove-worthy mix.
Prof spends the track reminiscing on his “only true love,” as he says, his mother. Unlike many mom-tributes, which essentially equate to those tacky heart tattoos with “Mom” scrawled inside, Prof looks back on his childhood and processes the guilt of an adult who knows how hard their parent worked to provide for them.
Prof reflects in one verse, “If you can’t afford a babysitter, take me to class/ But I probably won’t sit still, I’ll be a pain in your ass/ But if I would’ve known, I would’ve grown up sooner.” He juggles the guilt of reminiscing with the innocent ignorance of childhood as well, if not better, than any other MC in hip-hop.
Regardless of subject-matter, Prof and the Beatchefs take a fresh approach to each song. The Beatchefs make crunk-influenced tracks that are never generic and Prof touches on heavily-rotated material but with his own angle and vocabulary.
So, when the two camps – both striving to differentiate themselves in their own markets – hook up to create music like that found on “Project Gampo,” great things happen. North and South stew together, both contributing the juiciest parts of their flavor, and making one tasty hip-hop album.