On April 11th, 2006, DeShaun “Proof” Holton was shot and killed at CCC nightclub. A pioneer in the Detroit hip-hop community, the gravelly-voiced D12 member was in the process of launching a solo career, with 2005’s underrated Searching For Jerry Garcia. A respected OG, and the glue that united the Dirty Dozen, Big Proof’s death had a profound effect on the hip-hop community. Speaking personally, coming to discover that Proof had been murdered came as a devastating shock. D12 World had come out not two years prior, and the aforementioned Jerry Garcia was only eight months old. A feeling of unspoken finality and unfulfilled promise seemed to permeate; what might have been, had Proof been spared that night?

Though his death ultimately marked D12’s ruin, and sent his close friend Eminem into an understandable depression, I’d rather take a moment to dwell on his contributions to the game. In “Groundhog Day,” Eminem, broke down Proof’s role in eloquent fashion. “Started a group of misfits, Proof had a proposition, If we all band together, there ain't no stoppin' this shit,” he rapped, alluding to Proof’s visionary status. You can see his leadership on display in any given interview or freestyle, and while his solo discography was cut unceremoniously short, his musical output was nothing short of prolific. Mixtapes and two studio albums with D12. A collaborative duet with Dogmatic, the cult-project Promatic. And of course, his final project Searching For Jerry Garcia.

 

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In hindsight, Proof’s swan song ends on a haunting note. As is often the case when rappers leave the game, previous themes and lyrics can be examined under a new, somewhat prophetic light. Album closer “Kurt Kobain” finds Proof issuing his final thoughts, saying his goodbyes, and eventually taking his own life in the concluding stanzas. Some of the bars feel especially poignant through their revealing nature, as Proof opens up about his own suicidal thoughts. “Still livin' with the liquor and bud, sometimes I wish for my demise, so I can kick it with Bugz,” he raps, before paying homage to his fellow D12 soldiers. It’s a somber reflection on life and mortality, and a testament to Proof’s artistic prowess; a powerful writer with a sharp sense of humor, street credibility, and an open book emotional policy.

From stealing the show on various D12 tracks, to making history as a member of the Anger Management Tour, Proof has carved out a worthy place in the annals of hip-hop history. In honor of his memory, consider giving Searching For Jerry Garcia a spin, and share your favorite Proof track or verse in the comment section below. Rest in peace, Big Proof. You aren’t forgotten.