To detractors, Minneapolis rapper Prof's return to the stage this weekend also marks a return to business as usual despite hard-fought efforts to call out misogyny and sexual misconduct in the Minnesota music scene.
Prof and his supporters, however, say he's being unfairly targeted by MeToo advocates. They believe Friday's gig at the Olmsted County fairgrounds in Rochester is nobody's business but the 2,000-plus fans expected to show up for Minnesota's biggest post-quarantine hip-hop concert.
"Ten people on Facebook who were misinformed spread misinformation," the rapper said last week, downplaying media stories and social media posts that threatened cancellation of the concert.
"I intend to go to work and provide for my family."
Opponents of the concert were vocal enough to prompt a meeting last month of the Olmsted County Fair Board, which decided to let the concert — booked by an independent promoter — go forward.
Prof himself has not been accused of sexual misconduct, though a former tourmate was. But critics pointed to old tweets and lyrics in which Prof joked about raping women and having sex with underage girls. "I don't make babies with anyone over 17," he tweeted in 2012.
Apologizing last year, Prof tweeted, "I've made progress since these disgusting excuses for jokes, and it's important I show improve[ment] everyday going forward."
The fallout caused his longtime label Rhymesayers to drop him last summer, just days before his album "Powderhorn Suites" was to arrive. The record was later independently released and shot to No. 3 on Billboard's hip-hop album chart, reiterating his popularity.
The promoter of Friday's show, Nick McLaughlin (aka Nikolai Zeppa) of the company Stationary Astronaut, drew ire in June after he delivered a tirade on YouTube against one of the concert's critics.
That prompted another prominent Minneapolis rapper, Nur-D, to question working with the promoter. His own gig at the fairgrounds, scheduled for July 29, is now canceled.
"I was shocked to hear how he was threatening people [and] overall just not carrying himself in a professional way," said Nur-D.
McLaughlin said this week that the Nur-D show was canceled over "radius clause" issues in their contract to avoid competing shows by the rapper elsewhere, which he initially thought would not be a problem. He is standing by the Prof gig, though.
"If anything, this controversy helped the show [and] really opened people's eyes to the petty nature of the No Fun Police," the promoter said.
"Cancel culture is a dangerous precedent and is setting an impossible standard of living."
However, the woman singled out by McLaughlin for criticizing the Prof concert — he said she "will never work in this city again" — never actually called for the show to be canceled. She said she even attended Prof's previous gig in the city.
Rosei Skipper, a Rochester-based events organizer and marketing professional, said she and about a dozen other women in the city's music and arts scene met up and planned to write a letter to the editor to the Post Bulletin, addressing their concerns about the concert.
"All I wanted was for us to have a serious, responsible discussion," Skipper said last week.
The letter was never sent, though. McLaughlin got wind of their plan and went on the offensive "within hours of our meeting," Skipper said. "Especially after everything that happened in the Twin Cities music scene last year, it seems like we need to be having these discussions. We can't solve the problems if we don't start addressing them."
Minneapolis musician and survivors advocate Kat Hansberry said she has experienced firsthand how Prof concerts "are not safe spaces for people who aren't men."
"These are spaces where talking about raping children is normalized, and men who don't take responsibility for their own actions are also normalized," Hansberry said. "Unless he does something to address and change that part of his stage persona, he will continue to perpetuate that sort of behavior."
Prof and his manager declined to comment further for this article. McLaughlin said Prof's critics have "created a narrative that wasn't true," and added, "Show me a perfect person, and I'll show you an illusion."
Many fans voiced support and excitement for Friday's concert.
"If you don't like it, don't go," Rochester fan Sarah Darga posted.
"This event is supporting many jobs and is bringing a local Minnesota musician who many people are fond of," wrote Nicholas Jeno of Rochester.
About $2 per ticket plus some concession money goes to support operations at the Olmsted County fairgrounds, which took a big financial hit with last year's cancellation of the county fair.
"I have a number of concerns about how this booking was made, potential conflicts and involvement of public resources," former Rochester City Council Member Michael Wojcik said in a social media post.
Fair Board members — who work as a nonprofit, not an official county department — took the concerns seriously enough to hold a special meeting June 3, where they discussed but quickly decided not to cancel Prof's appearance.
"Although the fair board may not agree with [his] social media posts, music and lyrics, Prof has never been charged with a crime and has done nothing illegal," they said in a statement afterward. "Individuals can choose to purchase a ticket or not."
In an interview last week, Fair Board President Scott Schneider cited the threat of a lawsuit and said, "The truth is, the concert just wasn't ours to cancel."
Noting he won't be at the show himself, Schneider added: "I really don't like hip-hop music, but you can't go and shut down every hip-hop artist in America — including the ones that performed at the Biden inauguration."
Prof's first show back is something of a bellwether after last summer's wave of misconduct allegations in the Minnesota music scene.
Another rapper dropped by Rhymesayers, Dem Atlas, is moving to relaunch his career this summer. Unlike Prof, he is publicly defending himself against critics.
The St. Paul native self-released an introspective, vindictive EP in June, titled "Redemption." He also posted an emotional 10-minute video on his Instagram page in which he threatened legal action against Rhymesayers and denied abusing a former girlfriend and other charges of sexual misconduct made on social media last summer.
"I have never forced a woman to do anything with me," he said in the video, in which he portrays himself as the victim. "There has been no justice, there's been no truth.
"I think cancel culture is extremely toxic. You are guilty until proven innocent."
For Skipper, these performers' efforts to move forward professionally haven't been "sufficiently matched" by efforts to make amends and "take ownership for their harmful actions," she said.
"We're very bad at apologizing in our culture," Skipper said. "I don't have the answers on how we make things right. That's why we need to have more discussion."