The opening track of Proof’s Searching for Jerry Garcia album, “Knice,” captures the essence of the Motor City emcee in a very captivating way. Set at the First Annual Detroit Hip-Hop Awards, the host’s voice soon fades and then we hear Proof thinking aloud: “My city loves me; I love my city. I feel like I’m letting them down. I’ve done so much, but I don’t feel like I’ve accomplished nothing at all… I remember when me and Hip-Hop first fell in love. Detroit and Hip-Hop. Damn. Cause I ain’t changing for s**t, I’ma always be me.” And interspersed between these thoughts is the host presenting the accolade for the Detroit Hip-Hop Recognition Award. “From the days of the Hip-Hop Shop to the days of multi-platinum record sales, you’ll see this guy on MTV Wednesday night, then you’ll catch him at St. Andrew’s Hall on Friday night hosting a battle. He has been around the world, and still finds time to give back to the city. That being said, it’s a pleasure and an honor to present the first annual Hip-Hop Recognition Award to none other than my man, Big Proof!”
Listeners get the feeling that Proof doesn’t think he has done enough. Obviously that couldn’t be further from the truth, but rather than get upset, Proof uses his emotions as motivation and that introduction beautifully sets up Garcia’s first song, “Clap With Me,” where he lists the credentials of his contemporaries and then comes to see himself as a rapper the way that they do (as well as countless fans). “‘8 Mile’ was dope / Obie brought heat / Emile on the beat, 50 kept us in the street / It’s my destiny to be, the truth nevertheless / Nothin’ new, your boy Proof is better than best.”
In an AllHipHop.com special report, for the ten year mark of his passing, I went to The D and spoke with D12 in order to get a glimpse into how and why DeShaun “Proof” Holton was better than the best and became the ‘Mayor of Detroit’ in its rap community. From how they first met Big Proof to his propensity for practical jokes and then finally the lessons he taught each of them, this a celebration of his life and not a mourning of his death.
Upon telling Swifty about this project when making arrangements to interview him for it, he thanked me for helping keep Proof’s legacy going strong. To him, I now say that I consider it an honor and a responsibility to do so because not only did Proof create some of the dopest music I’ve ever heard, he was also a wonderful example of someone who was able to bring people together and that improved the quality of life for all those involved. I believe that is something to be revered, especially in a culture that is too often fueled by beef and aggression.
And for any concern that Proof had when he said that he felt he was letting the city down, this is evidence that he lifted it up. Whether it was, among many other things, mentoring a young Eminem back when Marshall was stepping in clubs wearing the same pair of Lugz or recording an entire album in 24 hours, Proof was remarkable and Hip-Hop is better because of him.