Rapper Proof of the hip-hop group D12 was shot and killed this morning at an illegal afterhours club on Eight Mile, police said. Proof, whose real name is Deshaun Holton, was dead on arrival at Conner Creek Medical Center in Detroit, according to a spokeswoman for St. John Health System. He was 32.
Proof was among the most pivotal players on the Detroit hip-hop scene, and revered as one of the best freestyle MCs in the city. He befriended Eminem long before he was a houshold name, and was a nearly constant presence as the rapper rose to superstardom. He toured with Eminem as his on-stage hype man, was a member of his group D12, had a bit role in the “8 Mile” movie and served as the best man at his wedding in January.
The club where it occurred is called 3C, and it’s at 8 Mile near Hayes. The club isn’t illegal but it was operating illegally after hours.
This is the second shooting involving Eminem’s entourage in three months.
Another Eminem pal and rapper Obie Trice was shot and wounded New Year’s Eve while driving along the Lodge Freeway.
Anyone with information on the shootings is asked to call Detroit Police at 313-596-2260.
Positive Proof: Longtime Eminem collaborator upbeat as he prepares for the release of his first solo album
April 11, 2006
BY BRIAN McCOLLUM
FREE PRESS POP MUSIC WRITER
Proof (Mario “”Khalif” Butterfield/Iron Fist Records)
Originally published August 7, 2005
Detroit rapper Proof could have unveiled his first solo album ages ago. But a few distractions sort of, you know, popped up.
That’s bound to happen when you’re tight with the guy who becomes the biggest star in hip-hop, when that momentum carries your own group to the top of the charts, when you spend your time onstage in sold-out stadiums, on the world’s movie screens, on the cover of Rolling Stone.
But even as Proof found himself caught up in the hysteria generated by his close friend Eminem and their group D12, the rapper born DeShaun Holton kept the concept percolating in the back of his brain: a hip-hop record that would evoke the spirit — if not exactly the sound — of a rock ‘n’ roll legend.
The result is finally at hand. On Tuesday, Proof will release “Searching for Jerry Garcia,” a 20-track album more than three years in the making. It’s not just his solo debut; the record also marks the inaugural release for his Iron Fist Records, the label with which Proof hopes to do his part for Detroit’s ongoing musical resurgence.
Proof will toast the album’s release Friday at the State Theatre, soon after the festivities wrap up across the street at Comerica Park, where he’ll accompany Eminem, D12, 50 Cent and 40,000 hometown fans for the U.S. finale of the Anger Management Tour. He’ll be joined at the State by G-Unit’s Lloyd Banks and Young Buck, and premiere the glitzy video for his record’s first single, “Gurls Wit Da Boom.
These are heady days for Proof, whose album arrives as D12’s members begin branching out in anticipation of a career shift by Marshall Mathers. But before he’ll even talk about the music of “Garcia,” Proof acknowledges the obvious: “People hear the title,” he says, “and wonder what in the world I’m talking about.”
Among the puzzled were the administrators of Jerry Garcia’s estate, who insisted Proof obtain permission to use the name of the late Grateful Dead guitarist, a moniker that has long evoked instant images of ’60s hippie culture.
But while Proof is a well-versed fan of rock, including the Dead’s rootsy folk and blues, his album isn’t some interstellar merger of rap and tie-dyed San Fran jam. The title actually reflects a more personal quest, one that began during the height of D12 mania, when the lightning-tongued MC found himself plagued by “stress, a bad diet and drugs.”
Proof says he found resonance in the story of Garcia, who endured similar struggles while continually seeking catharsis in an eclectic musical approach.
“It’s about coming back, finding the way,” he says. “I think there’s some Jerry Garcia in all of us.”
Proof has been getting himself to this point for quite some time.
These days, even casual followers of hip-hop are well acquainted with his face and voice. For six years, he’s been Eminem’s prime companion onstage, a seemingly constant presence at the side of his fellow Detroit rapper. With D12, he’s become an MTV and radio celebrity via such hits as “Purple Pills” and “My Band.”
