ROCHESTER, Minn. — The Olmsted County Fair Board plans to meet this week to discuss the upcoming performance of Twin Cities hip-hop artist Prof at the fairgrounds in July, and the controversy over his misogynistic tweets and lyrics that is prompting some to call for its cancellation.
The Twin Cities musician was booked by Rochester-based promoter and media company Stationary Astronauts, to perform the week before the Olmsted County Fair. But the controversy has landed in the lap of the 10-member fair board because it ultimately approved the performance.
Fair board President Scott Schneider and another board member, Brandon Helgeson, said they were unaware of Prof's offensive tweets or the fact that the rapper's Minneapolis hip-hop label, Rhymesayers, dropped him last year when the board approved the booking.
Rhymesayers cut ties with Prof and another artist, Dem Atlas, last year to "proactively address sexism and the toxic masculinity that pervades our culture," it said.
News of Prof's performance at the fairgrounds has generated criticism from former Rochester City Council member Michael Wojcik, and reportedly led to talks of a letter signed by sexual assault survivors and others that would be sent to local news outlets.
Rosei Skipper, a local social media promoter and one of the organizers of the proposed letter-writing campaign, has been a sharp critic of the booking.
"I don't mean to be a pest. I just don't understand why this is happening, when the Olmsted County fair budget could afford SO MANY OTHER artists," Skipper said in the Rochester Troublemakers Facebook group.
In response, Stationary Astronauts promoter Nikolai Zeppa went on a 10-minute Facebook video rant in which he accused critics of indulging in "cancel culture" and said, "Rosei Skipper, you will never work in this city again as far as I am here." The video has since been deleted.
"Guess what? That is not a crime," Zeppa said about Prof's past tweets and lyrics. "And now we have people we have to delete off the comment section of our paid ads who are calling Prof a rapist, when he has had zero allegations ever."
Messages left with Zeppa and Stationary Astronauts for this story were not returned as of Tuesday night, June 1.
Since the controversy broke last week, Schneider said board members have made their own inquiries, including reaching out to Prof's previous label to find out whether Prof has been accused or charged with a crime. They learned, Schneider said, that he hasn't.
Schneider also noted that Prof disassociated himself from Chris Young, aka DJ Fundo, whom Prof referred to as having "sexual misconduct allegations" lodged against him and accused of "lying to women," in a June 2020 tweet, about the time that Rhymesayers severed its ties with Prof.
In the same tweet, Prof also apologized for the "misogyny and reckless behavior I was promoting in my persona and music" that could be construed as creating an "environment for abuse."
"Like all of us in our lives, we've done or said things we regret," board member Helgeson said.
Some of the tweets attributed to Prof and retweeted by others glorify rape, violence against women, and having sex with underage girls. Several of them were tweeted out in 2012, years before the start of the #MeToo movement, a social media campaign against sexual abuse and sexual harassment.
Schneider did not dispute the offensive nature of Prof's tweets. He said the fair board would not have approved him as a performer the week of the fair. Prof is performing at the fairgrounds the week before as a way to raise money to pay for the fair.
Schneider said the board gets a percentage of the proceeds brought in by food and commercial vendors, parking and grandstand events to pay for the fair. The fair runs on a tight budget, and no public funds are used.
But this year, the board anticipated bringing in less money due to a decline in food and commercial vendors as a result of the coronavirus pandemic. To offset the loss, the board has turned to pre-fair events and other moneymakers, such as drive-in movie events at the fairgrounds in the fall and spring. Prof and musician Marc Rebillet, also set to perform at the fairgrounds, are part of that strategy.
"We're losing revenue elsewhere, so we need to come up with every revenue stream we can," Schneider said.
Though the board does approve the pre-fair acts, Schneider said the board does not hire the musical acts that perform at the fairgrounds. That work is done by the outside promoters, such as Stationary Astronauts and others, that the board deals with.
Schneider cautioned that voting to cancel Prof's upcoming performance could result in a lawsuit against the board.
"They can come back and sue us, because you know what? They (the promoters) have to pay that act no matter what, whether they come or not," he said. "We can go from a moneymaker to a big money loser."
Reporter John Molseed contributed to this report.