Tribute: D12's Proof

183138__proof_lIt is no exaggeration to say that without the rapper Proof, who was fatally shot outside a Detroit nightclub early Tuesday at the age of 32, the world would probably never have heard of Eminem, his friend and frequent collaborator.

The pair met as teenagers and Proof (real name: Deshaun Holton) encouraged the young Marshall Mathers in his attempts to find a distinctive hip-hop voice. Later, it was Proof who formed the Eminem-featuring rap collective D12. After achieving solo fame, Eminem would return the favor, rejoining the sextet for two albums (2001’s Devil’s Night and 2004’s D12 World), and ensuring that Proof was cast alongside him in the autobiographical 2002 film 8 Mile (although the part based on Proof himself would be played by Mekhi Phifer). The pair remained close, and in January, Proof served as Eminem’s best man when he remarried his former wife Kim.

But Proof was far more than just Eminem’s “right-hand man.” He was a talented rapper in his own right whose interests ranged wide as the title of his 2005 solo album Searching For Jerry Garcia amply demonstrated. When I interviewed Proof in 2004 on his home turf of Detroit’s less than salubrious 9 Mile area, he was genuinely delighted when I gave him a Janis Joplin DVD, a present prompted by the fact that he had recorded a track named in honor of the late blues belter.

While admitting some familiarity with the local criminal system — “You don’t know what jails in Michigan are like,” he declared at one point — the polite, soft-spoken man who the rest of D12 referred to as their "big brother" seemed an unlikely candidate that day to become one of hip-hop’s many prematurely deceased. Indeed, he spoke mostly of the concept of giving back to his community — although, Proof admitted with a grateful laugh, he accomplished that in part by looking after a mulberry bush at his grandmother’s house with fingers that had become green from counting his money.

Proof’s shooting (which took place in the hardscrabble 8 Mile neighborhood depicted in the film of the same name) is the latest of several violent incidents involving associates of Eminem. In 1999, D12 member Bugz was murdered. Last New Year’s Eve, Obie Trice was shot, although not fatally. This latest tragedy also eerily echoes the video for Eminem’s 2005 anti-violence anthem Like Toy Soldiers, in which Proof was pictured being killed in a shooting.


Comments (266 total) Add your comment
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  • Bob Loblaw

    R.I.P. Proof

  • Martin

    RIP Big Proof

  • Maya

    R.I.P Proof. Thank you, EW and Clark Collis, for that tribute.

  • Fester

    Thank you for that Mr. Collins. I read this column everyday and being an older, avid hip hop fan this means the world to me that you would give Proof the proper send off
    We’ll miss you Proof- R.I.P.

  • jk

    Boo Hoo

  • Aramis

    He seems as though he was good people. Made some mistakes, but don’t we all? Definitely a grounded person though.
    Definitely sad.
    Rest in peace, Proof.

  • Ep Sato

    Whoever had beef with Proof is a punk for shooting him.
    Whatever happened to the days of settling differences with fists? Win or lose, there would be another day. And bragging rights are cooler if the loser has to walk through the streets with his head slumped down. Plus, with fists you can always reconcile the differences later.
    It’s sad that folks would rather kill each other than face an ass whuppin’
    RIP Proof, and the many other young men who died needlessly at the hands of another.

  • Fester

    Hey jk…
    Get a clue, dawg. If you ain’t got nothing good to say why did you waste your time writing anything

  • Christina

    This is terrible. RIP Proof.
    Hopefully Eminem can cope with this.

  • 313 QUEEN


  • t3hdow

    jp, 313 Queen and anyone else entering this thread with intentions of derrogatory comments towards Proof, that’s just being incredibly tasteless. You’re not funny and you @$$holes need to get a life. Pardon my language, but it angers me how disrespectful some people are just to be dicks on purpose on a subject like this. Apathy is fine, but comments like that is just offensive.
    Anyway, until I read this article, I had no idea how important Proof was to the rise of Eminem and D-12. It sucks that even more hip hop stars have to die for these stupid beefs. Didn’t the rap world learn nothing from Tupac and Biggie’s deaths? Considering this death and Busta Rhymes’ body guard not too long ago, I guess not.

  • EP Sato

    I concur with t3hdow. Whether or not you’ve got love for Proof doesn’t mean it’s a good thing that a human being was ruthlessly shot down and killed in front of his friends.

  • nick abel

    This is a very unfortunate to see him die like this. He seemed like a good guy who once in a while may have gotten into trouble, but at some point we all do. He was a very talented rapper, RIP Proof.

  • Ethan

    R.I.P ProoF R.I.P

  • jamie rea

    R.I.P proof

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