But around Detroit, Proof was the preeminent figure in hip-hop years before the Eminem explosion tacked the city’s name onto the national rap map. If you weren’t there in person during the mid-’90s — inside the Hip Hop Shop, for instance, where he hosted Detroit’s top rap battles — you can just rent the movie “8 Mile.”
There you’ll find him embodied in the character played by Mekhi Phifer, who tapped Proof’s cool-but-in-control persona for a role based on the rapper’s position as Detroit hip-hop ringleader.
“He was one of the hardest-working MCs in the city,” says Khalid el-Hakim, Iron Fist’s vice president and a veteran of the Detroit scene. “He was a master of self-promotion. Early on, he was appearing on everybody’s projects, and a lot of people really looked up to Proof. He still has that same work ethic. He doesn’t stop.”
As Eminem himself has said, Proof was instrumental in carving out a place in the scene for the aspiring rapper. Without the assist, Marshall Mathers might never have made it onto local stages, let alone become one of the world’s most familiar celebrities.
“He legitimized Em in the Detroit hip-hop community,” says el-Hakim. “I think most people weren’t feeling a white MC at that time. Proof was pushing him because he heard something there. He had his back.”
Proof, who would go on to win Source Magazine’s national rap battle in 1999, was known as the city’s top freestyler, a gifted improviser with a biting wit. The vote of confidence went a long way — and returned big dividends when Proof got taken along for the Slim Shady ride.
After Eminem’s launch into the hip-hop stratosphere, Proof channeled most of his rhymes into D12’s material, his relaxed but rough-edged flow a distinct trait of the group’s work. Through it all, he made sure to save some for himself, steadily accumulating the songs that would ultimately make up “Garcia.”
It’s a whirl of creative enterprise that Proof long ago learned how to navigate.
“I try not to compare any of it at all,” Proof says. “My D12 deal is my D12 deal, the Em stuff is the Em stuff, my solo deal is my solo deal. You’ve gotta try to do something extra with each one.”
Production began on the record in 2002, with release planned for the following spring. But all was placed on hiatus after a series of what Proof describes as business hardships and the record industry’s “Jedi mind tricks,” including a botched distribution deal and personnel turnover within his own camp.
When he returned to the project last year, he replaced half the album with new cuts. It was a savvy move: “Garcia” now showcases the services of guests such as 50 Cent, Nate Dogg and Obie Trice, along with a full-on D12 collaboration — including you-know-who — on “Pimplikeness.” El-Hakim says the album has garnered more than 200,000 advance orders through Alliance Distribution, one of the nation’s biggest music wholesalers and Iron Fist’s link to the big leagues.
“Gurls Wit Da Boom,” a slinky club track that would fit comfortably on an MTV summer playlist, is something of an anomaly. Most of the “Garcia” tracks — many built on live instrumentation — find Proof tapping and tweaking a host of styles. Songs like the opening “Clap Wit Me” and “Bilboa’s Theme” evoke the jazzy funk of his Detroit compatriates in Slum Village. “Forgive Me” (with 50 Cent) and “72nd and Central” (with Obie Trice) groove atop the strings, harpsichords and minor keys of the darker Shady sound. “High Rollers,” with Method Man and B. Real, takes a toke off Kanye West-style soul.
That’s the same sort of diversity Proof says he’ll bring to Iron Fist, where he’s working with acts ranging from Detroit hip-hop ensemble Purple Gang to vocalist Stephanie Christian of rock band JoCaine.
“I don’t want to be just another rapper putting out rap acts, and I’m looking for a lot of different talent,” he says. “This is the rock city.”
Whatever the fate of the new record — which will likely enjoy underground success even if it doesn’t break mainstream — Proof and his associates are pleased that he’s at last getting his own say.
“Proof has taken this album back to his Detroit hip-hop roots, but at the same time, he’s drawing on his experiences from around the world,” says el-Hakim. “He’s invested a lot of time and effort into making this happen, because this is his chance to let the world know who he really is.”